2017 Go Blue Awards Finalists

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists and Recipients!

The winners were announced at the
Ninth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon,
held at PGA National Resort & Spa on Friday, October 27, 2017.


Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient & Honorees:

The Eleanor Fletcher Award, named for the founder of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, recognizes an individual who has exemplified a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation through their work or volunteer activities.

Ted Turner (2017 Award Recipient)
Atlanta, GA

Ted Turner is an American media entrepreneur, environmentalist and philanthropist. As a business leader, he is best known as founder of the Cable News Network (CNN), the first 24-hour cable news channel that transformed the way the world gets its news. As a philanthropist, he is best known for early support for environmental causes, including fighting climate change. In pledging $1 billion to the UN to create the UN Foundation, he inspired others who had amassed great wealth to pledge to give back a large share of their net worth to support causes for good.

Turner’s media empire began with his father’s billboard business. He took over Turner Outdoor Advertising in 1963, at the age of 24 after his father’s death, worth $1 million. In 1970, he bought and the Atlanta UHF station that launched Turner Broadcasting System, pioneering the “superstation” concept in cable television. In 1976, Turner bought two sports teams, the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks, in part to provide programming for his superstation, beaming Braves games into homes across North America, making the Braves a household name. He launched and aired the charitable Goodwill Games.

In 1979, he formed Cable News Network (CNN) a 24-hour hour news service that revolutionized news media. CNN became the source of breaking news when it covered the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In 1988, he launched Turner Network Television, showing older movies and television shows, eventually adding original programs and newer reruns. In 1992 he launched Cartoon Network. Both launches were supported by strategic content acquisitions. In 1990, he created the Turner Foundation to focus his philanthropy on environmental issues such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and sustainable population growth. That same year, he created Captain Planet, an environmental superhero. He produced two Captain Planet TV series to help children develop environmental stewardship.

Through three decades of audacious and tenacious leadership, Turner has accelerated marine, land and species conservation, supported research to shape environmental policy and practice and drawn early attention to climate change. In 1989, he created and aired an animated television series, Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Featuring voices of stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, Meg Ryan, Sting and LaVar Burton, the shows engage children in environmental challenges through storytelling. It is still shown on Mother Nature Network and in video games.

Turner established the Captain Planet Foundation that encourages schools and youth groups around the world to apply for seed money to “grow” their environmental projects. The Foundation has funded more than 1800 projects. It launched Planeteer Clubs in schools and “Learning Gardens” in Georgia and California. The Turner Foundation continues to fund environmental stewardship through myriad youth projects. In 1990, Ted created the Turner Foundation to prevent “damage to the natural systems – water, air and land – on which all life depends.” Since then he has given over $350 million to environmental causes, including $17 million to the League of Conservation Voters and $2 million to create the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

In September 1997, Turner announced a $1 billion gift to create the United Nations Foundation, a public charity to broaden domestic support for the UN. He called it an “investment in the future of humanity.” The goal: build public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems. In 1998, he made Colorado Senator Tim Wirth, an environmentalist and early climate change expert, its first director. The Foundation maintains an environmental focus: it will work with California Governor Jerry Brown and others representing municipalities at the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit to fulfill the Paris agreement. After making that pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet acknowledged Turner’s example in launching The Giving Pledge in 2010. Signatories to the pledge commit to giving back a majority of their wealth. Turner has passed his philanthropic passion and priorities to second and third generation Turners: The Turner Foundation is governed by Ted and his five children – all committed environmentalists. In fall 1996, Turner merged the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. with Time Warner, Inc. Turner was made vice chairman and head of Time Warner and Turner’s cable networks division.

Turner also buys land to preserve it, and is the second largest individual land holder in North America. Turner Enterprises, Inc. manages lands in 10 states and in Argentina “in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner while promoting the conservation of native species.” Today, approaching 80, Turner continues his philanthropic efforts. He is chairman of Turner Enterprises, chairman of the Turner Foundation and Chairman of the United Nations Foundation board of directors.

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Dr. Wallace J Nichols (honoree)
Davenport, CA

Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols, called “keeper of the sea” by GQ Magazine and “a visionary” by Outside Magazine is an innovative, entrepreneurial scientist, movement maker, renowned marine biologist, wild water advocate and bestselling author. His experiences as a field research scientist, government consultant, founder and director of numerous businesses and nonprofit organizations, teacher, parent and advisor all support his quest to build a stronger and more diverse blue movement.

Formerly a senior scientist at Ocean Conservancy, Nichols holds a B.A. degree from DePauw University in biology and Spanish, a master’s degree in natural resource economics and policy from Duke University and a Ph.D. degree in wildlife ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. He received the Bradley Fellowship to study the impacts of sea level rise at Duke University Marine Lab, the Marshall Fellowship to study at the University of Arizona and a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico marine station in Mazatlan. In 2010 he delivered the commencement address at DePauw University and received an honorary doctorate in science. In 2011 he was inducted as a fellow national member of the Explorers Club, and received the University of Arizona’s Global Achievement Award in 2014. This year, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama presented the Champion of Change Award at World Oceans Festival in New York to Dr. Nichols.

His research interests span marine and aquatic ecosystems, migratory species, marine protected areas, fisheries management and plastic pollution with emphasis on building networks and developing interdisciplinary solutions. He takes a slow, collaborative approach with leaders in various sectors to inspire deep connections with nature, and inventive approaches to issues ranging from fresh water supply to improved hospice care for aging populations. Nichols has authored more than 200 scientific papers, technical reports, books and popular publications, lectured in over 30 countries and appeared in hundreds of print, film, radio and television outlets including NPR, BBC, CNN, National Geographic, Time, GQ, Vogue, Surfer Magazine and Scientific American.

His current focus is on Blue Mind, a universal story of water. In this story society accurately describes the physical, ecological, economic, cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits of healthy oceans and waterways. By connecting neuroscientists and psychologists with aquatic experts and artists to ask and answer new questions, his work is transforming many sectors, including health, education, parenting, the arts, design, urban planning, travel and sports. Dr. Nichols’ bestselling book Blue Mind has been translated to numerous languages and inspired a wave of media and application. He also started the Blue Marbles Campaign, in which people show gratitude by passing around blue marbles that symbolize how our planet looks from space.

