Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award Finalists:
The recipient of the Eleanor Fletcher Award exemplifies a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation education through their work or volunteer activities similar to Loggerhead Marinelife Center Founder Eleanor Fletcher.
Dr. Charles Manire
To the young guests who press their noses to the hospital window at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, he is simply “Dr. Charlie” who helps sick sea turtles get well.
To Center volunteers and staff, Dr. Charlie, LMC’s director of research and rehabilitation, is a beloved force and daily inspiration.
To his peers — researchers, biologists and veterinarians who study and treat marine species — Dr. Charles Manire sets a global standard for scientific innovation and impact on sea turtle health.
“Charlie Manire has been a consistent and fearless innovator in marine animal medicine throughout his career, working to improve the health of sick or injured sea turtles, whales, manatees, and sharks,” says Dr. Jeanette Wyneken, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, and world-renowned authority on sea turtles.
“Focusing on sea turtle health full-time at Loggerhead Marinelife Center has allowed Dr. Charlie to build upon his diverse and deep body of knowledge and clinical practice to benefit some of the most valuable members of the sea turtle populations. His innovative approaches result in more patients recovering and so incrementally increasing chances of the species recovering from their imperiled status.”
Dr. Wyneken underscores the importance of Dr. Manire’s innovations. “Juvenile and adult turtles have the highest chances of contributing to the growth of depleted populations simply because they have outgrown most predators. So, taking sick and injured turtles and making them well means his subadult patients have a second chance at reaching adulthood and breeding, or if adults, breeding. The more healthy sub-adults and adults we can return to the ocean the better the chances to build the populations back up.”
Dr. Manire developed a game changer for sea turtle treatment — a novel method of injecting nutrients called total parenteral nutrition (TPN). Thanks to TPN, LMC now saves once untreatable patients with chronic debilitation syndrome, a condition that prevents turtles from eating or digesting food or medicine. Since implementing TPN, Manire has succeeded in saving and returning to the ocean nearly 90% of chronically debilitated patients that previously would not have survived.
Discover Magazine, profiling Dr. Manire in 2015, called TPN “similar to IV nutrition for hospital patients whose digestive systems aren’t functional. For turtles, Manire has developed a custom mix of amino acids, fatty acids and sugars for each sea turtle species. Treatment lasts one hour, twice a day, and gives the turtle 2 ounces of fluid – a rate that would be deadly for a human being. But it’s just what the sea turtles need. After a few treatments, most turtles regain enough strength and begin eating their usual diet of solid food again. The procedure minimizes the amount of time turtles must stay out of water and gives them complete nutrition in fluid form.”
By mixing the ratios of the ingredients, Dr. Manire is testing ways to use the IV system to address other turtle health hazards such as treating intoxications that might arise if a turtle gets into a harmful algae bloom like red tide toxin. He has also worked closely with veterinarians in South America to adapt the procedure for penguin chicks facing starvation and is testing ways to use it to save other aquatic animals.
Dr. Manire edited and co-authored Sea Turtle Health and Rehabilitation, (Ross Publishing). This 1010-page textbook is the first for veterinarians working with sea turtles. In Fall 2017 more than 200 of Dr. Charlie’s family, fans and friends celebrated the book’s launch. At the event, LMC President and CEO Jack Lighton called “Dr. Manire a world-class scientist whose passion and tireless commitment to advancing sea turtle health has helped veterinarians and institutions across the globe improve their treatment of this critically important marine species.”
Dr. Charlie hosts veterinarians from other countries where sea turtles nest and when time permits, travels to deliver papers and discuss his research.
LMC’s expansion plans aim to broaden Dr. Charlie’s reach: there will be more space to welcome visiting veterinarians who wish to train with him, and new digital equipment to assist with diagnosis and allow remote consultation with other institutions treating sea turtles.
Dr. Charlie’s hospital treats and releases an average of 100 sub-adult and adult sea turtles annually and shelters and releases hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hatchlings stranded or dislocated by storms.
With his innovative thinking, high level of care, rigorous science, and commitment to sea turtle conservation, Dr. Charlie has put Loggerhead Marinelife Center at the forefront of sea turtle medicine.
As an LMC board member, I’m proud to nominate Dr. Charlie for the Eleanor Fletcher Award: He fits perfectly into the list of previous winners. Dr. Charlie is a tireless innovator doing world-class work right in our own back yard.
Biographical Sketch – Charles Manire, DVM
Director of Research and Rehabilitation, Loggerhead Marinelife Center
(a) Professional Preparation
Texas A&M University College Station, TX Veterinary Medicine DVM, 1973
Texas A&M University College Station, TX Veterinary Science BS, 1971
Mote Marine Laboratory (MML) Sarasota, FL – Adjunct Scientist 2008–present
Atlantis Resort Bahamas – Staff Veterinarian 2008–2011
MML Sarasota, FL – Animal Care Manager 1999–2008
MML: Dolphin, Whale, and Sea Turtle Hospital Sarasota, FL – Director 1999–2008
Symposium on Non-fisheries Related Human Impacts on Elasmobranchs – State College, PA Co-chairman 2001
Mote Marine Laboratory Sarasota, FL – Staff Scientist 1997–1999
Elasmobranch Endocrinology Symposium Seattle, WA – Co-chairman 1997
Mote Marine Laboratory Sarasota, FL – Senior Biologist 1992–1997
University of Miami Miami, FL – Chief Scientist 1988–1991
(c) Selected Publications
(1) White EM, Clark S, Manire CA, Crawford B, Wang S, Locklin J, Ritchie BW. In review.
Quantitation and characterization of ingested micronizing plastic in wash back sea
turtles. Target: Science Advances.
(2) Stacy BA, Chapman PA, Foley AM, Greiner EC, Herbst LH, Bolten AB, Klein P, Manire
CA, Jacobson ER. Genetic diversity of the genus Neospirorchis (Spirorchiidae) in sea
turtles and correlation with anatomic location and definitive host species. Target:
International Journal of Parasitology.
(3) Manire CA, Anderson ET, Byrd L, Fauquier DA. 2013. Dehydration as an effective
treatment for brevetoxicosis in loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Journal of Zoo
I would like to nominate Kelli McGee for the 2018 Eleanor Fletcher award because she is truly
an inspiring individual in both her accomplishments and personal character as well. Her passion
for ocean conservation has been a leading influence in her life and has led her to achieve a
remarkable career filled with ocean advocacy and marine education.
Kelli started out attending the University of Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology. This led her to her first dream job of studying dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key,Florida. It was here that she had the realization that while it is amazing and rewarding to save and rehabilitate individual dolphins, there were larger issues at stake that her current job didn’t allow her to solve. It was this thought that initiated her decision to go back to school and receive her law degree at The George Washington University Law
Since then, Kelli has worked as the California Director of Oceana, The Director of Growth and Resource Management for Volusia County, and then started her own Environmental Consulting firm, Natua Strategies. Although her job titles have changed she always stayed true to her passions and advocated for healthier oceans through education of sustainable practices. Today, Kelli is the current President of Natua Strategies which is a consulting firm committed to promoting sustainable strategies and business practices that help businesses and nonprofit organizations prosper.
Kelli is a professional advocate with a background in strategic planning, fundraising, project management, grassroots organizing, media outreach, and partnership cultivation. As an Attorney and expert in natural resources conservation Kelli has written and implemented federal and local laws, drafted congressional testimony, produced effective media campaigns, and cultivated editorials across the United States.
Because of her incredible accomplishments, she was also asked to be a guest lecturer at Stetson University. This led to an Adjunct Professor Position because the students took so well to her. This is where I had the privilege of meeting Kelli. My junior year of college I was able to be her intern and learn about environmental advocacy in a way I wasn’t aware of before. Her passion
and knowledge is contagious and I was able to learn so much from her. Not only does Kelli have an impressive resume, she is also eager to teach others and share what she has learned.
While Kelli is always busy, she never turns down a chance to meet with a student who has questions about the conservation field and is always informing students of career opportunities. It is this quality that makes her truly inspiring to me and countless others who I know now have jobs in environmental conservation. This is why I believe she is a perfect candidate for the Eleanor Fletcher Award, and would love to give her the opportunity to be recognized for all of her inspiring work.
Kelli McGee is President of Natua Strategies, a consulting firm committed to promoting sustainable strategies and business practices that help businesses and nonprofit organizations prosper. Kelli is a professional advocate with a background in strategic planning, fundraising, project management, grassroots organizing, media outreach, and partnership cultivation.
