2015 Go Blue Awards Finalists

Congratulations to all of this year’s finalists!
The winners will be announced at the Seventh Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon, held at PGA National Resort & Spa on Friday, November 6, 2015.


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. Sylvia Earle

– National Geographic, Mission Blue, Former Chief Scientist NOAA

Dr. Sylvia EarleThe recipient of the Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award is described as someone who has been an innovative pioneer in marine conservation, who has educated a multitude of children and adults and has initiated cultural change to preserve and protect our precious oceans and marine life.  I cannot think of a more ideal and deserving candidate for this award than Dr. Sylvia Earle.

In her 2009 book, The World is Blue; Sylvia describes how her love of the ocean began as a three year old on a New Jersey Beach in 1938. This was her first encounter with the sea, and as the waves crashed around her and she discovered the many marine creatures,  it “set me on a lifetime course connected to the sea and the creatures that live there….”  Her life’s mission is to explore, discover and save our precious oceans and marine life. She has reached out to millions of people of all ages through her work as a marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer.

Fortunately for Sylvia, when she was 13 her family moved to Clearwater, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed her to continue to explore the coastal environment and led to her enrollment in Florida State University.  While at college she learned a new technology to study marine life first hand- scuba diving. Sylvia chose to specialize in botany after being fascinated by exploring the ocean and marine life. She believes that understanding the vegetation is the first step to understanding any ecosystem.  At Duke University she earned both her Master’s and Ph.D degrees. During this time she married and started a family but continued to be active in marine exploration in expeditions that took her all over the world.  Her career took her to Harvard, as a research fellow, and then to the resident directorship in Florida at the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory.  In 1968, while she was four months pregnant,  she traveled a hundred feet under the water in the Bahamas in the submersible Deep Diver.

Sylvia has been a pioneer in the field of marine conservation and exploration and has led more than a hundred expeditions worldwide logging more than 7,000 hours underwater.  Some of these required her to live underwater for weeks at a time.  Her underwater achievements include ten saturation dives-the most recent in 2012 and setting a solo diving record at a 1,000-meter depth.  Her extensive research concerns marine ecosystems with a special reference to conservation, exploration, and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments. She is an expert on the environmental damage resulting from oil spills including the Exxon Valdez, Persian Gulf War and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Her special focus has been on establishing “Hope Spots”  which are a  global network of areas  in the ocean to safeguard the living systems that provide the underpinnings of global processes, from maintaining biodiversity and yielding basic life support services to providing stability and resiliency in response to accelerating climate change.

Some of her groundbreaking achievements include leading the first team of women aquanauts in 1970 during the Tektite II Project which was funded by NASA.  This project was created specifically for women aquanauts since only men were allowed to participate in the government’s first Tektite expedition.  The female aquanauts received a lot of media attention, initially for their gender and then for their groundbreaking work on the effects of pollution on the coral reefs. This successful expedition proved that women could survive in this type of habitat and resulted in NASA opening its astronaut training program to women.

She quickly became a recognizable face among the general public as a result of the publicity from the Tektite II project. The women aquanauts became celebrities and were given a ticket-tape parade and reception at the White House.  Sylvia Earle became a highly demanded public speaker and a vocal advocate of undersea research.  She began to write for National Geographic Magazine, produce books and films.  Her mission was to create a greater public interest in the ocean and hopefully to raise public awareness of the damage being done to our Earth by environmental degradation and pollution. She has continued this important message with the threat of over-fishing, destruction of habitat and climate change.

The New York Times and the New Yorker have referred to her as “Her Deepness”, and a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress.  She was named as the first “Hero for the Planet” by Time Magazine. This extremely committed and passionate marine conservationist has been a National Geographic Society Explorer-In-Residence since 1998.  Dr. Earle was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  She has also been a field research scientist and director for numerous corporate and non-profit organizations.

Dr. Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., founder of Mission Blue and SEAlliance, and chair of the Advisory Councils of the Harte Research Institute and the Ocean in Google Earth. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and PhD. from Duke University, and 22 honorary degrees. She has authored more than 190 scientific, technical, and popular publications -many of her books have inspired readers of all ages; lectured in more than 80 countries; and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions.

This incredible woman has been the recipient of more than a hundred national and international honors and in 2014 was named a Glamour Woman of the Year. Other honors include the 2011 Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal, 2011 Medal of Honor from the Dominican Republic, 2009 TED Prize, Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, Australia’s International Banksia Award, Italy’s Artiglio Award, the International Seakeepers Award, the International Women’s Forum, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Academy of Achievement, Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, and medals from the Explorers Club, the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Lindbergh Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sigma Xi, Barnard College, and the Society of Women Geographers.

Of the many profound Sylvia Earle quotes, this one sums up her life mission to save our ocean and save our planet:
“Green issues make headlines these days, but many seem unaware that without the “blue” there could be no green, no life on Earth and therefore none of the other things that humans value.  Water—the blue—is the key to life. With, anything is possible; without it, life does not exist.”