J. is currently a senior fellow at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies Center for the Blue Economy, a research associate at California Academy of Sciences. He is also the co-founder of Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEEtheWILD, a conservation travel network, Grupo Tortuguero, an international sea turtle conservation network and The Blue Mind Fund, a global campaign to reconnect people to water. He advises a motivated group of international graduate students and serves as an advisor to numerous non-profit boards and committees as part of his commitment to building a stronger, more progressive and connected environmental community.

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Dr. James (Buddy) Powell (honoree)
Sarasota, FL

For more than 40 years, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell has worked to conserve manatees and other endangered species around the world, resulting in coastal protected areas in Florida, West Africa, Central America and Cuba. His approach integrates science and education to unlock solutions to conservation issues.

A native Floridian, Buddy’s fascination for manatees grew as a teenager, and was “contracted” to help Jacques Cousteau study them in Crystal River. He received his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from the University of Florida, a master’s in marine affairs and resource management from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Cambridge. Today, Buddy still leads research and educational expeditions to Crystal River, which is a protected area for manatees and other species. In the 1970s Buddy worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a biologist and manatee specialist. In 1986, he moved to West Africa and studied manatees and forest elephants for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which was pivotal in establishing several coastal protected areas. He and his wife Maureen moved to Belize in the 1990s where they managed WCS’s Glover’s Reef Marine Research Station. They then returned to Florida where Buddy administered Florida’s research program on marine mammals and sea turtles for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In 2001, he became Vice President for Aquatic Programs at Wildlife Trust.

In 2008, Buddy co-founded Sea to Shore Alliance. The organization was created to form a partnership of scientists and citizen volunteers with the expertise, passion and vision to help reverse the degradation of our aquatic coastal environment and loss of species and diversity. A Florida-based non-profit, S2S employs a two-tiered approach to conservation — scientific research and public education. Today, S2S Alliance has established operations not only in the United States, but also in Belize and Cuba, which have high numbers of manatees. The dedicated team at S2S Alliance works with all three species of manatees, conducting research and conservation activities resulting in positive impacts to manatees. They use satellite tagging, aerial surveys, photo identification and other tools and use sound scientific data to help ensure the survival of manatees around the world. This data is informing natural resource managers about critical habitats for manatees, such as springs and other warm water sources. S2S also promotes the conservation of other flagship species like sea turtles and right whales, to ensure greater protection for the species and sensitive habitats on which they rely around the world.

Buddy was the recipient of the prestigious Pew Award in Marine Conservation in 2000, has been featured on “Champions of the Wild” and National Geographic’s “Wild Chronicles” documentaries and has authored two books, numerous scientific publications and popular articles.

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John Reynolds (honoree)
Sarasota, FL

John Reynolds
graduated cum laude with departmental honors in biology from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in 1974. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in biological oceanography from University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in 1977 and 1980, respectively.

He was employed at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida from 1980-2001, where he served as professor of marine science and biology and chairman of the Natural Sciences Collegium; he was integral in establishing the college’s renowned marine science major and remains the only Eckerd faculty member to receive all three of the college’s faculty excellence awards for teaching, leadership and scholarship.

In 1989, Reynolds became a member of the Committee of Scientific Advisors on Marine Mammals for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the federal agency with oversight for all research and management of marine mammals in the United States. In 1990, he became chairman of the Committee of Scientific Advisors and in 1991, he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve as chairman of the Marine Mammal Commission. He led that agency through mid-2010 under four different administrations, and in 2010 the agency’s accomplishments were recognized by a distinguished service award by the International Society for Conservation Biology.

Since 2001, Reynolds has been a senior scientist for Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, where he has served as director of the International Consortium for Marine Conservation and director of the Center for Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Research. From 2001-08, he was co-chair of the IUCN Sirenian Specialist Group, and from 2006-08 served as president of the International Society for Marine Mammalogy. Recently he has worked with the United Nations Environment Program to develop and implement a Caribbean-wide Marine Mammal Action Plan.

In recognition of his long-term research and conservation efforts with Alaskan marine mammals and environmental issues, he was given an Eskimo name: Emuqtannee (swimming walrus). Reynolds is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, has been nominated for international awards for his accomplishments in conservation and science and has published approximately 320 books, papers and abstracts. In addition to his many career achievements, John Reynolds has mentored hundreds of young scientists over his career, which has allowed him to share his passion for conservation with future generations.

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Blue Ambassador of the Year Finalists:

The Blue Ambassador of the Year Award recognizes a person who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Linda Cabot (2017 Award Recipient)
Boston, MA

Linda Cabot credits a lifetime of sailing for her love affair with the ocean. Feeling a deep concern for the health and future of our seas, she embarked on a sailing trip with her daughters in 2011 to create a documentary about environmental issues impacting the Gulf of Maine. This film, “From the Bow Seat,” continues to appear on Maine Public Television and serves as a resource for educators. Realizing the power of creative media to educate, inspire, and activate younger generations, Linda founded Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that motivates young people to become ocean caretakers through education and engagement with the arts, science and advocacy.

Bow Seat’s signature initiative – the annual Ocean Awareness Student Contest – challenges middle and high schoolers to explore human impacts on ocean health through visual art, film, poetry and prose. Nearly 10,000 teenagers worldwide have participated since the contest launched in 2012, and more than $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded. In 2017, Bow Seat received entries from 63 countries and 48 U.S. states. The students’ creations demonstrate how the arts are a powerful tool that taps into human emotions and speaks to personal beliefs, which is necessary to drive a widespread cultural shift toward one that values the health of coastal and marine ecosystems. Linda believes that students who learn by creating experience deeper knowledge and longer-lasting behavior change.