As an attorney and expert in natural resources conservation, Kelli has written and implemented federal and local laws, drafted congressional testimony, produced effective media campaigns, and cultivated editorials across the United States. Utilizing her background in science and public policy, Kelli gives credibility to projects of global, national, and local importance by working with legislators, agencies, corporations, scientists, the media, celebrities and local stakeholders. Kelli holds a Juris Doctor degree from the George Washington University Law School and is admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court, Florida, and Washington D.C. Kelli also has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, where she double majored in Biology and Psychology. A member of American Mensa, Kelli has enjoyed a notable career in the fields of ocean advocacy, public policy development, nonprofit fundraising, and marine mammal research and rescue.
President – Natua Strategies
2016 – Present • 2 years
Daytona Beach, Florida Area
Leads a boutique consulting firm committed to giving philanthropic missions a voice through professional advocacy, fundraising, strategic consulting, project management, media outreach, business plan development, and partnership cultivation.
• Directing fundraising and development strategies for nonprofit clients.
• Cultivating strategic partnerships between nongovernmental and governmental
• Leading advocacy and strategy initiatives for policy issues that involve water
quality, wildlife, and habitat conservation.
• Providing technical environmental services including sea turtle lighting review
and optimization for coastal development.
• Engaging students as a guest lecturer and Adjunct Professor at Stetson
Director of Growth and Resource Management – County of Volusia
August 2002 – July 2016 • 14 years
Led a department of 100 full-time employees with an annual budget of $14.5
• Directed three county divisions: Planning and Development Services,
Environmental Management, and Building and Zoning.
• Presented, negotiated, and drafted ordinances, interlocal agreements, and
• Managed policy issues, strategic planning, and multiple advisory boards.
• Advised the Volusia County Council, city commissions, and planning boards on
strategies that promote a viable economy while protecting natural resources.
• Developed media messages and events to promote regional conservation
• Fundraised for the multi-million dollar Lyonia Environmental Center and Marine
Science Center (marinesciencecenter.com).
• Formulated state and federally approved processes for environmental
permitting, pollution control, and protected species conservation.
• Held multiple overlapping positions to save taxpayer dollars during the
Director of Growth and Resource Management February 2011 – July 2016
Director of Planning and Development Services March 2008 – September 2011
Acting Director of Environmental Management 2007 – 2008 & 2009 – 2011
Natural Resources Director August 2002 – March 2008
California Director – Oceana
March 2000 – July 2002 • 2 years 5 months
Los Angeles, CA
Directed west coast operations and oceans advocacy initiatives that included:
fundraising, strategic planning, legislative and administrative lobbying, corporate
outreach, press relations, and budget preparation.
• Negotiated partnerships and funding opportunities with international
corporations and foundations.
• Managed national media campaigns and events involving world leaders and
celebrities. See www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2001-01-31-dansonoceans.
• Conducted congressional briefings at the request of Senators and Members of
• Represented American Oceans Campaign at national and international
conferences, editorial board visits, and fundraising events.
• Created the Healthy Oceans Business Alliance, a membership organization
based on raising awareness of “eco-friendly” business practices.
Coastal Program Counsel – American Oceans Campaign
January 1999 – February 2000 • 1 year 2 months
Managed national beach water quality advocacy initiatives that included:
fundraising, strategic planning, legislative and administrative lobbying, corporate
outreach, press relations, and budget preparation.
• Led advocacy initiatives resulting in the adoption of federal legislation.
• Re-structured the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health
• Created advocacy partnerships among businesses, coastal communities, and
conservation organizations, leading to the BEACH Bill’s unanimous passage in
the U.S. Congress.
• Drafted congressional testimony, fact sheets, press releases, and articles.
• Co-chaired the Coastal Working Group of the Clean Water Network.
Coastal Programs Counsel – Coast Alliance
May 1997 – October 1998 • 1 year 6 months
Engaged in advocacy and policy analysis on coastal issues nationwide. Drafted
fundraising proposals and employee contracts.
Specific responsibilities included:
• Engaged in, and coordinated congressional, administrative, and grassroots
• Represented coastal stakeholders at meetings with congressional staff and
• Implemented media strategies, conducted editorial board visits, drafted press
releases, and created advocacy and educational materials.
• Researched and drafted legal documents relating to coastal barriers litigation.
Legal Intern – Center For Marine Conservation
May 1996 – April 1997 • 1 year
Washington D.C. Metro Area
Conducted legal research and writing in the areas of clean water, Fifth
Amendment takings, and ocean dumping.
Specific responsibilities included:
• Drafted legislative amendments to federal ocean dumping bills.
• Successfully engaged in congressional lobbying and administrative rule
• Drafted legal memoranda for coastal barriers litigation.
Legal Intern – National Wildlife Federation
1996 – 1996 • less than a year
Washington D.C. Metro Area
Conducted legal research and writing for litigation involving the Surface Mining
Control and Reclamation Act, the Energy Policy Act, and associated regulations.
• Drafted motions, briefs, and memoranda for mining litigation.
• Researched and drafted papers regarding Fifth Amendment takings issues.
JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL’S CORPS UNITED STATES ARMY
1995 – 1995 • less than a year
Heidelberg Area, Germany
One of twenty-five first year law students selected nationwide to act as a legal
• Conducted research in administrative, family, and military law.
• Assisted Judge Advocates with daily case assignments.
Instructor and Research Associate – Dolphin Research Center
1991 – 1993 • 2 years
Grassy Key, Florida
• Authored and presented seminars on the physiology, conservation, and
research of dolphins.
• Co-authored: Smith, J.D., et al., 1995. The uncertain response in the
bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus.) J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 124 (4): 391-408.
• Coordinated research training sessions, analyzed data, behavior, acoustics,
and experimental design.
• Presented research results and protocol to international marine mammal
University of Virginia
Bachelor’s degree, Biology and Psychology (Double Major)
Activities and Societies: Golden Key National Honor Society and International Relations
The George Washington University Law School
Activities and Societies: George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics
Volunteer Experience & Causes
Founder, Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team
September 2002 – July 2016 • 13 years 11 months
Finance Subcomitte, Indian River Lagoon Council
July 2016 – Present • 2 years 2 months Environment
Causes Kelli cares about:
Arts and Culture
Science and Technology
J Exp Psychol Gen. 1995 Dec;124(4):391-408. The uncertain response in the
bottlenosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Smith JD, Schull J, Strote J,
McGee K, Egnor R, Erb L.
Journal of Experimental Psychology
This research explored metacognition or the ability to think about one’s own thoughts by conducting
field studies with the assistance of “Natua” a celebrity dolphin and experienced trainer of humans.
Authors: Kelli McGee, Principle authors: JD Smith & J Shull, Linda Erb, J Strote, R Egnor
Todd M. Steiner
Todd Steiner is an ecologist and the founder and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), a leading advocate for the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. He has more than 30 years’ experience in environmental protection and education.
Mr. Steiner has devoted his life to activism and saving aquatic creatures. He began his career working in Everglades National Park for seven years, later volunteering with Earth Island Institute after his move to California. He was hired as Director of the Dolphin Project shortly afterward. This was his inspiration to start the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), which later left Earth Island to become an independent organization. STRP grew and later expanded to Texas, Costa Rica and California.
In 1987, Mr. Steiner traveled to Nicaragua to learn more about a cutting-edge sea turtle conservation program that sought to engage local coastal communities in long-term preservation efforts to save sea turtles. Steiner started an all-volunteer grassroots effort to raise funds to purchase basic field supplies and research materials, and by 1989 launched the “Sea Turtle Restoration Project,” under the umbrella of the non-profit Earth Island Institute.
By 1997, the program had grown to include a full-time staff working at its headquarters in the Bay Area and an office and staff in Costa Rica and it became an independent organization called Turtle Island Restoration Network. Programs now span the globe from the coastal waters of the Galapagos Islands to the sandy beaches of Galveston, Texas and include projects to protect sharks, marine mammals, seabirds from a myriad of threats from industrial overfishing, destruction of coastal and riverine habitat, and the threat of climate change from fossil fuel projects. Each gives the public a chance to get involved in efforts to protect our blue-green planet.
Mr. Steiner also founded the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) in 1997, an organization that protects endangered, wild coho salmon and the forests and watersheds they need to survive in West Marin, California. Over 15,000 juvenile coho and steelhead have been saved from drying pools by SPAWN since this effort began in 1999.
Mr. Steiner’s activism work in the Turtle Island Restoration Network has resulted in a multitude of positive change related to saving species, national and international law and policy changes, hands-on conservation, as well as public education and mobilization.
Read more here: seaturtles.org/about/accomplishments/
In addition to his outstanding accomplishments, Mr. Steiner has helped raise awareness about the importance of marine life and conservation through publishing and presenting in national and international journals and news media, National Geographic, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, as well as national and international symposiums. He is also an award-winning producer of several sea turtle videos broadcasted at The International Wildlife Film Festival and PBS.
Mr. Steiner has been awarded several grants through his work in the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (both of which he founded and directs) from organizations including Supporting Foundation, California Coastal Conservancy, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, California Fish & Wildlife, Marisla Foundation, California Water Board, Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Educational Foundation of America, Conservation, Food & Health Foundation, Sequoia Foundation, Goldman Fund, Patagonia, Oracle, and others.