Blair Mase

Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/ National Marine Fisheries

Blair MaseBlair Mase attributes her passion for marine conservation to a life changing event when she was 11 years old.  Growing up in Vero Beach, near the sea, she was always interested in learning about the ocean by experiencing first-hand about the tides, moon cycles, and the marine life.   One day, while she was at the beach early morning looking for shells, she came face to face with a stranded whale.  She was the first and only responder on the beach for hours, keeping the whale wet until SeaWorld arrived.  With the help of SeaWorld, the whale was safely released in the water.  That event made such an impression on Blair that she decided to dedicate her life in saving marine mammals and champion marine mammal conservation.

Her passion and dedication for marine mammal conservation lead her to become the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Health and Stranding Response Program.  Blaire has been working for NOAA since 1992 and has served the role as the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator for the Southeast United States since 1996.  The geographic area that Blair is responsible spans from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  As one of five NOAA regional coordinators in the U.S., Blair manages a network of thousands of volunteer responders. When reports come in about whales, dolphins, or other marine mammals stranded on a beach, or tangled in debris in waters in the coastal waters of the Southeast, Blair Mase goes to work. She mobilizes the Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network and leads the responders who head to the scene to help the animals and to determine what happened.  Along with a team of NOAA managers, marine mammal biologists, veterinarians and volunteers, she coordinates the logistics for the marine mammal stranding network organizations, in any State at any given time,  providing directions, resources, and leadership in all the stranding events and to the boots on the ground. Since she has been her current position, Blair has coordinated thousands of dolphin and whale stranding events, rescues, including investigations on large scale mass mortality events, small cetacean and large whale disentanglements.One of the most important aspects of her job is working with lawmakers and the public making them aware of the value of stranding response efforts, and the need to provide support to those efforts.   Because her love for the ocean and her very strong interest in marine conservation,  she is continuously advocating and promoting the importance of understanding the anthropogenic impacts on all marine species (marine debris, entanglements, run off, underwater sound and sonar).  Other key responsibilities include development and presentation of  materials promoting the importance that stranded marine mammals provide valuable information about pollutants and diseases, and how those pollutants can impact non only the marine mammal populations, but the ecosystem as whole (for example oil spills). Through these stranding events and the important information derived, she works with other NOAA managers to develop solutions on effective marine conservation and mitigation measures such as ship speed regulations or gear restrictions.Although from a personal perspective Blair is constantly trying to find the balance between work and life, since her work is 24 hour 7 day job, her passion for helping these animals and doing everything that she can to help, whether an oil-spill or a mass stranding of dozens of whales anywhere in the U.S., has not diminished over the years.   Her commitment to the ocean has been a lifetime devotion that has not diminished, even when she has to drop everything to help.   What keeps motivating her today is the hope that, somehow through her work, she has been able to play a role in marine mammal conservation and bring awareness to how we can better understand our impacts on the oceans and find measures to implement change.  In her spare time Blair also volunteers with the Surfrider Foundation doing beach and water way clean ups.  Blair exemplifies a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation and education through her work.

Dr. Terry Norton

Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Director & Veterinarian

Dr. Terry NortonTerry Norton, DVM, Diplomate ACZM is the Director and Veterinarian for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 1986 and completed a residency in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Florida in 1989.  He became a Diplomate in the American College of Zoological Medicine in 1992. He has provided veterinary care for White Oak Conservation Center, Riverbanks Zoo, North Carolina State Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s St. Catherines Island Wildlife Survival Center. He developed and implemented the Georgia Wildlife Health Program, which has evaluated the health of many state and federally listed species including sea turtles, alligator snapping turtles, diamondback terrapins, Barbour’s map turtles, gopher tortoises, box turtles, eastern indigo snakes, eastern diamondback and canebrake rattlesnakes, eastern king snakes, American alligators, American oystercatchers, brown pelicans and marine mammals.

Currently, he provides veterinary care for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the Turtle Survival Alliance’s Turtle Survival Center and St. Catherines Island Foundation programs. He is the Director and Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. He has published numerous articles for referred journals and book chapters.  He is Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia, University of Florida, North Carolina State University, and Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Norton is the Vice President of the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network.  He is a graduate of the 2009 Institute of Georgia Environmental Leadership (IGEL) program. He was the Chair of the Conservation Planning Committee for Jekyll Island.

Dr. Norton has worked around the world on several projects including Indonesia for the Bali mynah reintroduction project, Madagascar for lemur health assessments, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for Flamingo health related work, Panama for Capuchin monkey and sea turtle health assessments, several Caribbean countries for avian and sea turtle health related work, and most recently Costa Rica for sea turtle and other wildlife conservation efforts.


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.

Steve Burton 

Marine Mammal Stranding Manager, Florida Atlantic University – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU-HBOI)

Steve BurtonSteve Burton grew up in Southern California, where is mother taught him to appreciate all animals and the environment that they live in. His daily trips to the beach and Sea World led him to a fascination with the ocean and particularly with dolphins.  In 1997, Steve moved to Hawaii to pursue his dream of being a dolphin and sea lion trainer.   For more than 13 years he worked at various marine parks.  His dedication and passion for his work and his animals lead him to be promoted from trainer to Supervisor of Marine Mammals. During his time as a trainer, Steve assisted NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) staff in rescuing wild marine mammals such as pacific bottle-nosed dolphins, spinner dolphins, sperm whale, and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.  The time spent working with captive and wild marine animals fueled his passions that lead him to his job at FAU-HBOI.