Besides hosting the annual contest, Bow Seat promotes ocean conservation by sponsoring and participating in initiatives like the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Florida, Healthy Ocean Hill Day in D.C., the High School Marine Science Symposium in Boston and PangeaSeed Foundation’s international Sea Walls public art festivals. Bow Seat also provides classroom resources on ocean pollution and forms purposeful partnerships with like-minded organizations like Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and Seacoast Science Center – to maximize efforts to protect the ocean.

As an endorsement of Linda’s work, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently awarded Bow Seat a grant to launch the Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition, which challenges students to carry out a campaign that educates the public about marine debris and stimulates behavior change and action. Linda is a board member of Women Working for Oceans and a trustee of the New England Aquarium. She is a lead donor of the Aquarium’s new Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, a scientific endeavor focusing on fisheries conservation and aquaculture solutions, marine mammal research and conservation, habitat and ecosystem health, and marine animal health.

Demonstrating her commitment to environmental education, Linda was a primary financial contributor of the Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Anderson-Cabot Hall for Graduate Studies, which allows the brightest local Bahamian and international grad students to pursue careers in marine science. She also sponsored the Linda N. Cabot Science Symposium at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, which focused on important new research on the changing nature of the world ocean and questions that arise from that change. In 2017, Linda received the Gulf of Maine Council’s Visionary Award, which recognizes innovation, creativity and commitment of those who help protect the Gulf of Maine’s health.

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Jolyn Landrie
Juno Beach, FL

Jolyn Landrie has a 20-year background in volunteer work, starting her own nonprofit initiative called Waterway Clean-Up Project, which cleans trash from the beaches and parks in Florida.

Every day, she saves an animal from peril, caused by human beings. She has 10 years of veterinary technician experience and has a passion for helping animals. She tries to educate the staff of the different resorts in Ft. Lauderdale about the importance of not leaving chairs on the beach, picking up what people bring to the beach and how detrimental these activities can be to the plight of the sea turtles.

Jolyn Landrie has pulled fishing hooks out of turtles mouths, helped them get out of fishing nets and helped clear the paths to make it easier for sea turtle hatchlings to reach the ocean. Broward County employees have thanked her for her assistance in Markham Park. She has also started an initiative with local restaurants to ban plastic straws and single use plastic of any kind.

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Carl Stearns
Juno Beach, FL

Carl Stearns has demonstrated longstanding support of marine conservation in Palm Beach County, Florida. For over four years Carl has served as the Blue Friends Society Beach Cleanup captain at Loggerhead Marinelife Center and has significantly contributed to the protection of sea turtles, their sensitive habitat and the beautification of our community.

In addition to logging 1,805 hours as a LMC rehabilitation volunteer, Carl has graciously served as the Blue Friends Society Beach Clean Up Captain. In his role as Beach Cleanup Captain, Carl coordinates and trains volunteers, greets guests, announces the cleanup logistics, compiles the cleanup data, collaborates with clean up stakeholders – including Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful and Friends of Jupiter Beach – and serves as the primary point of contact for this program.

Under Carl’s four-year watch it is estimated that nearly 10,000 pounds of marine debris was removed through the beach cleanup programs he managed. Carl also helped LMC welcome nearly 7,000 guests to the Blue Friends Monthly Beach Cleanups, educating many people on the importance of cleaning up our environment, advocating for sea turtles and recycling debris found on our beaches.

Marine debris is one of the most significant and growing concerns in the field of conservation, and given the 9.5-mile stretch of beach Loggerhead Marinelife Center monitors is one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches on the planet, marine debris conservation efforts are absolutely critical in helping to protect and preserve sea turtles and marine life.

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Blue Friend of the Year Finalists:

The Blue Friend of the Year Award recognizes a person who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities.

Teal Kawana
Sunrise, FL

Since her early career, Teal Kawana has worked to defend sea turtles and their habitats. Teal earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Westminster College in 2007. She then continued her education, earning a master’s degree in marine biology with a concentration in sea turtle conservation and biology from Nova Southeastern University in 2013 while employed full-time in the marine conservation field.

Teal has contributed to marine conservation at several different jobs throughout her career. In 2011, she worked as an FWC certified wildlife observer on a marine dredge boat, ensuring the safety of wildlife during construction. From 2011-15, Teal worked as an oceanfront lighting and marine turtle protection code enforcement officer for Key Biscayne, Florida. Her efforts to work with property owners, managers and municipalities on lighting compliance resulted in the entirety of Key Biscayne altering their lights to turtle-safe options. Key Biscayne is now Miami-Dade County’s darkest and most densely populated sea turtle nesting beach. Teal took her efforts to Collier County in Florida and worked as code enforcement officer from 2015-16. There, her duties expanded to other environmental codes, such as mangrove protection, protected species regulations and vegetation preservation. While working in code enforcement, Teal simultaneously served as a marine turtle specialist with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program from 2008-15. As such, she participated in morning nesting surveys, responded to strandings and participated in educational events.

In 2016, Teal took her experience and passion for sea turtles to Miami-Dade County, where she now is the program manager and Permit Holder for the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program. Teal has worked tirelessly to obtain funds for new equipment, train staff and volunteers, improve communication with other county and municipality entities and educate the public – while leading a nesting survey on 18.5 miles of nesting beach.

In conjunction with coordinating the nesting survey itself, Teal has worked tirelessly this season to communicate and work with county and municipality officials to improve permit and code compliance throughout Miami-Dade County to ensure the protection of sea turtle nests, nesting mothers and emerging hatchlings. She is also responsible for all stranding events in the county, organizing a response team for each stranding to data collect and transport live turtles to rehabilitation facilities.

Teal has worked to make the Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program a well-rounded sea turtle conservation program by encouraging and taking on supplementary facets that complement nesting surveys. She is currently working with several graduate students to conduct research projects related to sea turtle lighting, which has created an opportunity for diligent data collection that can be used to improve lighting in Miami-Dade County, as well as our understanding of sea turtle behavior in relation to artificial light sources. She also organizes regular public hatchling releases, and participates in school, summer camp and other community events.