Mr. Steiner serves on the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Counsel, NOAA-DFG Priority Action Coho Team: Technical Working Group, and on the Center for Biological Diversity Board of Directors. He holds an MS in Biology and lives in Forest Knolls, CA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blue Friend of the Year Finalists:
The recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award exemplifies significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities. Local and National entries recognized.
Jacquelyn holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Florida Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences from Florida Atlantic University. Her published Master’s Degree research has been incorporated into the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle Conservation Handbook. She is also the permit holder for Marine Turtle Permit (MTP) #098 and has been monitoring local beaches in Palm Beach County for sea turtle nests for 18 years. Prior to obtaining her Bachelor’s degree, Jacquelyn spent five years volunteering her time at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, FL.
She also completed a summer internship with Mote Marine Laboratory’s sea turtle department in Sarasota, FL. In 2016, Jacquelyn started Sea Turtle Adventures (STA) a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The mission of STA is to conserve local populations of sea turtles, educate the public about the marine environment, and provide nature-based programs to adults with disabilities who enjoy the marine environment.
Sea turtle conservation: During her 18 years monitoring local beaches for sea turtle nests, Jacquelyn has trained and provided oversight to a group of 6 volunteers who conduct daily sea turtle monitoring activities. She is often on the beach herself conducting the monitoring and talking to beachgoers.
Artificial lighting: Jacquelyn takes time to perform night-time lighting surveys and works directly with the local municipalities to address artificial lighting to ensure that the 3-mile section of beach she is responsible for monitoring remains darks throughout nesting season.
Marine pollution: Since forming STA in September 2016, Jacquelyn has held over 30 beach cleanups in the last 22 months. Trash collected during cleanups is categorized and the data is reported to Ocean Conservancy. Plastics and rope are recycled into craft projects during outreach events.
Responsible Pier Initiative (RPI): In 2016 Jacquelyn proactively approached the Loggerhead Marinelife Center asking if her newly formed organization, STA, could implement the RPI at a very popular and highly fished inlet in southern Palm Beach County (Boynton Beach Inlet). Since that partnership was formed, STA volunteers have visited the inlet weekly to talk to fisherman, hand out circle fishing hooks, and empty and recycle monofilament canisters. As part of this program we also respond the calls about injured shorebirds and seabirds. In 2018 alone, she and other STA volunteers have rescued six injured birds and transported them to Busch Wildlife for treatment.
Education: Jacquelyn and her team provide on-demand educational presentations to school groups, community groups, and corporations who have an interest in learning more about sea turtles and marine conservation but prefer to have the presentation brought to them as opposed to visiting a local sea turtle hospital. STA has completed 11 educational presentations to date in 2018. Also in 2018, Jacquelyn developed a “ride-along” program where interested members of the public can ride-along with a sea turtle monitor on a morning sea turtle nesting survey. This program has been extremely successful and will be offered again in 2019. Jacquelyn is also passionate about helping adults with special needs. In 2017, she launched the iCARE Program through STA, which is a program she designed for adults with special needs who enjoy nature and the marine environment. The Program provides two free two hour events each month in the community, often at environmental centers, and is intended to teach this population about the marine environment and also assist with life skills training. The Program began with 7 participants in November 2017 and as of July 2019 has 29 participants with no program dropouts.
Conservation: In 2018, STA partnered with Palm Beach County to adopt the Ocean Ridge Natural Area and promote its use. Jacquelyn visited this location and found this natural area to be a hidden gem and STA is the official adopter of this natural area and tasked with helping to keep it clean and promoting its use.
Lorne, Jacquelyn K and Michael Salmon. 2007. Effects of exposure to artificial lighting on orientation of hatchling sea turtles on the beach and in the ocean. Endang Species Res. Vol. 3: 23–30
Why should Jennifer Reilly win the Blue Friend of the Year Award?
From a young age, marine life was always on Jennifer’s mind. We would go to the beach in New York and she literally became one with the water. While I wanted my big sister to kick around the sand and run back and forth to the water with me, she had other plans. She would swim out as far as she could safely, and just swim to the bottom, or stand knee deep waiting for a sign of marine life, just SOMETHING that she could analyze. Now I’m not sure if you have ever been to the “beautiful” beaches of Long Island New York but unfortunately, there is very minimal marine life in the knee deep water of our beaches. Maybe this is when her passion began to fester itself in her mind, body and soul.
Jennifer went on to have a very high GPA throughout high school, however still needed more marine in her life. At the young age of 18-20 Jennifer volunteered at the Riverhead Aquarium almost every weekend. She did so well for them, they eventually asked her to continue her volunteer work but take her talents to a local Whale and Seal tour out of Freeport, Long Island tracking and marking their findings. The crew and staff loved her so much. She applied endlessly to open job positions however. She surpassed every single requirement listed. Except one- the most important one- able to clearly communicate with visitors. Jennifer was deaf and although can understand a conversation solely on reading lips, I guess it wasn’t good enough for employers. Well, did she show them!
Jennifer went on to take 2 internships for Marine Conservation, one in Hawaii and the other in the Caribbean. In between, she took odd end jobs just so she could support her desire to continue to volunteer. Yes, she needed to make money so she could still immerse herself in her unconditional love of Marine Conservation. Jennifer Reilly was the first DEAF person to attend Duke Marine Lab. Jennifer also has her Master’s Degree in Marine Conservation. She worked as a seasonal tech for the beautiful and upcoming Loggerhead Marine Center, again starting as a volunteer. She would go to FL for the Sea Turtle season and return to New York when she was no longer needed. Again working and saving on the off-season so she was financially able to travel back and forth.
Did I mention she was deaf? NOTHING WOULD STOP HER FROM HER BEING ABLE TO MAKE A CHANGE IN THE MARINE WORLD.
In February of this year, Jennifer was offered a full position at Loggerhead Marine Center. You would have thought she won millions when she got the call that she was HIRED. Her 38 years of adversity made her exactly the person she needed to be.
In June of 2018, Jennifer was out on the beach working, when she received a call from the LMC office that a group of deaf visitors were at the Center and wanted a tour. Everything Jennifer in her past 38 years, led to this moment. She was elevated- she was finally given a platform to educate and spread the knowledge and understanding to a group of humans who otherwise would have walked through the center, only interacting with each other. NOW LMC OFFERS TOURS OF THEIR BEAUTIFUL CENTER FOR THE DEAF POPULATION and will be doing this both in person and virtually which increases the Center’s ability to educate and inspire another important audience segment.
I can’t imagine Jennifer stopping there- she is going to continue to push. Marine Life and Marine Conservation are in her blood, soul, mind and body. She has already contributed so much of her time and life to perusing her passion, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Thank you for your consideration of my big sister, Jennifer Reilly, for the Blue Friend of the Year Award.
A motto of the environmental movement is “think global, act local.” Rich Walesky has done just that. Throughout his long career, Rich has acted to conserve Palm Beach County’s marine heritage.
To appreciate his lifetime contributions, one must think back to the mid-80s. Conservation initiatives we take for granted today were nascent or non-existent. In 1987, Rich was tapped by the Palm Beach County Commission to become the Director of a newly formed entity: the PBC Department of Environmental Resources (ERM). Lauded as a visionary who could get things done, Rich held the post for 24 years, retiring in 2011.
As ERM Director, he created a muscular agency that set conservation standards, promoted sustainability engaged citizens, and drew support from legislators.
He created and implemented policies and programs that were ahead of their time, built a top-notch department that remains a civic model today and oversaw myriad projects— from beach restoration for sea turtle nesting and artificial reef installations, to cleaning up waterways.
Rich Walesky, more than any other person, defined and institutionalized stewardship for Palm Beach County’s unique environmental assets.
He educated the public, persuaded politicians, and provided expert leadership for a new generation of conservationists in the County. This highly experienced and extremely personable man used his deep knowledge, drive, persuasiveness, and ability to see future challenges to get things done.
In doing so, he created an agency within Palm Beach County that others in the state and across the nation admire and copy.
How Rich created a County model for marine conservation:
Rich was a tenacious and daring Director who put in place many of the policies and programs that make Palm Beach County a model in marine conservation. Thanks to Rich’s leadership, PBC has hundreds of acres of restored mangroves and seagrasses, improved water quality in the Lagoon, thriving artificial reef systems and effectively managed shorelines.
Key areas of marine conservation impact during Rich’s ERM tenure:
• Established model shoreline protection program, integrating beach and dune restoration with inlet management to maintain critical sea turtle nesting habitat and recreational beaches.
• Implemented marine sea turtle monitoring and data collection programs designed to protect and enhance turtle populations.