Currently Steve is the Marine Mammal Stranding Manager at Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (FAU-HBOI).  He has been part of the team for over 5 years.  Under his leadership, Steve and his team have responded to marine mammal strandings in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties, and all over Florida when needed.  Steve also manages over 30 volunteers that assist the FAU-HBOI team in the field.

The FAU-HBOI facility also has a critical care center for small cetacean rehabilitation. In 2012, 5 juvenile pilot whales were brought to the facility, the only survivors of a mass stranding of 22 animals off Avalon State Beach.  Steve was responsible for many staff and volunteers that assisted with the first week of triage for the animals, before they were sent to Sea World Orlando for long term care.  He also assisted with the rescue of Hope, the dolphin from the movie “Dolphin Tale 2”, along with staff from Hubbs-Sea World and Clearwater Aquarium.

Just in the past 5 years at FAU-HBOI, Steve has responded and lead over 80 strandings, 2 mass strandings, 10 disentanglements, and 30 necropsies.  His favorite part of the job is still the dolphin disentanglements. This includes the initial search, documentation, response and release of entangled dolphins. Steve’s motivation and passion still comes from seeing a previously rescued dolphin swimming free in the Indian River Lagoon and the ocean, and knowing that him and his team were part of the efforts that gave that animal a second chance at life.

Steve’s future goal and dream is to assist National Marine Fisheries with large whale disentanglements offshore in South Florida.  He is a certified Level 3 disentanglement responder for the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network (ALWDN) under the MMPA/ESA permit issued to the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.  Steve graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Studies. He is currently in the Environmental Science Masters Program at FAU and aims to graduate in May 2016. His contribution and commitment to a “Blue” lifestyle for marine conservation is to be commended and recognized.

Hannah Medd

American Shark Conservancy

Hannah MeddHannah grew up wintering in Florida and developed an early fascination with the ocean. She couldn’t understand why everyone was afraid of sharks considering she spent most days at the beach and never saw one. Something didn’t make sense. She figured, maybe what we were told about sharks wasn’t the whole truth. She has spent most of her life trying to better understand sharks, share that knowledge with the public and work to protect them.

Hannah attended Florida Institute of Technology and graduated with honors in dual degrees in Marine Biology and Ecology, giving her strong scientific training. After watching a documentary about flying great white sharks in False Bay, Hannah decided to attend the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she earned a Master’s of Science degree in Marine Biodiversity. During graduate school, she saw beyond the world of academia and discovered that through bad public relations, mismanagement and overfishing, sharks were under threat. She decided to use her scientific background to develop marine conservation initiatives with local schools and businesses to help bring awareness to tell the true story of sharks.

Returning to Florida, Hannah was hired as the Outreach Manager and Science Advisor to the global non-profit shark conservation organization, Shark Savers. She used her scientific knowledge, experience communicating science, and passion for conservation to support the organization’s mission to save sharks through grassroots awareness, consumer awareness campaigns and policy reviews. Hannah recruited and managed teams of international volunteers, steering participation in events and fundraising worldwide, implementing and coordinating social media actions, and cultivating partner relationships. As the in-house scientist, Hannah authored and vetted educational material, presentations, articles, policy letters and other scientific documentation. She co-authored “Sharks 101”, a general shark biology and conservation presentation that has reached more than 10,000 kids in Singapore. She also contributed to the on-going consumer awareness campaign, “I’m FINished with FINs”, including the corporate pledge to not serve shark fin soup at business functions signed by the world’s largest hotel groups (Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton Worldwide) as well as more than 50 Small and Medium Enterprises. Hannah has conducted more than 200 shark conservation presentations here in the U.S. to environmental, fishing and dive groups, at schools and educational centers. Hannah co-authored the Manta Ray of Hope report, a novel baseline investigation of the global trade of manta and mobula rays, as well as a peer reviewed scientific paper determining the global value of manta rays to ecotourism that countered their value as a fisheries product. She contributed to proposals to increase international protections for mantas through the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). She wrote the Shark Conservation Course for Scuba Diving International, enhancing awareness in the dive community, provided conservation content for Discovery’s Shark Week, and co-managed a citizen science shark monitoring project here in Florida.

Hannah has collaborated with the Bimini Biological Field Station on the Jupiter Shark Project for the past 5 years, catching, tagging and tracking lemon, tiger and hammerhead sharks. Hannah applied the data from that research to counter a proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to open the federal shark fishing season in January, endangering the vulnerable aggregation of lemon sharks off the coast of Jupiter. Hannah spear-headed a community-wide campaign that successfully halted NMFS from changing the date. Hannah has also campaigned successfully for the protection of lemon, tiger and hammerhead sharks in Florida state waters.