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Mikki McComb-Kobza (2017 Award Recipient)
Boulder, CO

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza’s
passion for ocean science and communicating wonders of marine conservation became very clear from the start. She has a long-standing zeal to share her science and the importance of conservation with wide ranging audiences.

During her Ph.D. training, Mikki worked the field studying sharks, highlighting incredible stories of their biology, their plights and the risks they face from people. She completed her Ph.D. on shark sensory biology and followed up with postdoctoral training at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.

Throughout that season, she found time to talk with students, professionals and the general public about marine conservation. Mikki’s effectiveness and scholarship brought her to Loggerhead Marinelife Center to sit on the research committee and board of directors. However, her time with the LMC was short as she and her family of wildlife scientists moved to Boulder, Colorado. In Boulder, she started a nonprofit organization called the Ocean First Institute.

The mission of the institute is ocean conservation through research and education. To date, her team has traveled over a million virtual miles to reach over 100,000 students in 35 countries through their virtual outreach program, sharing “The Truth About Sharks,” which effectively turns fear into fascination. The institute team has also reached nearly 3,000 local students in Colorado with their marine science in-school programming. They teach students how to protect the ocean and their own local environment by living more sustainably. Mikki also has mentored over 200 middle and high school students in sea turtle tagging, shark laser measuring, reef fish identification and underwater photography. Mikki also developed numerous summer camps and recently found great joy in running a popular “Girls in Ocean Science” camp.

While she is a shark researcher at heart, her passion extends to the conservation of many kinds of marine organisms through engagement of kids (including adult kids) and their curiosity. Her goal is help others find their passion and their own personal strength that will contribute to making the world a better place.

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Jeff Pantukhoff
Maui, HI

Jeff Pantukhoff is an international award-winning marine filmmaker and photographer specializing in dolphins, whales and sharks, and is the founder of The Whaleman Foundation and its Save the Whales Again! Campaign. In 1995, Jeff founded The Whaleman Foundation (Whaleman), a nonprofit oceanic research, conservation, and production organization dedicated to preserving and protecting cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) and the ocean. The foundation’s primary mission is to raise public awareness while educating key decision-makers on issues that affect cetaceans and their critical habitats. Whaleman is accomplishing this through films, public service announcements and outreach campaigns.

Since Whaleman’s inception, Jeff has written, directed and produced seven films on the critical issues facing cetaceans and their environment including “Gray Magic: The Plight of San Ignacio Lagoon,” “Orcas in Crisis: The Plight of the Southern Resident Orcas” and “Deadly Sounds in the Silent World” which won “Best Short Film” at the 2003 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. His latest film featuring Hayden Panettiere is titled “Whale Entanglements: A Deadly Problem” and was shown to the delegates attending the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission, which resulted in the IWC creating the “International Whale Disentanglement Response Team” of which Jeff is a proud member. Jeff’s unique images and words have appeared in Ocean Realm, Sport Diver, Discover Diving and Dive International magazines. His photographs have won several international awards.

Jeff has had the privilege of working with some of the most respected names in the world of underwater filmmaking including Howard and Michele Hall, Bob Talbot, Hardy Jones and Norbert Wu. Jeff’s film credits include IMAX’s “Into the Deep,” Discovery Channel’s “The Ocean Acrobats” and “Extreme Machines: Raiders of the Deep,” PBS’s “Secrets of the Ocean Realm,” CBS’s “Survivor,” and Outdoor Life Network’s “Deadly Waters: Whales in Danger.” Jeff’s feature film credits include “Dallas 362,” “Shanghai Kiss,” “Class of 83,” “Whaledreamers” and the Oscar winning documentary “The Cove.”

Jeff is also a dolphin and whale researcher. Since 1996, Jeff has been researching humpback whales with Dr. Marsha Green of the Ocean Mammal Institute studying their social sounds and behaviors and the impacts that vessel engine noise is having on them. In 2009, Jeff partnered with Dr. Roger Payne of Ocean Alliance and Dr. John Wise of the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine to investigate and research chemical contamination in cetaceans. Since 2010, Jeff has been working with the Hawaiian Islands National Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary on its 10-year study determining the overall health assessment of North Pacific Humpback whales. Jeff’s latest research project is in conjunction with Alicia Amerson of Scripps Institute studying the gray whale migration from Mexico to Canada to help determine best guidelines for whale watch companies.

Jeff strongly believes that international cooperation is the key to solving the many issues that face our marine environment. He demonstrates this by donating the use of his images and film footage while working closely with other environmental organizations working on behalf of marine life, including Ocean Alliance, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Natural Resources Defense Council, Scripps Institute and others.

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Dr. Ken Simmons
Boynton Beach, CO

Trained as a veterinarian, Dr. Ken Simmons committed his life to the preservation of the health and life of animals, often at personal cost. Beginning at a very young age, he celebrated the coastal lifestyle of South Florida, appreciating fishing and snorkeling as a privilege. Dr. Simmons’ love of the sea eventually grew into a need and responsibility to actively protect the ocean for future generations.

In 2015, Dr. Ken Simmons founded Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute, a nonprofit committed to promoting the preservation of ocean resources through education, research and technology. Dedicated to sharing the mystery and magic of our oceans with the local community, Ken built the center with his very own hands, even enduring several injuries to his back that required corrective therapy. He has donated a large quantity of his time, money and energy breathing life into this new organization.

With his outstanding dedication to educating youth, Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute reached over 1500 students during its first year through marine science-based educational programming. More than 41 research-based aquaponics aquariums were used to teach students about Florida’s unique ecosystem and how the ocean impacts daily life. This innovative “hands on” STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) based program promotes stewardship and sustainability of our local marine environment while also promoting science-based standard learning to students in Palm Beach County.

The Healthy Aquatics also acts a coral conservation farm and aquarium education center with local fish species to highlight and inform the public about the biodiversity found along our shores. More than 300 different species of fish and 150 different types of corals are housed in the conservation and education wing of Healthy Aquatics. School groups and the local public can visit the center free of charge to learn about our local marine environment and how they can become stewards of our oceans.

