2018 Go Blue Awards Nominees – Ambassador

Blue Ambassador of the Year Finalists:

The recipient of the Blue Ambassador of the Year Award exemplifies significant local contributions in marine conservation through volunteer-related activities.

Anja Burns

I would like to nominate Anja Burns for Blue Ambassador of the Year. This honor is warranted by the fact that Anja has been a champion of Loggerhead Marinelife Center for more than twenty-six years. During that time, Anja has logged more than 6,000 volunteer hours.

Most recognize Anja as the fun loving “German speaking” gift store associate working two shifts a week. What they do not know is that Anja has volunteered in every sector of Loggerhead Marinelife Center over the course of the last three decades. She has served as an education docent, raising awareness in the community and educating guests on sea turtle rehabilitation and the importance of ocean conservation. Years ago, Anja worked in the rehabilitation department caring for our sea turtle patients and releasing them back into the wild. In addition to the above, she facilitates outreach programs and manages pop up stores for LMC.

Anja has been one of the most dedicated, reliable volunteers that Loggerhead Marinelife Center has ever had. She was awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2014 and Gift Store Volunteer of the Year in 2017. Guests of the sea turtle hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center know Anja by name and love engaging her in conversation, listening to her underwater stories. Guests and customers alike just enjoy hearing about Anja’s experience in the deep blue sea.

Prior to volunteering at LMC, Anja was a well-known underwater photographer. Anja worked closely with Jim Abernathy collecting photos of sea turtles and sharks. She loved being underwater, feeling like she was “in a new world” and observing these animals in their natural habitat. She would show these photos to both children and adult visitors at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Her passion for the health and well-being of sea turtles as well as ocean conservation has been her life mission and she has demonstrated this for many years through her years of service. Anja is one of four hundred volunteers at LMC and is an invaluable member of the team. She is the ideal ambassador for Loggerhead Marinelife Center and her warm, caring personality is unmatched.


Nomination 2:

Dear Blue Friends Selection Committee;

We are proud to present, nominate and endorse Anja Burns for the 2018 Blue Ambassador of the Year Award.

Anja has long exemplified a level of commitment toward protecting and preserving the environment and marine conservation that can serve as a model for many others. She has clearly made an impact toward achieving that goal, and has generously given back her love of the ocean to the Loggerhead Marine Life Center and its wider community.

A tireless volunteer and Good Will ambassador, Anja has been involved with Loggerhead Marine Life Center for more than 40 years, starting nearly from inception with its founder, Eleanor Fletcher. Like the Center’s founder, she has lived a life and worked continuously to create, support and promote an awareness about marine conservation, by generously sharing her knowledge and real life diving experiences studying the marine environment through education and volunteer work. She has taught thousands of children about the ocean and sea turtles and the importance of protecting and preserving them. She has made hundreds of slide presentations at public schools, retirement homes, civic organizations and countless other venues all with the goal of stressing how critical marine conservation is to the well being of our planet. At every event, people loved her unbridled enthusiasm and joy in selflessly sharing her knowledge of the sea.

Through thoughtful and open discussion and her own underwater photography, she became an expert on her subject matter, and when forced to discontinue diving, she generously donated all her underwater photographs and photographic equipment to the Center.

Her volunteerism and leadership is based on a vision that is crafted by personal experience and a passionate commitment to marine conservation. She personifies and defines the role of Blue Ambassador of the Year having lived the life.

Marine conservation needs more volunteers like Anja Burns, both for their passion, joy and the sharing of themselves for promoting this vital
effort for the benefit of every species of life that populate this beautiful Blue Planet. We know of no one more deserving and her nomination for the Blue Ambassador of the Year merits serious consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Neil & Joyce Solomon

Ralph “RIP” McEldowney

Most mornings from late October through May, Tequesta, Florida. resident “Rip” McEldowney sets out with his recyclable bag and trash grabber and hits the beach north of the Jupiter Inlet.

With one glance, taking stock of the winds and tides, this this lifelong fisherman knows how tough his job will be that day.

East winds bring a lot of junk, especially plastic, much of it tangled in sea weed. Brisk north winds often push trash away from the beach, lightening his daily take a bit. The Jupiter Island beach, on the lea of west winds, means the wrack line where debris usually rests is often less defined. No matter the wind, “there’s always those darn small pieces of plastic,” says McEldowney. “They never go away.”