In 2014, Hannah founded the American Shark Conservancy, an organization where science meets outreach for conservation. ASC conducts local, conservation-driven research projects through the SharkStudies program. The program’s keystone project uses non-invasive, in-water methods to monitor the diversity and distribution of threatened sharks off the coast of Florida, with particular focus on dusky sharks. 2015 kicked off the first year of a long-term monitoring project using video-aided diver surveys. As on outreach aspect of the program, citizen scientists join the surveys to learn more about the research methods and conservation goals of providing data for future protections. ASC’s science-based community outreach program, SharkSmarts, provides educational presentations and research experiences for the public, especially geared towards educators to capitalize on their exponential outreach. The SharkSmarts program is conducted several times a month at the South Florida Science Center and various locations throughout Florida and will be available online in 2016.

Tracy Siani

“Citizen Scientist”

Tracy SianiFor most of her adult life, “citizen scientist” Tracy Siani has volunteered to help others discover and understand the majesty, mystery and complex importance of marine life. Since taking her first steps, she took to the water. A treasured keepsake is her first snorkel mask — an odd piece of gear covering the entire face. Ping pong balls were used to keep water out of the two snorkels!

Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, Tracy spent vacations with grandparents in Florida where she explored the local waters. When her parents moved to Juno Beach, she spent summers there, learning the names and habits of the resident fish. After college, she married and started a family, but returned to Florida often. One day in the Jupiter Inlet with her daughter. Tracy looked down: “I had no idea what I was standing on. The excitement that I’d lived 30 plus years without knowing about ‘live rocks’ turned me on to invertebrate zoology. I returned to college to take it up.”

When the Sianis moved to Washington in 1975, Tracy continued her studies and began volunteering at the Smithsonian, something she continued for 20 years. At the Smithsonian, Tracy’s volunteerism focused on educating others on marine life. She:
• Undertook marine shell identification for the Museum’s considerable collection
• Managed an invertebrate tank with live rock specimens brought from Jupiter Inlet
• Served as Docent at the Naturalist Center, interpreting marine life for visitors
• Served as Docent at the museum’s Living Reef, an enclosed system with wave action transporting water across algae mats to mimic nature’s water cleaning methods
• Taught El-Hi science educators to expand their knowledge of marine systems
• In 1990, when REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) was founded, she began doing fish counts, an activity she continues to this day.
When Tracy moved to Jupiter in 1995, she continued to volunteer, spreading knowledge about the importance of our oceans and monitoring water quality.
• Influenced by meeting Eleanor Fletcher, she was an annual volunteer turtle counter/observer on the Jupiter Inlet Beach until a more formal system was instituted.
• She led and continues to help manage the twice- yearly Palm Beach County Beach Cleanups in Jupiter Inlet Colony
• In 1995, she began weekly water testing at “the groin”, a jetty in the Jupiter Inlet, for the Loxahatchee River District’s Wild Pine Laboratory and continues to this day. Sampling involves a once a week swim with collection tubes and a Secchi disk no matter the tide or weather. Over the years, she’s noticed rising acidity and temperatures and presses local leaders at every opportunity to focus them on climate change.
• When the Loxahatchee River Center created a touch tank, Tracy helped docents understand and explain the inhabitants.

While Tracy has volunteered long hours and years for institutions that advance the public’s understanding of marine life, her most enduring contribution may be her willingness to encourage folks to get in the water. “If we want to understand the world of marine life, we must observe it,” says Tracy. “Here we are so fortunate to be able to be allowed into their world without imposing ourselves on them.” In Jupiter, people know that if they want to learn to be respectful snorkelers, Tracy will take them.

“Tracy’s passion is monitoring and protecting our area’s waters. Her 20 years of weekly water testing set a high bar for volunteerism! She’s taught many how to appreciate our marine heritage,” says JIC Mayor Dan Comerford. “Her motto is: Observe; Don’t disturb. She has years of journals in which she’s noted her observations. North County’s residents are better-informed marine conservationists thanks to her.”

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.

Katelyn Cucinotta

Sea to Shore Alliance

Katelyn CucinottaBorn and raised in Boynton Beach, Florida, Katelyn Cucinotta spent more time in the water during her childhood than on land. She was raised alongside avid surfers, watermen and fishermen, and became a certified scuba diver the minute it was legal. Being that Katelyn’s life is based around the ocean, she constantly sees the impacts of marine debris and has been working to fight the problem since her first presentation in fifth grade. She currently works as a conservation biologist for Sea to Shore Alliance, a nonprofit created by world renowned manatee expert, Dr. James “Buddy” Powell.

Buddy formed this organization in 2008 to protect and conserve the coastal habitats endangered species call home. For Sea to Shore Alliance, Katelyn is starting and managing their H 2 O Program: Healthy Habitats & Oceans. With H 2 O, she is organizing reef and beach cleanups around the southeast, and will be traveling with a mobile classroom to teach about marine debris and its threats to marine life. With Sea to Shore Alliance, she has adopted Ocean Inlet Park in Boynton Beach, Florida and is hosting regular cleanups at the park to engage and educate the local community. She is also running a social media campaign titled #take4sea2shore, encouraging everyone to pick up at least 4 items of trash every time they’re near ANY body of water. With a quick photo and the hashtag #take4sea2shore in your social media caption, you are entered to win a monthly prize supplied by sponsors of the H 2 O program.