• Created programs to protect and monitor natural reef systems; provided funding and organizational support for the Palm Beach County Reef Research Team.
• Established artificial reef program to create additional marine habitat, relieve pressure on natural coral reefs, and provide unique diving and fishing opportunities. Forty-five vessels, 82,000 tons of concrete and 130,000 tons of limestone boulders have been placed under Rich’s program.
• Established environmental restoration programs within Lake Worth Lagoon, a 20-mile long estuary in Palm Beach County that provides critical habitat for marine fisheries and many endangered species including Florida manatees, green sea turtles, and Johnson’s seagrass.
• Acquired and preserved 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 runoff.
• Built public advocacy for marine resources through extensive outreach and education programs.
During my 28-year tenure as County Commissioner, I worked closely with Rich. No one has done more for marine conservation in Palm Beach County day in day out in the last three decades than Rich Walesky.
Since his retirement, Rich continues to advocate and act. He teaches students of all ages, models’ best practices, and serves on the Board of Sustainable Palm Beach County, where he brings his considerable energy and knowledge to bear on our marine conservation efforts.
Thanks to Rich’s tireless efforts, Palm Beach County residents and visitors can enjoy our green space, natural areas, clean waters, sand and sea. And several species of the world’s sea turtles can return to nest on the PBC beaches where they were hatched.
Karen Marcus, Former Palm Beach County Commissioner; Founder and President, Sustainable Palm Beach County; Board Member: Loggerhead Marinelife Center; Friends of MacArthur Beach; Maltz Theater
Richard Walesky, Director (Ret) Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources
October 1987 to October 2016
Director, PBC Department of Environmental Resources Administered PBC Environmental programs with a staff of 170 plus. Managed $50 million annual operating budget and $75 million capital budget to restore, enhance and maintain the land and water resources of PBC; programs include:
• Shoreline Restoration (beaches, dunes, artificial reefs, sea turtle nesting protections, and sand transfer plants)
• Environmental Restoration and Enhancement: (Mangrove, seagrass, oyster habitat and water quality within Lake Worth Lagoon and freshwater restoration within Chain of Lakes.
• Acquisition, restoration and management of native habitats and construction of public use family for passive preservation with the 30,000 acres of PBC’s Natural Area at 35+ locations
August 1985 to October 1987
Environmental Manager, State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation
Administered State enforcement program over a six-county area with a staff of 21. Developed enforcement and compliance strategies, reviewed technical and legal enforcement issues and negotiated case settlements. Programs administered included: dredge and fill, industrial waste, hazardous waste, solid waste, potable water, domestic waste; above and underground petroleum tanks.
July 1982 to July 1992
President and Senior Scientist, Tropical Ecosystems, Inc. Supervised biologists in the design, collection and analysis of biological and water quality data for Planning Board of Palm Beach County, Broward County Environmental Quality Control Board, Dade County ERM and National Marine Fisheries Service.
August 1978 to July 1985
Environmental Specialist, State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation Wide-ranging responsibilities including evaluation of projects with regard to degradation of water quality, wildlife habitat useful as nursery and breeding grounds, and recreational and commercial fisheries. Prepared environmental assessments on proposed construction projects in freshwater, estuarine and marine wetlands areas.
November 1976 to November 1978
Biologist State of Florida Department of Environmental Regulation Collected and analyzed freshwater and marine macroinvertebrates, periphyton and plankton with EPA water monitoring system.
August 1978 to April 1983
Adjunct Faculty Palm Beach Junior College (environmental conservation and principles of biology)
2008 Department of Interior Cooperative Conservation Award, presented by Secretary of Interior
2011 Director’s Award for Leadership, Florida Association of Environmental Professionals
2015 Environmental Leadership Award, Florida Environmental Resource Agencies
Member, Sustainable Palm Beach County Board of Directors; Member, Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council and Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative
Education: B.S. Cornell University MS Florida Atlantic University
Kathy is the President and Executive Director of the National Marine Life Center in Bourne. Previously, she worked at The Marine Mammal Center in California and the Georgia Coastal Management Program. Kathy has volunteered for a variety of marine mammal projects in California, Hawaii, North Carolina, Georgia, and Massachusetts.
She graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College, and received her master’s degree from Duke University. She is a member of the Society of Marine Mammalogy and the Massachusetts Marine Educators’ Association. An alumna of the Cape Leadership Institute of Cape Cod and the Islands, Kathy serves on the boards of the Bourne Financial Development Corporation, the Massachusetts Marine Educators’ Association, and the Philanthropy Partners of the Cape and Islands.
Additionally, she is on the advisory committee of the Environmental Technology Program at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.
Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:
Recognizes a person under age 17 who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.
With the heart of a mermaid, Faith’s love and respect for our oceans is evident by her enthusiasm to participate in projects around the state of Florida. She eagerly dives into any opportunity to showcase an appreciation for our underwater realm.
Faith is a Junior Ambassador for the Keep Fin Alive campaign originating in South Africa. With this endeavor, she introduces classroom peers and the general public to the beauty of sharks. Faith is working locally to derive empathy towards the plight of sharks while simultaneously shattering misconceptions perpetuated by media sensationalism.
Throughout the year, Faith assists Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance to promote marine conservation. Her most recent contribution included an anti-finning campaign at SharkCon in Tampa, where she educated guests about various shark conservation initiatives. Additionally, Faith volunteers her time every October in St. Augustine, where she works with highly stigmatized species like snakes and crocs. During Croctober, she works with industry experts to deliver presentations that raise consciousness regarding the value of these stigmatized animals.
In January, she volunteered her time to cultivating and conducting an interview for a conservation magazine called Conscious Planet Earth that showcased sea turtle conservation (https://view.publitas.com/conscious-planet-earth/southfloridajanissuecpe/page/1). She wanted to reach a wider global audience and raise awareness for her favorite species. This summer, she embarked on a new adventure where she launched her very own business called “Soaps for Sea Turtles”. She has been dedicating her time to formulating handmade soaps in various fragrances and designs that she sells around the local community. She sprinkles conservation messaging into the sale of each soap and at the end of the year, she is donating 100% of her profits to sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Juno Beach.
Faith’s efforts are making waves around the community and beyond. Her efforts are resulting in shifting perspectives, educating minds, and changing hearts as well as financially supporting marine conservation initiatives.
Creating positive change through education and awareness is not easy. Humans live on land but we all rely on the ocean that covers over 70% of Earth’s surface. For many the ocean and its growing pollution threat is ‘out-of-site’ however as our world increasingly becomes more interconnected through technology, awareness and education can flourish. One of the most talked about conservation topics in 2017 and 2018 is the plastic drinking straw and its deadly effect on our oceans and marine life.
We have had quite a few significant touch points this year with regard to plastic straws and plastic trash in our oceans:
1.) Earth Day this year focused on, “Ending Plastic Pollution”
2.) National Geographic published their iconic “Planet or Plastic” issue in June
As more awareness about single use plastics and the threat to our oceans grew throughout the year, we witnessed many multi-national corporations announce that they were going to evaluate their packaging and kick off their initiative by switching to paper straws. Some of these massive corporations include global airlines, hotel chains, Starbucks.
The conversation around plastic straws is one of the most powerful, ‘conservation icebreakers’ our industry has ever experienced and this icebreaker was largely due in part to one tenacious young man, Milo Cress who was the founder of the, “Be Straw Free” campaign, a campaign he started at the early age of nine-years-old.
Without statistical data available about how many single use plastic drinking straws were being used on a daily basis, Milo kicked off his own research and called straw manufacturers to create a formula for how many single use straws were used in the USA on a daily basis. His research lead him to a stunning number: 500 million straws each day were used and thrown away in the USA.
Since 2012 when Milo came up with his forecast, several leading market research consultancies, like the Freedonia Group for example, have also created formulas that forecast single use plastic straw use between 200 and 400 million straws per day in the USA.
Regardless of the exact number of single use straws in use, Milo’s work was largely responsible for kicking off a global conversation that continues to have significant and positive impact for our planet’s ocean and environment.
Mr. Cress is now in high school in Vermont and wants everyone to understand that the precise number of single use plastic straws thrown away in the USA each day is less important than the waste: “We use far too many straws than we need to, and really almost any number is higher than it needs to be.”
Milo Cress is a thoughtful and innovative young person and deserves to be nominated for helping to start a powerful global movement!
Gray Foster is very well deserving of a nomination for the Blue Hatchling Youth category award for his significant local (and likely national) impact for marine conservation given his tenacious efforts to help educate his community, and impact legislation, relating to the dangers of balloons and single use plastics.
Palm Beach County, and the island of Palm Beach are among Florida’s most biodiverse coastal areas due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream current. Mr. Foster, a student at Palm Beach Day academy recognized his and his communities responsibility to advocate for their local environments, in an effort to keep them pristine and safer for marine life.