Dr. Simmons continues to volunteer his time and energy to the growth of this young organization and, as board chair, is always enthusiastic about sharing his passion for the ocean with each new person he encounters. Dr. Simmons consistently works to collaborate with other ocean protectors and organizations to help identify ways to better protect and preserve marine resources.

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Richard Walesky
Wellington, FL

Richard (Rich) Walesky has shown extraordinary leadership in marine conservation for over three decades. He began his career as a biologist at the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (now Department of Environmental Protection). In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, where he served until his retirement in 2011.

As new Director, Rich recognized the uniqueness and value of the marine resources in PBC. He understood that development pressures threatened the natural features that make Palm Beach County and its offshore waters one of the most desirable places in the world to live and visit.

He knew that these pressures created an urgency to his task of directing the county’s environmental protection efforts and restoring habitats degraded by dredging and other development-related activities. Rich placed many of the policies and programs that make Palm Beach County a model in marine conservation. Thanks to Rich’s leadership, the county has hundreds of acres of restored mangroves and seagrasses, improved water quality in the lagoon, thriving artificial reef systems and effectively-managed shoreline.

Key areas of marine conservation impact during Rich’s tenure at ERM include integrating beach and dune restoration with inlet management to maintain recreational beaches and critical sea turtle nesting habitat, implementing marine sea turtle monitoring and data collection programs, acquiring and preserving over 31,000 acres of conservation lands including wetlands and uplands that provide significant water retention and storage benefits, reducing excessive fresh water surges to brackish estuaries and reducing pollutant loading associated with storm water.

During Rich’s tenure at ERM, he set a high bar for research-based marine conservation, giving ERM the considerable policy and program clout it continues to hold, including environmental leadership, management and stewardship. In 1987, he was named Director of the newly formed PBC Department of Environmental Resources, which he held until 2011. During those 24 years, Rich set conservation standards, embarked on a myriad of sustainable projects — from beach restoration for sea turtle nesting and artificial reef installations, to cleaning up waterways — and institutionalized stewardship for unique environmental assets in the county’s policy. He educated the public, persuaded politicians and provided expert environmental leadership for a new generation of leadership in the County. Since his retirement, Rich continues to advocate and act, teaching students of all ages, modelling best practices, and serving on the board of Sustainable Palm Beach County, where he brings considerable energy and knowledge on marine conservation efforts.

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Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:

The Blue Hatchling Youth Award recognizes students up to and including 12th grade who have made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Sophie Allen
Lake Worth, FL

At 16 years of age, a past Blue Hatchling finalist, a high achieving junior at Dreyfoos School of the Arts and a Palm Beach County native, Sophie Allen has worked for over a decade on assorted volunteer efforts centered on marine conservation, such as coastal cleanup and educational outreach. Sophie is entering her fifth year of active conservation-based citizen science and community service with the Junior Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park. Because of her long-running commitment, this year she has been chosen as chairperson for the Junior Friends at MacArthur Beach State Park. Sophie attends monthly meetings and volunteers regularly in a variety of service activities from removing invasive plant species to restoring the natural beach dunes. As a junior friend, she volunteers in the park’s annual Naturescape Festival, where she helps with educational activities oriented towards teaching younger kids about ocean conservation. She also volunteered her time this past summer as a Counselor in Training, helping summer camp students appreciate and understand nature and take an active role in conservation.

Last year, Sophie attended the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans to present a science poster on behalf of the Junior Friends of MacArthur Beach for OSM’s K-12 Youth Poster Symposium, as well as the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference (AGU) in San Francisco in their Bright STARS K-12 Poster Session. Her presentation highlighted Junior Friends’ citizen science experiment on growing mediums for sea oats and their dune restoration efforts. For the AGU, Sophie submitted an abstract for a project focusing on harnessing the Gulf Stream for alternative energy.

Sophie has also used her artistic talents to create marine conservation videos for educational outreach. In 2015, her short film “Shark Souvenirs” was accepted as a finalist in the 2015 Beneath the Waves – Youth Making Ripples Film Festival. In 2016, her video “Little Hope Spots” featured Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management conservation efforts on Lake Worth Lagoon and artificial reefs. Not only did “Little Hope Spots” win the Best Scientific Message category for High School in the 2016 Youth Making Ripples Film Festival, but her video also took second place in the 2016 National Ocean Science Bowl video contest. This past year, Sophie’s videography talents landed her short film “Next Generation” as a finalist in the film festival. In 2016 she presented a poster on behalf of Youth Making Ripples at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans.

As part of a winning science project entitled “Tracking Tagged Tiger Sharks” that used real-time shark data from the Guy Harvey Research Institute, Sophie became aware of shark tagging in Florida, and attended a shark symposium at the University of Miami. She has since volunteered and engaged in the University of Miami’s citizen science shark tagging. Sophie can also be found dressed up like the Bag Monster in order to draw awareness to the dangers of plastics in our oceans. She has attended the Lake Worth Lagoon Fest and local coastal cleanup events, as well as the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival draped in thousands of plastic bags as part of her outreach. Moreover, as the co-host of the Bag Monster of SoFlo Facebook page, Sophie has taken to using social media to advocate for oceans and against the use of plastics. In the future, she hopes to pursue ocean engineering to help develop and improve technology that will enable scientists to continue exploring and monitoring the world’s oceans.

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Skylar Mandell
Boca Raton, FL

Skylar Mandell is currently a senior at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton. With a strong desire to make a difference in the world, Skylar applied to a nationally recognized program through the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, called the YEA! -Young Entrepreneurs Academy and was selected to participate in this prestigious program. She was one of only 24 palm beach county students who were accepted out of hundreds who applied.

At the end of the program, Skylar launched a real company, a company of her own. She even had to go on stage and pitch this company in a “Shark Tank” like competition where the sharks were some of Boca Raton’s most prominent, successful business leaders. Skylar started making unique handmade beaded bracelets that she knew her friends would want to wear. Every morning before school, Skylar would wear a bracelet she had made the night before, and someone would ask if she could make one for them. Before, Skylar knew it, she was in business without even trying, and decided to take it to another level.