This is actually a campaign modeled after something Katelyn started on her own two years ago. On a weekend trip home, Katelyn went out to surf and finally had enough with the amount of trash she was finding. She posted a photo of the items she collected from the water, tagged it with #take4Florida urging her friends to pick up what they could as well, and received an insane amount of support. Local news stations shared the initiative and there were participants from the UK, Germany, California, and New Jersey all posting photos with her hashtag, prompting her to carry on and make something greater of the idea. Thus came PropheSEA.org, a website meant to become a base for Katelyn’s new nonprofit.

Katelyn and her colleague, Joe Cavanaugh, were starting PropheSEA as a base for both of their initiatives, #take4Florida and #finban4Florida, which is Joe’s campaign against the shark fin trade in Florida. It was a place for them to share news with their followers and where Katelyn shared many of her underwater videos on what’s happening below the sea surface and why we need to do something about it, FAST. PropheSEA was pushed aside when Sea to Shore Alliance made her dreams come true and offered her a fulltime position designing their marine debris program from the ground up. PropheSEA.org is still up and running, but it is now purely a site for blogging about marine conservation and sharing underwater videos and images. Katelyn is in the process of publishing a GISbased paper on the effectiveness of the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act on reducing manatee mortality by vessel collision.

She worked for almost two years as GIS Assistant for NOAA Fisheries before becoming a research assistant at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center. Here she worked as a scientific diver in the Coral Reef Restoration Assessment and Monitoring (CRRAM) Lab and dove almost 5 days a week for most of the year studying coral health, growing threatened corals in Nova’s offshore nursery, and outplanting healthy corals to the Southeast Florida Reef Tract. Katelyn has also studied solutions to ocean pollution on a live aboard sailboat with The Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, and served as a scientist aboard NOAA’s shark and red snapper bottom longline survey in 2014 to gain an understanding of longlining for research.

All of these experiences have come together to form what Katelyn now considers herself, a young scientist utterly determined to clean up the oceans. She hopes to bring awareness to the North Atlantic Gyre, which is commonly eclipsed by the media’s coverage of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” and plans to influence as many people as possible to do their part in keeping the oceans healthy and safe for generations to come.

Elizabeth Eubanks

Science Teacher-formerly with Palm Beach Maritime Academy

Elizabeth EubanksElizabeth Eubanks, M.Ed. would be an exceptionally worthy recipient for the Blue Friend of the Year Award. As an educator, Elizabeth worked with scientists to cultivate classroom lessons that include cutting edge marine science. She was chosen for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program where she tagged sharks in the Pacific Ocean, PolarTREC where she assisted in carbon flux research in coastal Alaska, STARS (Sending Teachers Aboard Research Ships) where she learned about oceanic microbes in Hawaii and the HOT (Hawaiian Ocean Time series) program. She was selected to be a part of EARTH (Education and Research: Testing Hypothesis) hosted by MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) and partners, such as C-DEBI (Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations) for the past four years.

Before, during and after all of these endeavors, Elizabeth involved her students, school and local community. She has created meaningful lessons that connected students to research, shared her lessons with peer teachers, created videos about scientists and her experiences and had her experiences published in local media such as the Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and local news channels.  Her passion for the marine science community and to connect to the real world has led her to host her own workshops under the EARTH- MBARI umbrella. She has currently hosted four Satellite EARTH workshops (including over 15 scientists and 75 teachers).

In her effort to support authentic marine experiences, Elizabeth inspired 16 total students over the past several years to co-present with her on the Benefits of Student of Teacher Researcher Experiences at various locales. Students attended and presented posters at international and local conferences such as the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Utah and Honolulu, the State of the Arctic in Miami, the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage and the Learn Green Conference in West Palm Beach.

Connecting and networking are vital parts of Elizabeth’s work.  Making use of her connections developed through years of networking, in one short year at Palm Beach Maritime Academy, she acquired countless materials for the PBMA’s Marine Research course. Some of the materials include Teacher at Sea books, NOAA activity workbooks, Florida Fish and Wildlife handbooks and Natural Enquirer Science Journals. As a sea turtle monitor for eight years, she was allowed to obtain and utilize turtle skulls for education. Her connections to CMORE (Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education) enabled her to borrow high tech equipment so that students could observe the effects of C02 on pH levels, then connecting it to ocean acidification (class video: https://youtu.be/0Q-vnehHqHY). Most recently, Elizabeth worked with NOAA to borrow a life size blowup Right Whale pup. Students then used the whale to teach other students and their local community about Right Whales at two World Ocean events, which Eubanks helped organize at Palm Beach Maritime Academy and for the town of Lantana.

When not promoting Teacher Researcher Experiences, Elizabeth worked with school environmental/green groups where she partnered with the local Kiwanis group to operate as a Builder’s Club (Kiwanis affiliate). These groups had a primary focus of keeping surrounding beaches, parks and the school campus clean and useable while connecting to local community organizations such as Keep Palm Beach County Beautiful. She and students partnered with the City of Boynton Beach for 10 years helping them plant trees, sea oats and keeping a mangrove park clean.  They also hosted Earth Day events where her students taught other peers about important species (flora and fauna) in a mangrove park. Additional activities included memorable field trips to the Key Largo Marine Lab where students put down the text books and picked up the snorkeling gear.