The Palm Beach Town Council asked Palm Beach Day students including Gray Foster to research the impacts of balloons and single use plastics on the environment and wildlife. Mr. Foster took the lead on much of the research, wrote the report, and presented his findings several times at public meetings in front of Town Council.
Palm Beach’s Depuity Town Manager, Mr. Jay Boodheshway had this to say about Mr. Foster, “The environmental impact from balloons and plastic is something the future generations will have to deal with, especially in coastal communities, so we are hopeful that by engaging our children today it will pay dividends in the future as tough policy decisions are made. I think Gray’s report was excellent. His research was thorough and his conclusions were to the point.”
Mr. Foster conducted extensive research on balloons, single use plastic shopping bags, single use plastics and even used data from Loggerhead Marinelife Center on the impact plastics, and balloons have on sea turtles.
On several occasions, Mr. Foster presented his report and findings publically to Town Council. His presentation was very clear, packed with science and fact, and infused with responsible and well-focused passion about his desire for his community to create a legacy of responsible conservation.
Many Council members asked Mr. Foster specific questions about his findings, and he was able to concisely offer factual responses as he clearly understood his research, the report, and has honed his knowledge through both education and his hands on observations on local beaches and environmental areas.
Very smartly, Mr. Foster researched the complex political landscape in Florida as it pertains to single use plastics. Much of his strategy revolved around what we can do now, through education, and what we can do long term by rewriting our policies to better protect our environment and marinelife.
Mr. Foster had this to say to Town Council:
“All bills addressing plastic bags have died in committees because there are some special interests fighting to protect the profits on plastic bags,” Foster said. “The slick talking points of the pro-plastic bag lobby are not convincing when we have a front-row seat to the damage they do here in our own town. The young people of Palm Beach are counting on adults to do anything they can to preserve the beauty and quality of life here in our hometown and to follow through with the responsibilities we are reminded of each time we admire the Atlantic Ocean that makes our lives here so unique.”
Foster said a resolution from the town to the Florida Legislature is the most effective way to address the issue “For the time being. Several other coastal towns already have enacted resolutions seeking the ability to regulate plastic bags and Palm Beach should join this leadership position.”
In February of 2017, the Town Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning the release of balloons and sky lanterns within the town. In addition to this exceptional leadership position, and because of the highly effective education Mr. Foster provided to the Town Council, and to our local media, the Town of Palm Beach is actively perusing bans and or resolutions on single use plastic bags and single use plastic drinking straws among other items.
It is with great pride and gratitude that I nominate Gray Foster for this award. We need more Gray Foster’s in our world and I am proud to spotlight his very good work.
Nomination: I believe Ryan should be considered as a recipient for this award because he has shown a continued passion and dedication to caring for the ocean and it’s amazing creatures through all of his work thus far and he will continue to inspire and motivate our future generations to want to help the ocean too.
His results have been amazing! He has organized cleanups that have removed hundreds of pounds of trash that otherwise would have ended up in the ocean. Ryan has raised a little over $7,000.00 which was donated to various conservation organizations. He planted 2,000 sea oats and several mangroves to help with local beach erosion. His speaking engagements over the years have motivated and inspired people from all walks of life to do their part in helping preserve our beautiful oceans. His book is in several libraries across the country and in Canada. Ocean Conservancy purchased several hundred books which were sent to their donors and 50 additional books were purchased by a children’s theater group in California to use in their marine conservation program.
His summer camp was so much fun and was filled with facts about pollution in the ocean. The kids made microfilament disposal tubes out of old tennis cans, there was an ocean trash trivia cleanup and waterslide game, fossilized shark tooth mining with tooth identification, a mobile gaming truck where the kids played Endless Ocean, a surprise appearance by the Tampa Bay Rays mascot with photos and so much more. All of the snacks he planned were sea-themed and served with compostable utensils and paper straws. In addition, he started a volunteer list to help with future events and it grew exponentially after the summer camp, a lot of the kids from that camp are participating in his July 25th beach cleanup.
His most successful fundraiser to date was his online Fishes Wishes auction. Through Ryan’s efforts he garnered donations from several companies including Tiffany Jewelers, Adidas Corporation, Guy Harvey Foundation, Autographed books by Pout-Pout Fish Author Deborah Diesen, Bote Boards, Bloomin Brands and so many more. He donated $2,000.00 to The Stow It-Don’t Throw It Organization from this auction!
Ryan’s continued dedication to the ocean he loves so much is evident in his volunteer history. The films he writes are educational and inspiring. Speaking at The Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco and getting to talk about his work was an experience he will never forget. Ryan has spoken on three different occasions at The Stow It-Don’t Throw it annual summit in Sarasota, FL. He speaks in front of a couple hundred kids and hopes to be asked to speak about his work again in the future. He always says that the summit is amazing and he learns so much, he thinks it is awesome to be around other kids and teenagers that love the ocean as much as him.
Ryan is very excited to continue his work this year and to raise enough money from the sale of his eco-friendly keychains and suncatchers to purchase refillable water bottle stations for his school. He is currently trying to get a grant which would also allow him to buy these stations to install along the bike trail.
Barnes and Noble Clearwater has invited him back for a second book signing once his book is complete and he is working on getting it done so he can have a second book to sell to raise more money for conservation. In addition, he has a meeting set-up with a local restaurant to discuss the possibility of them switching to a more environmentally friendly straw.
Ryan has supported marine life and marine life conservation since he was 5-years old and is motivated to continue to do so in the future. I appreciate you allowing me to nominate him for this award and really hope you consider him for this award!
Please click videos to watch!
I wholeheartedly nominate Madison Toonder of St. Augustine Beach, FL. Madison is a conservation-related scientific researcher, educator, environmental advocate and youth engagement advisor. As a little girl growing up next to the ocean, Madison became acutely aware of the danger our oceans and its inhabitants were facing at a very young age.
Beginning in middle school Madison became interested in utilizing scientific research as a platform for investigating environmental concerns. Her first research project in 7th grade involved air quality. Her next project (in 8th grade) revolved around pollutants swimmers slough off into the ocean and waterways and its effect on marine life. Her results were astounding. Her study supported her theory that chemicals in sun block were not only harmful to humans and marine life but the cumulative effect over time was causing die offs of certain species. Her study revolved around the oyster but inferences could be made about the other marine species who rely on the oyster for water quality, food and protection. This study was conducted in 2014. Since then other major studies have been conducted that support the study Madison did on her own from her back porch. She raised oysters in multiple tanks, grew her own algae, cycled the bay water daily and injected different amounts of chemical sunscreen and mineral sun block into each tank based on a mathematic equation from sewage water data to examine the effect. She set up iPads to record the effect on the oysters gape rhythms and the ultimate demise of those individuals introduced to the chemical sunscreens.
Since this study, Madison moved up the food chain and began studies of sea turtle fibropapillomatosis and has compared resilient alligator immunity with that of the sea turtle to see if there is a connection that can be drawn to connect and intertwine the alligator’s superior resilience to disease while living in the same conditions as many species of sea turtle. She has developed multiple research concepts in which she conducts comparative pathology studies with samples provided by Dr. Justin Perrault of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Dr. Nicole Stacy of University of Florida and Dr. Carolyn Cray of the University of Miami Avian and Wildlife Pathology Lab.
Madison’s work utilizes modern human comparative laboratory tests to gain new insight into assessment parameters currently used to gauge sea turtle health. By utilizing capillary electrophoresis to compare plasma samples of sea turtle individuals in comparison to the common use of agarose gel electrophoresis a higher resolution of 9 fractions could be defined vs 6 with gel electrophoresis. The newfound differences seen with higher resolution supports continued examination of capillary electrophoresis as a tool to more finely assess green sea turtle fibropapillomatosis severity in conjunction with the balazs tumor score.
Madison’s award-winning work has earned her a well respected place among her peers at local, Regional and international science fairs. In addition to science fair awards, she was named 2nd place in the nation for her oyster research data by the Broadcom MASTERS competition in Silicon Valley in 2015.
This past week she attended the 67th Annual Wildlife Disease Association conference where her abstract was not only accepted for inclusion in the poster presentation session but was selected among the top 30 abstracts out of 264 submissions. Madison was the only high school student among graduate students phd candidates and seasoned industry professionals from around the world.
In addition to utilizing her research to gain platforms to discuss the plight of our oceans, waterways and marine wildlife she participates in multiple activities which allow her to serve as a voice and educator to teach people how to be better stewards of our world. Madison has been a volunteer and docent at the Brevard Zoo for the past 4 years where she handles animals and educates guests about conservation of habitat for our wildlife. She has been a committee chair for the Sea World Youth Advisory Council where she assists corporate with ideas to engage our world’s youth to conserve our oceans and marinelife. Through her past 2 years in this position she has had opportunity to speak with varying groups regarding her message of conservation. She also had opportunity to go out on the M/V OCEARCH for the day to learn from Chris Fischer and onboard researchers about the research they are conducting in the name of ocean conservation. Madison was the youth face of the new collaboration between Sea World and OCEARCH to tag released marine animals to track their progress after rehabilitation.