Skylar spent a weekend with her aunt in Jupiter, Florida and visited local surf shop called Blueline Surf & Paddle. She noticed that they carried a lot of jewelry from local designers and asked her aunt if she could speak to a manager. They did just that, and the manager agreed to buy 20 of Skylar’s handmade bracelets. She was overjoyed to see her designs displayed in a surf shop that locals love. A few weeks later, Skylar received an email from the manager at Blue Line. She wanted to know if Skylar could make more of one specific bracelet – sea turtle bracelet!

Skylar began by placing an order for assorted gemstone beads, stretch cord, and 100 howlite sea turtles charms. Skylar started researching sea turtles and was surprised to learn that Florida is home to one of the largest sea turtle nesting populations in the entire world. This was the birth of Florida Sea Turtle Company! 10 percent of the proceeds from her bracelet sales would be donated to sea turtle conservation organizations in our state. To date, over 8,000 bracelets have been sold and over $2500 has been donated to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Loggerhead Marinelife Center and The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

The bracelets became known as Sea Turtle Awareness bracelets. Skylar educates followers through Instagram and Facebook about how the public can help protect this special marine animal. Florida Sea Turtle Company bracelets are now carried in over 16 stores in the state, including a local Hallmark store. Florida Sea Turtle Company has participated in many beach clean-ups and now offers community service hours for help beading. Skylar is committed to continue spreading awareness for sea turtles and marine conservation efforts.

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Shelby O’Neil
San Juan Bautista, CA

Shelby O’Neil
started her passion for the ocean and ocean conservation while attending the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Young Women in Science summer program before her 7th grade school year. Here’s where Shelby learned all of the challenges and issues facing the ocean and the need to spread the word. She returned the following summer for the second year Young Women in Science summer program and this program was focused on ocean conservation. After the program ended, Shelby was determined to continue per passion for the ocean and applied for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Teen Conservation Leader program and was accepted and to-date has volunteered 392 hours greeting guests, working sleepovers and a founding member of their teen social media team.

In addition to being actively involved with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shelby is also a girl scout. When deciding on her Gold Award Project, Shelby immediately knew that she wanted to spread the ocean conservation message and also have a sustainable project that would continue on years and years. Shelby founded Jr Ocean Guardians to help educate lower grade level children on plastic pollution, recycling and the need for ocean conservation. She created an activity book and patch program for children as a fun teaching tool. In addition to Shelby visiting classrooms, she has recruited Ambassadors to help spread the message of Jr Ocean Guardians. Shelby and her Ambassadors take the activity booklets to schools and beach clean-ups. Shelby’s goal is to educate in-land children who don’t live close to the ocean as they don’t understand how their behaviors can affect the ocean. So far, Jr Ocean Guardians has distributed over 800 books as well as patches, stickers and buttons.

Along with the education piece, Shelby decided to contact corporations and ask them to make one small step that can make a huge impact on our ocean and planet – eliminate the plastic stir sticks. Shelby is currently working with Starbucks, Costco, Delta Airlines, Farmer Bros Coffee and Marriott Hotels to make the switch to a sustainable option and eliminate their plastic stir sticks. Shelby is already make a difference, Costco recently added a sustainable wood stir stick option for their members and they have promised to continue to look into reducing their plastic and promoting more sustainable options. All the corporations that Shelby is currently in contact with have pledged support in looking for sustainable options.

Shelby is currently working on the “No Straw November” movement and has gathered the support of large foundations. Shelby is also working with the California Coastal Commission and addressed the Coastal Commission Board this month to talk about the need for awareness on plastic straws/stirrers. She is also working with her Girl Scouts Council and launched the “No Straw November” movement on Sept. 23 at Elkhorn Sluis and will challenge girl scouts to track how many straws they are offered the month of November and how many times they refuse a straw. Jr Ocean Guardians was formed by Shelby and continues to grow as people become involved. Shelby has provided a platform where both she and her ambassadors are making a difference.

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Olivia and Carter Ries (2017 Award Recipients)
Atlanta, GA

Olivia and Carter Ries
got involved in marine conservation after seeing an image of a dead sea turtle being pulled out of the Gulf of Mexico caked in oil during the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill. They spent four months collecting badly needed animal rescue supplies, and on Olivia’s eighth birthday drove 12 hours down to the Gulf, where they spent five days delivering supplies and helping at the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Center.

It was there that they learned about the issue of plastic pollution. Upon their return, they spent four months educating themselves on the issue. Then, they hired two teachers and a retired principal; together authoring their award-winning Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum for K-6 graders.  Their curriculum is now available nationwide and is being tested in the U.K.; soon in Australia. After learning that an estimated 50,000 sea turtles drown each year by being caught up in shrimp trawl nets, they partnered with Oceana and created a Sea Turtle Letter Writing Campaign, which was made available to schools around the country. The campaign educated students about the issue and asked students to write to President Obama asking for his help to mandate the use of TEDs (Turtle Excluder Devices). The campaign received over 12,500 letters. Last June the kids were invited to the White House to deliver the letters, and the president signed legislation into action, mandating the use of TEDs in certain shrimp trawl nets.

More recently, Olivia and Carter launched a global OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign in an effort to get people to reduce the number of single-use plastic straws. Their campaign has three distinct components designed to reduce then overall straw usage around the world. The first is for individuals and asks people to sign a pledge stating that they promise to go strawless for 30-days. The second component is for schools and tasks students with becoming the teacher in their homes by getting at least one family member to sign the pledge. The third component targets restaurants and asks them to only hand out straws upon request. So far they have received over 3,000 signed pledges from over 45 countries and have garnered the support of over 400 organizations and restaurants around the world.