Elizabeth loudly advocates that we “Refuse to Use Plastic!” For the past eight years, she was owner and caretaker of the “Bag Monster” (www.facebook.com/BagMonstserofSoFlo). This costume is made of approximately 1,000 plastic bags; the number that most people use annually. She encouraged students to wear the costume at public events with any message that will sway their use of the bags. The Bag Monster even appeared at a local city council meeting requesting recycle bins. The next day eight bins were delivered to the school!

Lastly, Elizabeth Eubanks is a member of FMSEA (Florida Marine Science Educators Association) where she attended and presented at annual meetings and NMEA (National Marine Science Educators). She received several recognitions noting her excellence in conservation and science. Three different schools achieved the Green Schools of Excellence and Quality status due directly to Elizabeth’s efforts. This past summer she was recognized as a part of the 25 year anniversary of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program with the “NOAA Teacher at Sea: Excellence in Science Education Award”. They selected only 10 teachers out of 700 participants to honor. They brought her to Washington DC to accept the award. Always humble, Elizabeth states that the award is one she shares as a result of working with amazing administration, peer teachers and of course her students.

Blair Mase

Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/ National Marine Fisheries

Blair MaseBlair Mase – Southeast Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/ National Marine Fisheries Blair Mase attributes her passion for marine conservation to a life changing event when she was 11 years old.  Growing up in Vero Beach, near the sea, she was always interested in learning about the ocean by experiencing first-hand about the tides, moon cycles, and the marine life.   One day, while she was at the beach early morning looking for shells, she came face to face with a stranded whale.  She was the first and only responder on the beach for hours, keeping the whale wet until SeaWorld arrived.  With the help of SeaWorld, the whale was safely released in the water.  That event made such an impression on Blair that she decided to dedicate her life in saving marine mammals and champion marine mammal conservation.

Her passion and dedication for marine mammal conservation lead her to become the Southeast Regional Stranding Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Health and Stranding Response Program.  Blaire has been working for NOAA since 1992 and has served the role as the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator for the Southeast United States since 1996.  The geographic area that Blair is responsible spans from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  As one of five NOAA regional coordinators in the U.S., Blair manages a network of thousands of volunteer responders. When reports come in about whales, dolphins, or other marine mammals stranded on a beach, or tangled in debris in waters in the coastal waters of the Southeast, Blair Mase goes to work. She mobilizes the Southeast Region Marine Mammal Stranding Network and leads the responders who head to the scene to help the animals and to determine what happened.  Along with a team of NOAA managers, marine mammal biologists, veterinarians and volunteers, she coordinates the logistics for the marine mammal stranding network organizations, in any State at any given time,  providing directions, resources, and leadership in all the stranding events and to the boots on the ground. Since she has been her current position, Blair has coordinated thousands of dolphin and whale stranding events, rescues, including investigations on large scale mass mortality events, small cetacean and large whale disentanglements.

One of the most important aspects of her job is working with lawmakers and the public making them aware of the value of stranding response efforts, and the need to provide support to those efforts.   Because her love for the ocean and her very strong interest in marine conservation,  she is continuously advocating and promoting the importance of understanding the anthropogenic impacts on all marine species (marine debris, entanglements, run off, underwater sound and sonar).  Other key responsibilities include development and presentation of  materials promoting the importance that stranded marine mammals provide valuable information about pollutants and diseases, and how those pollutants can impact non only the marine mammal populations, but the ecosystem as whole (for example oil spills). Through these stranding events and the important information derived, she works with other NOAA managers to develop solutions on effective marine conservation and mitigation measures such as ship speed regulations or gear restrictions.

Although from a personal perspective Blair is constantly trying to find the balance between work and life, since her work is 24 hour 7 day job, her passion for helping these animals and doing everything that she can to help, whether an oil-spill or a mass stranding of dozens of whales anywhere in the U.S., has not diminished over the years.   Her commitment to the ocean has been a lifetime devotion that has not diminished, even when she has to drop everything to help.   What keeps motivating her today is the hope that, somehow through her work, she has been able to play a role in marine mammal conservation and bring awareness to how we can better understand our impacts on the oceans and find measures to implement change.  In her spare time Blair also volunteers with the Surfrider Foundation doing beach and water way clean ups.  Blair exemplifies a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation and education through her work.

Hannah Medd

American Shark Conservancy

Hannah MeddHannah grew up wintering in Florida and developed an early fascination with the ocean. She couldn’t understand why everyone was afraid of sharks considering she spent most days at the beach and never saw one. Something didn’t make sense. She figured, maybe what we were told about sharks wasn’t the whole truth. She has spent most of her life trying to better understand sharks, share that knowledge with the public and work to protect them.

Hannah attended Florida Institute of Technology and graduated with honors in dual degrees in Marine Biology and Ecology, giving her strong scientific training. After watching a documentary about flying great white sharks in False Bay, Hannah decided to attend the University of Cape Town in South Africa where she earned a Master’s of Science degree in Marine Biodiversity. During graduate school, she saw beyond the world of academia and discovered that through bad public relations, mismanagement and overfishing, sharks were under threat. She decided to use her scientific background to develop marine conservation initiatives with local schools and businesses to help bring awareness to tell the true story of sharks.