This past July, Madison was invited to be one of the 6 youth of the 2018 Sea Youth Rise Up delegation to Washington, DC for World Oceans Day. Madison and her peers conducted a live feed google presentation highlighting their individual conservation platforms and spoke on stage to all of the attendees for the World Oceans Day rally and march. They also met with members congress to discuss marine conservation. Madison was honored to be in the company of her mentors and conservation heroes i.e. Fabian Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, Wallace Nichols, Sylvia Earle and others.
Madison’s research platform has allowed her face-time with youth all over the world to promote marine and ocean conservation. Her vibrant personality, friendliness and charisma engages her audience. She is a born leader and educator. Her future aspiration is to become a marine or exotic animal veterinarian with a focus on conservation of endangered species and outreach so she can continue her conservation work. Her dream job is to be a veterinarian/researcher at a zoo or aquarium where she can continue her research while caring for animals and educate guests about what they can do at home to conserve our oceans and the world we live in for us and the animals around us. She will apply to college this fall.
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.
The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation (ARHF) mission is to “enhance and protect the marine habitat”. Web pursue our “enhancement” mission by building artificial reefs offshore of northern Palm Beach County and our “protection” mission by encouraging children to love the ocean. The foundation’s efforts to raise money and generate support for protecting our marine environment by building new habitat has helped make many more people aware of what they can do to help. Many local residents and businesses and people from all over the country have contributed to our projects- because they care and we give them a way to get involved.
Our reefs will build local fish populations for the future, but we believe it is also critical to build a new generation of marine environmentalists. We want today’s children to learn to love our oceans, rivers and lakes—and to strive to protect them throughout their lives. If you ask a marine scientist why they chose their occupation or when they first fell in love with the ocean they will likely tell you it happened as a result of childhood experiences.
The foundation believes teaching children to love the ocean will have huge future benefits for the children and for our environment. We need more of our population to see our marine environment as a huge asset that must be protected, and the earlier in their lives they get started, the better.
With those goals in mind, the foundation is donating 11,000 five book sets of the “Professor Clark the Science Shark” third grade STEM readers to every third grade classroom in Florida, a $730,000 donation. The Palm Beach County School Board received their 1000 book sets (5000 books) August 13, 2018. The book series tells the story of a little boy (Andrew) that meets and befriends an orphaned tiger shark pup. The marine animals communicate their problems and needs to the human world through Andrew. Andrew loves his marine friends and shows how deeply he cares for them by organizing reef and beach cleanups and rushing out to help them after a hurricane in book 5. In book 4, “Reada’s Rescue” the marine animals show Andrew a sick turtle and he helps save it by calling the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and transferring the turtle to the rescue boat.
Loggerhead is prominently featured in book 4 with pages in the story and LMC pages in the back of the book. We are working with the Palm Beach School Board’s Elementary Science Supervisor to develop the program for teaching children to love the ocean and for implementing it in every third grade classroom in Palm Beach County (684). The Palm Beach program kicks off in August 2018 for the new school year, and when formally announced will be described as a $65,000 donation.
The donation and environmental education program will be announced statewide in October, 2018 when the foundation and a Palm Beach County School Board representative present it to the annual convention of the Florida Association of Science Supervisors and to the Florida Association of Science Teachers conventions in October, 2018.
The foundation will describe it’s goals in creating the marine environmental education program first to the science supervisors for each county school board in the state and then do the same for the leading science teachers from each of the state’s school boards. The Palm Beach School Board will share the blueprint and experience developed in Palm Beach County for sorting, barcoding and distributing the books to the classrooms, and training the third grade teachers on how to use the books to teach their students to love the ocean and it’s inhabitants.
The foundation has been working on this program for the past 6 months and we are very excited about the prospects for our donation benefitting the marine environment by helping create many, many more marine environmentalists!
The foundation partners with Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management to build new reefs with four ton concrete “Coral Heads” of our own design and 4-5’ diameter limestone boulders.
The ARHF has raised well over $1 million to fund it’s projects and has deployed 319 reef modules and 1800 tons of boulders since being founded in 2014 including:
– 40 Coral Heads on our first site off Jupiter in 39’ of water in 2015
– 100 Coral Heads and 300 tons of boulders in 58’ on our second site off Jupiter in 2016
– 15 Coral Heads on the Blue Heron Bridge snorkel trail in 2016
– 132 Coral Heads and 1000 tons of boulders on our second site in 2017
– a 17’ tall replica of the Jupiter lighthouse on our second site in 2017
August 17 and 23, 2018 the foundation created a new reef off Juno Beach in 75 feet of water
with 32 Coral Heads and 500 tons of boulders.
Please see the videos on our Facebook page and the attached brochure.
The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation is a 501C3 non-profit that strives to enhance the marine environment by building artificial reefs and to protect it by encouraging children to love our oceans, rivers and lakes.
In 2018 we deployed two 250 ton boulder reefs and placed 32 of our four ton “Coral Heads” adjacent to them. We also began a significant education initiative in 2018 by donating a 5 book set of the “Professor Clark the Science Shark” series to every third grade classroom in Florida, 55,000 books in all! Children love the story of the little boy (Andrew) who becomes lifelong friends with
an orphaned tiger shark pup. The marine animals communicate their needs through Andrew to the human world. Together they
clean up a reef and a beach, and then help save a sick turtle as they teach Florida children to love the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and our rivers and lakes.
Reefs the Foundation has built include:
– 40 Coral Heads in 39’ of water in 2015
– 100 Coral Heads in 58’ in 2016
– a 300 ton boulder reef in 58’ in 2016
– 15 Coral Heads on the Snorkel Trail in 2016
– 132 Coral Heads in 58’ in 2017
– four 250 ton boulder reefs in 58’ in 2017
– a 17’ tall replica of the Jupiter lighthouse
– 32 Coral Heads in 75’ in 2018
– two 250 ton boulder reefs in 75’ in 2018
The Foundation is 100% volunteer and receives tax deductible funding from individuals, businesses and foundations from all over the country. We hope our efforts to “enhance and protect the marine environment” incent water lovers, young and old, to join the fight to save our beautiful oceans, rivers and lakes. We invite you to contact us and find out how you can help!
Guy Harvey Magazine feature article excerpt, Summer 2017 Edition, “REEFS WITH A CAUSE” When you work on a noble cause, you will usually find success. That is certainly the case with the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, an organization that was born out of tragedy but today has gained the attention of thousands of water lovers for building innovative, artificial reefs. They’ve even caught the eye of country music superstar Kenny Chesney.
Andrew Harris was an inspirational young man who died at age 26 when he was struck by a boat while snorkeling on June 8, 2014.
Loved and admired by many, Andrew had begun a career in the insurance business and had found great success As a youngster, Andrew was always a gifted athlete. In high school he had the distinction of being named to the Palm Beach Post’s All Area team in both golf and basketball on the same day. And he was voted MVP of the Jupiter High School basketball team his senior year. Raised on the water in the Jupiter area, he loved to fish, snorkel, scuba dive and just be out on the ocean. When he thought about college, he decided to apply to only one: Florida State University, a school he loved dearly. But, his early attempts to get in were denied. Andrew continued to pursue his dream and graduated from FSU with honors.
“June 7, 2014 was the happiest day that Andrew and Ryan, our younger son, spent together,” Scott said. “It was highlighted by Ryan being drafted and getting a nice bonus from the Boston Red Sox. The next day was our saddest.” Since that dreadful day,
Andrew’s mother and father and many of their friends have worked together to honor his memory by building reefs for snorkeling,
diving and fishing. The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation has made it their mission to enhance the waters he loved to help ensure
the long-term health of the oceans and to assure that he will not be forgotten. They’ve held golf and tennis tournaments many other events to raise money to build reefs. The foundation also sells its own shirts through their website. Understandably, Andrew’s mom and dad, Scott and Martha Harris, are the driving force behind the foundation. They were determined to do something in Andrew’s memory but they weren’t sure where to begin. “We started out with college scholarships,” Scott said, “but didn’t get much interest from local schools. It’s a very crowded space. Then we started to think about Andrew’s hobbies like golf, fishing and diving and we decided that artificial reefs would be perfect! “Andrew loved fishing and diving and we thought, ‘how hard could building artificial reefs be’,” Scott says with a laugh.