Over 30 U.S. based schools and community organizations have already implemented the week-long Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum, which has educated over 75,000 students. The mandate of TED devices has an immediate impact on the number of sea turtles that are saved from drowning in the nets, not to mention the countless by-catch that is prevented from entering the nest as well. The immediate and positive impact of their OneLessStraw Campaign is still growing. With an estimated 500 million single use plastic straws being used in the US every single day (which equates out to 1.6 straw for every man, woman and child living in this country), every person signing the pledge means we have kept an estimated 1,728,000 straws out of the environment in one year and that does not take into account the millions of straws that are no longer being handed out at the partner restaurants. Olivia and Carter have also been featured on TED Youth.

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Madison Toonder
St. Augustine, FL

Madison Toonder is a 4.0 GPA student at Stanford University Online High School in Florida dedicated to conservation and field research. Madison has been recognized by the Florida Association of Science Teachers for her “Outstanding Research” and is also involved in a number of conservation groups at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Brevard Zoo. Madison has also won numerous local, state, regional and national awards for her research projects. She has also written two bills for Florida Congress that set limits on the amount of chemicals allowed in sunscreens.

Some of her previous research has dealt with the effects of chemicals in these sunscreens on mollusk filtration rate and behavior. Madison is currently working with researchers at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, the University of Miami and University of Florida on projects examining new health variables in three marine turtle species.

She is also investigating how the fibropapilloma virus (a disease that causes large tumors and is common in juvenile green sea turtles) is related to these newly described health analytes. When these projects are complete, she will be a co-author on all resulting manuscripts. Madison’s work with LMC, UM, and UF researchers will help us better understand the effects of the fibropapilloma virus on marine turtle health. Her results will aid in direct conservation of the species by providing further information to researchers, veterinarians, and diagnosticians on new health analytes and overall health status of marine turtles with this virus.

Her impact in the field of wildlife research and medicine continues to grow through more experience and education. Her results could improve treatment opportunities for facilities that aid in the rehabilitation, recovery, and release of these animals.

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Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Bali, Indonesia

Four years ago, at the ages of 12 and 10, Melati and Isabel Wijsen founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, a social initiative driven by children focused on reducing the use of plastic bags in Bali, Indonesia. Melati and Isabel have focused their efforts on educating the community of Bali on pollution reduction and alternatives to single-use plastic bags. In addition, they have developed curricula focused on waste management, marine debris, and youth empowerment. They are currently working with the Balinese government to implement the curricula in schools throughout Bali.

One Island, One Voice is an outreach campaign focused on recognizing shops, restaurants, and restaurants that are plastic bag free. Participating restaurants receive a sticker for their door and a “shout out” on social media. Melati and Isabel have started a project in the nearby village of Pererenan. Every Saturday they visit and distribute alternative bags to the local shops and businesses, learning about Balinese culture while sharing information about reducing plastic pollution with the local villagers. Melati and Isabel work with other students across the globe to help them establish Bye Bye Plastic Bag programs in their communities. To date, there are nine communities across the global participating in the program. Additionally, they have given a TED Talk in London.

One of the most significant threats impacting our ocean today is plastic pollution. Despite the challenges of the marine pollution issue, Melati and Isabel have recognized that it’s a completely preventable problem that they, along with their peers and members of the local community, have the power to address. Marine pollution negatively affects marine life, human health, and the economy of Bali. Melati and Isabel’s actions have proven successful to inspire others to change their habits and significantly reduce their dependency on plastic bags.

In December 2014, Bye Bye Plastic Bags signed an MOU with the Governor Bali, Bp. Mangku Pastika, to work together to encourage the people of Bali to reduce their use of plastic bags. Six months later, they received confirmation from the Balinese government announcing that Bali will become plastic bag and balloon free by 2018.

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Blue Business of the Year Finalists:

The Blue Business of the Year Award recognizes a business that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/or marine ecosystems through their business practices, products or technology.

Engel Coolers

With ENGEL’s strong connection to the outdoors, the Jupiter-based company has become involved in promoting and supporting many various marine conservation efforts. ENGEL is an exemplary representative of a prevailing corporate culture that seeks to contribute to the future enjoyment of our marine ecosystems through their involvement with pro staff, tournaments, NGOs, and associated marine industry companies.

ENGEL is a proud donor for the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, in support of their Lionfish Removal incentive programs and events. In addition, ENGEL is an active supporter of the Now or Neverglades Declaration. ENGEL sponsors a plethora of events to benefit conservation efforts, most notably the Miami Sportfish Tournament. ENGEL’s pro staff is largely comprised of strong advocates for marine conservation, many of which have championed a litany of topics such as circle hook adoption, gill net ban, sport fish designations and education on the proper handling of marine life. ENGEL’s well-known brand ambassadors, including Jack Hanna, George Poveromo, Mike Anderson, Robert Arrington and many others are leading purveyors of conservation-minded practice and resource management.

Most notably, ENGEL has partnered with country music star Kenny Chesney to facilitate awareness and funding for coral reef tract health through No Shoes Reefs. By generating funding through the sale of “No Shoes” branded merchandise from ENGEL, No Shoes Reefs donates and supports appropriate groups to further support marine conservation efforts. The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, an organization committed to the building of artificial reefs, recently deployed 100 of their unique four-ton “Coral Head” artificial reef modules, 34 of their four-ton “Fish House” modules and 1000 tons of boulders offshore of the Jupiter Inlet through the support of ENGEL Coolers, Kenny Chesney and No Shoes Reefs. This is the largest artificial reef deployment to date, and is part of the continuing quest to create new reefs and spawning habitats that are fundamental to marine ecosystems. ENGEL continues to support the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, among others, through monetary donations and lending additional support for public relations efforts.

Founded in 1962 by an ecology/marine biology graduate, Paul Kabalin, the company culture is reflective of a cumulative desire to be proactive. In addition, ENGEL’s Vice
President, Mike Dixon, and Vice President of Sales, Rob Bowie, are both dedicated to raising awareness and supporting initiatives for a healthier ecosystem. With an extensive history of active involvement in recreational fishing, Dixon is currently serving a tenure on the SEFCRI (South East Florida Coral Reef Initiative) board. Dixon recently traveled to D.C. with other respected representatives of the marine industry to speak to senators and congressman about the importance of a healthy marine ecosystem, as well as clean water to support vibrant, sustainable fishery stocks and public enjoyment. Working closely with a nationwide network of Coastal Conservation Associations, Rob Bowie spends a significant amount of time with managers and directors to ensure timely activation of regional issues of importance when needed.