Returning to Florida, Hannah was hired as the Outreach Manager and Science Advisor to the global non-profit shark conservation organization, Shark Savers. She used her scientific knowledge, experience communicating science, and passion for conservation to support the organization’s mission to save sharks through grassroots awareness, consumer awareness campaigns and policy reviews. Hannah recruited and managed teams of international volunteers, steering participation in events and fundraising worldwide, implementing and coordinating social media actions, and cultivating partner relationships. As the in-house scientist, Hannah authored and vetted educational material, presentations, articles, policy letters and other scientific documentation. She co-authored “Sharks 101”, a general shark biology and conservation presentation that has reached more than 10,000 kids in Singapore. She also contributed to the on-going consumer awareness campaign, “I’m FINished with FINs”, including the corporate pledge to not serve shark fin soup at business functions signed by the world’s largest hotel groups (Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton Worldwide) as well as more than 50 Small and Medium Enterprises. Hannah has conducted more than 200 shark conservation presentations here in the U.S. to environmental, fishing and dive groups, at schools and educational centers. Hannah co-authored the Manta Ray of Hope report, a novel baseline investigation of the global trade of manta and mobula rays, as well as a peer reviewed scientific paper determining the global value of manta rays to ecotourism that countered their value as a fisheries product. She contributed to proposals to increase international protections for mantas through the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). She wrote the Shark Conservation Course for Scuba Diving International, enhancing awareness in the dive community, provided conservation content for Discovery’s Shark Week, and co-managed a citizen science shark monitoring project here in Florida.

Hannah has collaborated with the Bimini Biological Field Station on the Jupiter Shark Project for the past 5 years, catching, tagging and tracking lemon, tiger and hammerhead sharks. Hannah applied the data from that research to counter a proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to open the federal shark fishing season in January, endangering the vulnerable aggregation of lemon sharks off the coast of Jupiter. Hannah spear-headed a community-wide campaign that successfully halted NMFS from changing the date. Hannah has also campaigned successfully for the protection of lemon, tiger and hammerhead sharks in Florida state waters.

In 2014, Hannah founded the American Shark Conservancy, an organization where science meets outreach for conservation. ASC conducts local, conservation-driven research projects through the SharkStudies program. The program’s keystone project uses non-invasive, in-water methods to monitor the diversity and distribution of threatened sharks off the coast of Florida, with particular focus on dusky sharks. 2015 kicked off the first year of a long-term monitoring project using video-aided diver surveys. As on outreach aspect of the program, citizen scientists join the surveys to learn more about the research methods and conservation goals of providing data for future protections. ASC’s science-based community outreach program, SharkSmarts, provides educational presentations and research experiences for the public, especially geared towards educators to capitalize on their exponential outreach. The SharkSmarts program is conducted several times a month at the South Florida Science Center and various locations throughout Florida and will be available online in 2016.

Jon A. Moore

FAU Wilkes Honors College

Jon A. MooreNarrative
I have spent my whole life working towards the conservation of marine and terrestrial organisms, understanding the biology of animals and plants, and teaching others about the environment.

I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic specials on TV in the 1960s and 70s and thought marine life was so cool. As a kid, I was also closely following the growing environmental movement in the early 1970s by reading National Wildlife, International Wildlife, and Audubon magazines. I also started reading books, such as John Teal’s Life and Death of a Salt Marsh, John Steinbeck’s Log of the Sea of Cortez, and Rachel Carson’s two books, The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring.

I first became serious about marine biology as a career in college in Arizona after learning to scuba dive on rocky reefs in the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico. My BS degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology focused on marine biology. I went to graduate school to study marine fishes where I focused on a group of fishes that are known from both reefs and the deep-sea. Upon completing my Ph.D., I was hired to teach a variety of organismal biology classes at Yale University. While there, I co-developed and co-taught a graduate marine conservation course with Carl Safina and Steve Kellert. I also started identifying catches for a number of commercial fishermen who were exploring the possibility of starting deep-sea fisheries.

After teaching at Yale for 4 years, I was awarded a National Research Council postdoctoral fellowship that placed me in a federal laboratory to conduct my research. I ended up at the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northeast Science Center in Woods Hole, MA, where I investigated the deep-sea fish fauna off New England and the feasibility of deep-sea fisheries. I concluded that the deep-sea fish fauna would at best only briefly support a deepwater fishery and recommended in a couple published papers (Moore 1999, Moore and Mace 1999) that such fisheries should not be pursued. I was also invited to present my Challenges of Deep-Sea Fisheries presentation at the 1998 Fisheries Week in the Azores, which was televised to all of Portugal. I also wrote a report on deepwater sharks that were left out of the original Atlantic Shark Management Plan. These species were supposed to be added to the plan, but because of legal difficulties with modifying the enacted plan, this instead became a publication highlighting the biology and distributions of these sharks.