If getting the foundation cranked up was difficult, the Harris’s never let it show. They began the organization in August, just two months after the accident, and by November they had formed a viable plan to build and deploy hand-made, custom concrete modules. Nine months later, they sunk 40 artificial reefs and the next summer, in August 2016, they deployed 100 more – 50 pyramids and 35 custom-designed “Coral Heads.” They also put down 15 prototype concrete block reefs. A few months later, in November 2016, they placed 15 “Lagoon Coral Head” modules at the Blue Heron Bridge Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park in Palm Beach County. To date, the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation has 155 reefs deployed and another 134 under construction.
“The Palm Beach County ERM staff has been instrumental in the whole process,” Harris said. “They have guided me since day one and have been great partners. Their knowledge and expertise has really helped us to achieve our goals. “If building reefs began an emotionally healing process for the Harris family, it also had the side benefit of advancing the science of artificial reefs. Placing
many of their reef modules on a site where an ancient natural reef once existed has been clearing the smothering sand from the
underlying bedrock and re-exposing the natural sea floor. “It’s more important where you build an artificial reef than what you build it with,” Harris said. “And we think we have the best possible site: thin sand over flat bedrock in shallow water with good visibility. It’s no surprise that 100 percent of the money raised by the foundation goes to reef building. And, so far, they’ve brought in more than $900,000, some of which has come in the form of grants, fundraisers and donations of labor.
For example, Palm Beach County pays for deploying the reefs, CCA and Building Conservation Trust have been major donors, Morgan and Eklund donated the subbottom survey, the Wantman Group donated the engineering and Kimley-Horn made festival display boards. Jupiter Dive Center contributed funds and boats for deployment viewing. Of course, the Harris family itself has also been a major donor. “We are not just asking others to contribute, we are putting our own money and time in,” Harris said. “It’s important to us, and our community increasingly sees the benefits as our projects move from theoretical to actual and our dreams become real as the thriving new reefs we build help Jupiter’s marine environment”. As the foundation continues to do good and do well, more positive things are happening. Now, country music superstar Kenny Chesney and his No Shoes Nation have pledged their support. Chesney has partnered with ENGEL Coolers to create No Shoes Reefs.
The goals are to raise awareness and funding to protect precious coral reefs, which are vital for aquatic ecosystems to thrive. Limited edition “No Shoes Reefs” shirts and hats are available and a portion of the proceeds go directly to the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation to assist in artificial reef building and deployment. “Our long term goal is to honor Andrew’s memory by seeing the foundation become a self-sustaining organization for building and advancing the science of artificial reefs,” Harris said. Anyone interested can sponsor a reef module for $5,000 or an entire boulder pile reef for $20,000. Three of the boulder piles are going in this year. Contributions of any amount are welcome.
I write this nomination on behalf of ANGARI Foundation who exemplifies the attributes of promoting public awareness,education, and preservation of marine life and ecosystems for which the Blue Business of the Year Award seeks. I know the foundation in the capacity of an educator teaching in the K-12 school system. Both my students and I have had a number of opportunities to collaborate with ANGARI since its inception. Both my students and I have experienced hands-on science aboard the RV ANGARI to learn about current marine research occurring in our waters. They have orchestrated professional development and curriculum writing opportunities for teachers to collaborate with scientists as well. They have been instrumental participants in my very own service project started with my students entitled: Surface 71, which derives its name from the fact that 71% of the planet is covered in water. The Surface 71 mission aligns with that of ANGARI.
Similarly, ANGARI has its finger on the pulse of the community as evidenced by the relationships they have built and the bridges they have formed between scientists, educators, and community leaders. Their involvement in events like Lagoonfest and beach cleanups is testimony to their commitment to bring about change in the way people understand and respect the marine environment. Their presence is wide reaching, so much in fact, that they are addressing awareness through 360/VR education in other states.
Obviously as a non-profit, all of the employees of ANGARI share a passion and a love of the ocean. The positive culture of the workplace can be felt by anyone they meet. Each employee brings their own skill set to aid in their mission of “creating a global community that is interested, knowledgeable, and invested in marine and environmental sciences by directly supporting research initiatives that foster a greater trust and dialogue between scientists and the public”.
I sincerely hope ANGARI Foundation is considered for the prestigious Blue Business of the Year Award, because I can personally say that they have impacted both my students and me as an educator in life changing ways. From the implementation of our Surface 71 project to even two of my students who have headed into marine science related fields as a result of their experiences.
Palm Beach County is an international destination for residents and tourists from around the globe. One of the most unique attributes of Palm Beach County, Florida is its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream current. Palm Beach County is the closest point of land in the State to this conveyer belt of sea life. Palm Beach’s proximity to the Gulf Stream provides constant breezes, crystal clear water, and extremely biodiverse marine life making coastal Palm Beach County one of the environmental jewels in the United States.
Florida and Palm Beach County’s economy is powered by tourism. In 2017, Palm Beach County welcomed 7.9 million tourists as reported by the County’s destination marketing team, Discover The Palm Beaches. This is a record-breaking amount of tourists who visited our County and this record has helped to boost our economy and provide record low unemployment.
Another one of Palm Beach County’s more unique attributes is the fact that the Island of Palm Beach is often referred to as America’s first resort city given some of the United States first and most luxurious resorts were established on the island. Palm Beach has developed a significant resort portfolio and one of the most notable resorts is Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa one of the most awarded resorts and spas in all of Florida.
“Eau” is French for water, and Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa is aptly named because the resort showcases the element of water as the most important focal point for their guests to enjoy. Eau Palm Beach is situated on the island of Palm Beach with the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the resort, and the Intercostal Water Way on the other side of the resort.
The resort’s beach is among the most densely nested sea turtle nesting beaches in Florida and annually the resort can experience leatherback, loggerhead, and green sea turtle nests. The resort showcases the sea turtle in many elements of the guest experience from bronze educational sculptures around the pool and beach area to beautiful decorative sea turtle themed décor items in their Living Room (lobby). Sea turtles play an important role as the Resort’s primary animal ambassador.
In addition to the focus on the element of water, the resort has a deep commitment to the conservation of the environment and has developed a significant portfolio of business practices placing this resort on the leading edge of conservation best practices.
In 2017, the resort kicked off a significant conservation partnership with Loggerhead Marinelife Center that revolved around optimizing the resort’s conservation best practices along with increasing the resort’s philanthropic give back to our community.
This partnership kicked off with a comprehensive education session with all of the resort hotelier-team members. Ahead of sea turtle nesting season, Loggerhead staff were invited to present to Eau team members all of the unique elements about our local nesting beaches, ocean ecosystems, and facts and stats about our sea turtle population so that hotel team members could more effectively educate hotel guests about sea turtle and ocean conservation. At this meeting after the hotel staff was educated on plastic interaction, the resort made a very bold move; to remove all plastic straws and plastic coffee stirs resort wide in an effort to reduce their single use plastic waste. Eau Palm Beach was one of the first resorts in Palm Beach to eliminate plastic straws and stirs resort-wide and were on the leading edge of corporations who have migrated away from single use plastic straws and stirs.
Each year the resort welcomes over 250,000 and during sea turtle, nesting season (March – October) the resort provides guests during sea turtle nesting season with informational materials that explain why the resort dims their ocean front lighting to reduce sea turtle disorientation. In addition to the educational materials for guests, each child who checks in receives a sea turtle adoption kit of one of the sea turtle patients who are being rehabilitated at the sea turtle hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
Additionally the resort has kicked off the implementation of many additional conservation best practices aimed at reducing the resort’s environmental impact some of these include:
– Retrofitting lighting to low energy use lighting
– Retrofitting HVAC systems to be more energy efficient
– Eliminating the use of single use plastic straws and bags
In addition to the resort’s on-campus conservation work, Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa provided a very generous donation to the sea turtle hospital at Loggerhead to offset the complete medical costs associated with the rehabilitation of a loggerhead sea turtle patient. Due to this generous donation, Eau was able to name this patient and they generated the name by working with their hotel team members and came up with the name, “Eau-Tis.” Eau-Tis successfully made it through the rehabilitation at Loggerhead and prior to release the resort very kindly gifted funds to Loggerhead so that the center could GPS track Eau-Tis after release. The GPS tracking data is both fun for the general public to ‘watch’ however the data are exceptionally valuable to the research laboratory at Loggerhead as they allow our research scientists to better understand sea turtle’s offshore behavior: migration, foraging, nesting location, mating location, speed of swimming, frequency of diving, and depth of diving.
Eau-Tis can be GPS tracked at this web link:
When Eau-Tis was cleared for release, Loggerhead collaborated with Florida FWC to request the patient be release on the beach at the resort. This release location was approved and the Eau Palm Beach Resort Team along with Loggerhead Marinelife Center worked together to make this release a public educational event.
Hundreds of guests came to the resort for the release along with the County’s tourism officials and elected officials including one of Florida’s Congressman and his family. The release video was shared across social media sites at the resort and at Loggerhead generating over 5,000 views (educational impressions) in less than one week.
Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa has over 15,000 Facebook followers and more than 11,000 likes on Instagram and they use these platforms to regularly share sea turtle facts and stats promoting their partnership with Loggerhead and elevating the awareness of the center’s global mission. In addition, Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa features Loggerhead Marinelife Center prominently on their website that garners an astounding 500,000+ annual visits.
Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa is one of the most effective partners to Loggerhead Marinelife Center in essence offering a second campus with hundreds of thousands of in person and digital conservation learning opportunities. Loggerhead is honored to have such a generous and responsible conservation partner and we feel that Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa is an outstanding candidate for the Blue Business of the Year award.
I would like to nominate a newly opened business (April 2018) called JAR the Zero Waste Shop in Stuart, Florida. The store is owned and operated by 18 year old Brandi Kneip, a recent graduate of South Fork High School in Martin County. Her company’s mission statement is “JAR The Zero Waste Shop was founded on the idea of being the change. In only a short time of being open we have seen a significant change in the community. Our goals are to help people live a less waste life and provide people with the resources to make it fun. All of us at JAR are proud of all the people that have decided to reduce their footprint on this earth. We encourage you to encourage others!”
The focus of her store is to showcase the zero waste lifestyle and help people to reduce their carbon footprint by offering an assortment of eco-friendly and zero waste minded products including bulk dry goods, locally made beauty products, household items, and locally made food or beverages such a honey or kambucha tea. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own containers to purchase dry goods such as beans, rice, nuts, coffee, dried fruit and other grocery staples. She also has jars for purchase or compostable paper bags available if you forget to bring your own containers.
Jar’s mission supports marine conservation because the products at her store are helping reduce carbon footprint by being:
- many products are organic
- zero plastic packaging
- encourages use of re-usable containers
- features locally made products (less travel = lower carbon footprint)
- any plastic products are made of recycled content
- promotes a green lifestyle
This is the first store of its kind in our area (that I am aware of).
The National Marine Life Center rehabilitates and releases stranded marine mammals and sea turtles in order to advance science and education in marine wildlife health and conservation. Every aspect of NMLC’s mission and corporate culture focuses on benefiting marine life and fostering marine conservation.
This corporate culture starts with helping the individual animals that come through NMLC’s rehabilitation program. NMLC’s professional staff and dedicated volunteers provide every animal the best possible care with the hope of being able to release it back into the wild to contribute to the ocean ecosystem.
The corporate culture continues with NMLC’s science program. The individual animals coming through the wildlife rehabilitation program also offer opportunities to learn more about the diseases from which they suffer. Work focuses on how best to treat the diseases, what causes the diseases, and what the occurrence of the diseases may be signaling about the ocean ecosystem.
The corporate focus on benefiting marine life and fostering marine conservation culminates in NMLC’s education program. Educational lessons focus on marine animals, rehabilitation, the ocean environment, and the human impact on that environment. NMLC’s wildlife patients provide a context for teaching about these topics, thereby promoting positive actions and a sense of environmental stewardship.
The National Marine Life Center relies heavily on volunteers to accomplish its mission. In 2017, 115 program volunteers contributed 20,427 hours in the center! Volunteers of all ages come from all walks of life, and assist with every aspect of NMLC’s work. The largest number of volunteers are involved in NMLC’s wildlife rehabilitation activities. Many of these are also involved in NMLC’s environmental education activities.
As an organization that depends on volunteers and has few paid staff, NMLC is more often in the position of receiving volunteers interested in contributing to marine conservation. Participation in events such as education programs, fairs, and festivals helps inspire new volunteers to become ocean advocates. The following two stories exemplify the volunteer experience the organization provides.
Lou and Patty have been volunteering for the National Marine Life Center for 10 years, after retiring from their careers and moving to Cape Cod. Along the way, they have helped with animal care, facilities maintenance, education festivals, and special events. Several months ago, Patty underwent surgery and had to take a break from volunteering. She’s now recovered and back helping care for the animals on Monday mornings. In a recent e-mail, she commented: “I’m so glad to be able to volunteer again at NMLC, and to take part in the releases which make it so worthwhile!”
Gabbie is a recent college graduate who completed two internships with NMLC. She was involved with wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education. Of her experience teaching she said: “It allowed me to be a steward of the ocean and to instill that [value] in others.” For her closing intern presentation, she thanked NMLC staff for “providing me with on-the-job experience, expanding my knowledge, and being amazing mentors.”
In addition to fostering a spirit of marine conservation among its volunteers, NMLC’s staff is also involved in outside conservation activities. Executive Director Kathy Zagzebski, and Katherine McKenna and Wendy Wyman from the Animal Care program, volunteer for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s marine mammal rescue program. Kathy Zagzebski also volunteers as a board member for the Massachusetts Marine Educators’ Association and with the Environmental Technology program at the Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School.
The National Marine Life Center (NMLC) is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) marine animal hospital, science, and education center located in Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Founded in 1995 by a group of individuals concerned about the high numbers of stranded animals on Cape Cod, NMLC’s mission is to rehabilitate and release stranded marine mammals and sea turtles in order to advance science and education in marine wildlife health and conservation. This three-part mission of rehabilitation, science, and education describes the core values of the organization and informs NMLC’s program development.
Rehabilitation Program: NMLC rehabilitates seals and sea turtles. In the future, they plan to expand the facility with more and larger pools to serve a greater number of stranded marine animals, including cetaceans. They formerly operated a temporary facility in an old warehouse, and have been building a new marine animal hospital. In fall, 2012, they opened the first patient ward of their new hospital. In the first five years of operation in their new building, they’ve rehabilitated 117 seals and 109 sea turtles. In addition, they collaborate with state biologists on head start and rehabilitation of endangered and threatened non-marine turtles such as red bellied cooters and diamondback terrapins.
Science Program: NMLC’s science program, led by veterinarian Dr. C. Rogers Williams, focuses on studying spontaneously occurring diseases in stranded marine animals using the “One Health” approach. The One Health approach is an international paradigm that recognizes that wildlife health, environmental health, and human health are interconnected. Current research investigates parasites in marine mammals, otitis media (middle ear disease) in seals, magaesophagus in seals, and diseases of pup and weanling seals. They also document significant case studies to share with the network via presentations, “Rounds Notes,” and peer-reviewed publications. Additionally, they collaborate with researchers from other institutions such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MIT, Tufts University, Cornell University, NOAA, and other stranding network partners.
Education Program: NMLC’s education program delivers on-site and off-site presentations to school groups and community organizations. Programs combine subjects of marine animals, strandings, rehabilitation, and release with content that fulfills state and national curriculum standards. They have an on-site classroom used for programs, lectures, and other educational activities. Since initiating a formal environmental education program in 2005, they have taught over 2,633 programs to over 89,457 children and adults. NMLC operates an educational Marine Animal Discovery Center, a free public visitors’ center open during summer months and school vacations. Featuring educational activities, interpretive exhibits, and the opportunity to reenact with models various rehabilitation activities, the Discovery Center uniquely focuses on marine animal strandings, rehabilitation, and release as a way to educate people about ocean conservation. Since opening the Discovery Center 1999, N11U..C has welcomed over 129,689 visitors.
• Rehabilitated and cared for 114 animals.
o 25 harbor seals
o 5 gray seals
o 1 harp seal
o 60 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
o 18 red bellied cooters
o 1 diamondback terrapin
o 2 box turtles
• Rehabilitated and released our 1OOth seal-female gray seal weaning “Miley Sealrus.”
• Delivered three scientific presentations at conferences.
o Bone core biopsy in Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
o Megaesophagus in maternally dependent harbor seals (Phoca vitulina)
o Shell necrosis of the dermal bone related to cold-stunning in sea turtles and terrapins
• Continued the world’s only marine mammal parasitology laboratory.
o Expanded capacity by hiring a laboratory research assistant
o Examined 400 samples collected from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill
o Discovered new host-parasite relationships
• Continued scientific research into marine animal diseases.
o Middle ear disease (otitis media) in seals
o Herpes virus in seals
o Megaesophagus in seals
o Bone disease (osteolytic lesions) in sea turtles
• Built and expanded scientific partnerships.
o National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-acoustic tagging
o New England Aquarium-alopecia in seals
o Tufts University-influenza in seals
• Record breaking education year.
o Reached 11,380 children and adults in 234 programs
o Welcomed 9,092 people to our Marine Animal Discovery Center
o Provided hands-on, experiential job training opportunities for 29 student interns
o Offered teacher workshops and “teacher-in-residence” experiences for 19 teachers through
partnerships with Museum Institutes for Teaching Science and Cape Cod Community College
• Built and expanded educational partnerships.
o Bourne Schools – Engineering Day
o Plymouth South High School-Service learning volunteer opportunities
• Provided opportunities for volunteer service. In 2017, 115 program volunteers contributed 20,427 hours!
• Capital expansion – Installed solar on our marine animal hospital roof and our pump house roof.