The winds from brutal storms in Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 left their mark. It wasn’t unusual for Rip to fill his bag three or four times on a morning’s outing. He hauls to the recycle cans at the North and South walks in Jupiter Inlet Colony and takes a break at the Inlet bench returning along a different path. He empties again at Coral Cove Park.

Why spend several early morning hours picking up trash? McEldowney, a retired media executive who worked for many years in the New York City finds it a calming pastime. He chats with fellow walkers and beach trash collectors and pets their pooches. “I used to take my boat out and fish from sun up to noon. But now, I’m on the water in a different way. It’s just as satisfying. It’s a good start to each day,” he reflects.

McEldowney, a Navy vet who served on the destroyer USS Bache from 1962 to 1965, feels a sense of duty to the marine life that calls our beach home. “Every time I pick up a balloon, bottle cap or cigarette butt, that’s one less threat to our sea birds or “our” turtles. This beach is one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting areas and every March through June it’s filled with females laying eggs. Keeping it debris free is important so that hatchlings have a good shot at surviving.”

Because of his love for sea turtles, last Christmas his family “adopted” a turtle named Rudder for him from Loggerhead Marinelife Center – a gift that delighted him.

McEldowney loves all forms of marine life and spends his afternoons creating pencil sketches of fish, turtles, sea birds, crabs and other creatures found in and on the Atlantic. He displays and sells his art in Connecticut where he and his wife Jeanne spend their summers.

JIC Mayor Dan Comerford salutes McEldowney for his daily efforts. “The beach is our ‘back yard, our Town’s most important asset. It’s why residents choose to live here. We are very diligent about keeping it clean for sea turtles. Mr. McEldowney, along with a handful of JIC residents, are to be commended for being such dedicated stewards of our beach, day in, day out.”

“Rip” McEldowney hasn’t started a national movement. He hasn’t created an organization. But he has shown what one man can do to make a difference on a two-mile stretch of an important turtle nesting beach. Early morning beach walkers can’t help but join him, inspired by his “rain or shine” dedication.

Betsy Smith

When we think of the heart and soul of nonprofit organizations, often the organization’s volunteer community comes to mind. Loggerhead Marinelife Center is fortunate to have over 400 active volunteers who in 2017 donated over 50,000 volunteer service hours to help expand the center’s mission.

Sea turtles can be global migrators. The ocean connects everyone, on every continent. As such, LMC has globalized its mission and the center is focusing on better understanding and analyzing marine debris in particular plastic ocean pollution. Over the past several years, one of LMC’s volunteers, Betsy Smith has taken the center’s focus on marine debris to heart, serving as the lead volunteer on many critically important marine debris initiatives.
Betsy’s tenue with the Center is significant; she is one of the Center’s three most tenured volunteers. For over 15 years, Betsy has volunteered at the Center donating nearly 5,000 volunteer hours.

Betsy donates her time, expertise and passion in a number of important areas. Betsy scouts for sea turtles during the center’s nesting walks in June and July and she donates her time and expertise for the center’s special events.

There is one program in particular where Betsy has truly transformed the Center’s visibility and authority and that is LMC’s marine debris conservation programs. Each year LMC removes massive amounts of marine debris from our environment. Betsy serves as LMC’s Marine Debris Sorting Captain enabling the center to more effectively deploy volunteers, interns, and staff members to ensure all of the debris LMC removes from the environment is scientifically sorted and analyzed. The marine debris data sorting and analysis that Betsy leads, allows LMC to contribute great data to our partner organizations like NOAA and Ocean Conservancy. These data allow LMC and our partner organizations to pinpoint the debris items, which are the most commonly, found in our oceans and on our coastlines.

Betsy donates over 5 hours per week helping to lead the Center’s team to sort all of the marine debris collected. In addition to her time dedicated to managing the Center’s sort program, Betsy leads additional beach clean ups on her own time and applies the same rigorous methods to the debris she collects during these additional beach cleanups.

Betsy was the first marine debris sorting team member and has been the marine debris sorting team captain for many years. Betsy has been responsible for sorting and documenting thousands of pieces of marine debris and has contributed immensely to the Center’s extensive marine debris database.

Not only is Betsy vital to contributing data for the Center’s published “Sort Reports” but she is also a critical member of the Center’s conservation outreach team, helping to educate partner organizations and the public on LMC’s broad conservation initiatives. Betsy is incredibly knowledgeable and always ready to teach the public about LMC and our mission to help conserve sea turtle and their ocean home.
Betsy is one of the most dedicated and effective volunteers and is helping LMC better explain the threat of marine debris in particular the threat to our oceans and marine life from ocean plastic.

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