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MG Surfline

While many companies today are joining the worldwide effort to increase social and environmental responsibility in the business world, MG Surfline is taking it a step further by making these values the basis of their business. MG Surfline, which produces and sells swimwear and active-wear, states that they operate with a mission “to create high quality waterwear made in an environmentally conscious way, and use business to inspire the desire to contribute to conservation, incorporate sustainability in our way of life and put into action solutions to our environmental problems.”

Founders Alexandra Menk and Melissa Gil both have backgrounds that have fueled their passion for ocean conservation and given them the knowledge necessary to produce active-wear they believe is simultaneously ideal for the consumer and the planet.

MG Surfline uses recycled materials to create clothing in a way that is mindful of the goal of reducing the amount of plastic debris in our world ocean. Their products are made using polyester from recycled plastic bottles (some collected via bins at local Palm Beach County businesses), and even their packaging is recycled. Beyond this, MG Surfline also partners with other businesses and organizations for beach cleanups and uses their website, social media channels and blog to spread awareness about the problems caused by plastic in our ocean and the solutions that people can work into their daily lives.

MG Surfline is setting an example as a business that prioritizes the health of the environment – specifically the ocean – and the company is using its voice to fight for our blue planet every day.

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The Scuba Club (2017 Award Recipient)

For 45 years, The Scuba Club has proven to be a business that promotes and encourages conservation through its business practices, preservation activities and examples in the community. They were also a finalist in the 2016 Go Blue Business of the Year Award. As the longest running dive operation in Palm Beach County, the organization SCUBA certifies hundreds of people each year. In each class, students learn about the beauty and importance of marine life and how to safely and respectfully interact with it.

The Scuba Club has been opposed to spear-fishing since it opened in 1972, and continues to stand by the belief that we should not kill the ocean’s natural ecosystem. Spearfishing is only allowed for lionfish, which is an invasive species. The Scuba Club’s educated staff are good examples to fellow divers of how to respectfully interact with marine animals and reef systems. They clearly and gently correct divers who are not respectful of the ocean habitat. The Scuba Club is an active supporter of lionfish derbies, which act to deplete the invasive lionfish species on reefs. They hold their own derbies and reward divers who help to solve the problem. This year, The Scuba Club partnered with LMC to represent their staff in the 2017 Palm Beach County Lionfish Derby and Festival and helped LMC release a hatchling into the ocean this year.

The Scuba Club encourages their staff, members and customers to clean up the reef as they dive. Many divers bring up trash from the bottom, helping to save the lives of turtles, fish and other marine species. JD Duff, co-owner of The Scuba Club, had a film that was shown at the prestigious San Diego Film Festival about the importance of preserving the Goliath Grouper population and keeping the moratorium on groupers. His film was shown alongside films from other famous videographers like Howard Hall. The Scuba Club believes that conservation starts with the youth in Palm Beach County. For the past 11 years they have implemented Scuba Camps teaching kids to love and preserve the ocean’s beauty through Discover Scuba classes, Scuba Camps (where kids get certified) and ocean dives. Not only is Scuba Camp available for kids to get certified, The Scuba Club offers Scuba Camp for certified divers too. This important yearly camp keeps the excitement of the ocean and its inhabitants in the minds and hearts of our youngest conservationists.

For the last four years, The Scuba Club has held Scuba Camps during lobster mini-season instead of running trips for those hoping to catch them. They do not support mini-season and believe that the regular season should be shortened on both ends by one month because so many pregnant females are captured. The Scuba Club has also reached the college demographic by teaching scuba certification classes to students at Palm Beach Atlantic University for 41 years. Through The Scuba Club, this important population is taught about the importance of preserving marine life ecosystems.

Scuba diving isn’t for everyone, so The Scuba Club uses social media to bring the beauty of the ocean to the masses. The staff and members take pictures that are posted to Facebook, Instagram (which has a strong youth, high school and college following) and Twitter that promote conservation, restoration and preservation of our beautiful marine life and ecosystems.

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Women of the Wild 

The WoW is a diverse group of exceptional women who, through their relationships and networking, accomplish positive change by raising awareness and garnering support for critical conservation initiatives affecting our community, our region and the world. Using an eclectic mix of social events, field trips, volunteering and fundraisers, WoW promotes conservation across species and habitats. Starting with just a few women in 2014, the group has grown to over 500 women with an incredibly wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. Through commitment to a common purpose and belief that change comes about through the concerted efforts of many, WoW creates a template of empowerment that ensures mission success.

During a visit to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center, WoW saw the effects of many threats to sea turtles living along Florida’s coast. The group took specific interest in how fibropapillomatosis, a disease associated with poor water quality, severely impacts green turtles in the nearby Indian River Lagoon. With a new found appreciation for sea turtles, WoW christened this past year as “The Year of the Turtle” and focused their efforts on these threatened species. During “The Year of the Turtle,” WoW continued to support Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center and raised significant funds to support sea turtle health studies conducted by Inwater Research Group and Loggerhead Marinelife Center. These studies examine the connection between green turtle health and the severity of fibropapillomatosis. The goal is to find better ways to help treat turtles with the disease when they are brought to rehabilitation facilities. Together, the funding for these projects will result in at least three scientific publications.

The group has also reached out to other conservation organizations to increase their understanding of sea turtles and participated in lectures, events and sea turtle walks with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Program, Friends of Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, and the Sea Turtle Preservation Society. WoW has then taken their new found knowledge and worked to spread the message of sea turtle conservation. The diverse group of women has been able to carrying their message into areas of the community not normally reached. WoW has positively impacted sea turtle conservation through their direct support of rehabilitation facilities and local scientists. More importantly, they have become lifelong advocates for sea turtles and marine conservation within our community.

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