By 2000 I had talked NMFS into conducting some exploratory work on Bear Seamount (the closest of the New England Seamounts and one of 4 seamounts within US waters) to discover what marine life actually lived on this seamount. That preliminary info was sufficient to get funding to further explore several of other seamounts in the New England Seamounts. What we discovered was great diversity of fishes and invertebrates on the seamount with patches of deep-sea corals and even reef structures near the peaks. This info was used by conservation organizations, such as Oceana, to argue for the conservation of the reefs we found on these very deep seamounts (>900 m depth).

As an expert on deep-sea fishes, I was asked to help with the investigation of the impacts of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Specifically, it was discovered that there was a plume of oil remaining in deeper midwaters ~1200 m depth, but NOAA did not know what impacts that oil might have on the midwater fishes. I was one of several scientists brought in to collect for a year following the spill and subsequently analyze the fishes found in the area around the well. That work is still ongoing. Since then, my colleagues and I have now been funded by another organization to investigate what has happened to the midwater fishes and other pelagic animals 5-7 years after the spill (see the webpages at deependconsortium.org).

Activities related to Marine Conservation
•    Currently consulting with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on publishing a Caribbean Fishes Red List for all shallower water (<200 m depth) fishes found within the entire Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico region
•    4 years analyzing midwater fishes collected for a year after the spill in the vicinity of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill for NOAA NRDA.
•    3-year grant (2015-2017) to investigate the community ecology of midwater fishes near the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill to see what the midwater community looks like 5-7 years after the spill.
•    Contract author for sections of FAO Species Identification Guides for Fishery Purposes produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy. Contributed to guides for the Western Central Pacific, Western Central Atlantic, and Central Eastern Atlantic.
•    Co-manager of the Manatee Project at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, conducting photo-identification surveys of manatees that come into HBOI ship channel.
•    31 research papers on fish biology, fisheries, and seamount ecology and one edited volume on deep-sea fisheries
•    Participation on 25 research cruises to the Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic, East Pacific, Philippine Sea, and Antarctica.
•    10 years as contributing scientist to Census of Marine Life, Census of Seamounts project and Gulf of Maine project (2000-2010). Eight research cruises exploring the New England Seamounts in the North Atlantic, particularly the 4 seamounts within the US Economic Exclusive Zone, which contributed to a proposal to protect the deep-sea coral reefs on the seamounts from deepwater fishing.
•    9 years on the board of directors, Loggerhead Marinelife Center (2000-2009), and serving on the Research Committee (2005-2009) and Education Committee (2007-2009).
•    Associate Editor for the scientific publication Journal of Northwest Atlantic Fishery Science (2001-2004)
•    Contract researcher for the Shark Fishery Management Plan, National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver Spring, MD (2000)
•    Co-convener, Deep-Sea Fisheries Symposium held Sept 2001, Varadero, Cuba for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
•    Teaching at the Wilkes Honors College, FAU, classes, such as, EVR 4420 Honors Marine Conservation (2007-2014), ZOO 4556 Honors Coral Reef Ecology (2010-2014), BSC 1933 Honors Ecology of Atlantic Shores (2005-2009), BSC 4930 Biology of Marine Fishes (at Harbor Branch, 2005-2007)
•    Served as committee member for Andrea Polanco, a Ph.D. student at National University of Colombia studying deep-sea fishes off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Dr. Polanco is now working as a scientist at INVEMAR, an institute in the Colombian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
•    Supervising Honors Thesis students, many with projects involving aspects of marine conservation. For example:
•    Sara Thomas, 2015, Invasive lionfish diet composition and gastric evacuation rate. [Sara starts work on her MS at UVI next month and plans on continuing studies on the lionfish invasion]
•    Liana Houston, 2015, Foraging strategies: mechanism for niche partitioning between Macrotritopus defilippi and Octopus vulgaris.
•    Andrew Kessler, 2014, To seed or not to seed, that is the question: seagrass distribution and abundance within the central IRL. [A study of seagrass beds and whether they can naturally reseed themselves]
•    Claire Robinson 2014, Five-year manatee census and behavioral analysis in the Harbor Branch channel utilizing photo-identification techniques. [A summary of the first 5 years of data]
•    Madelyn Russell, 2014, Lower salinity tolerance of juvenile ponderous arks, Noetia ponderosa (Say 1822). [Maddy studied how best to grow these clams in aquaculture systems. Maddy is now working as a technician in the Harbor Branch aquaculture facilities]
•    Heather Kalisz, 2013, The comparison of two undescribed species of skates, Bathyraja sp. 2 and Bathyraja sp. (c.f. eatonii) from the Antarctic waters of the South Orkney Islands. [Preliminary description of two new species of skates]
•    Miguel Martini, 2013, Variable susceptibility of [the coral] Orbicella faveolata to black band disease. [Miguel got an MS in aquaculture from Cornell and is currently working in Chile]
•    Lauren Nys, 2010, Manatee census of the Harbor Branch channel utilizing photo-identification techniques. [Lauren helped start the Manatee Project at Harbor Branch. Lauren got her MS from VIMS and is an environmental educator in GA]
•    Stephanie Lucas, 2008, Status of the imperiled gull-billed tern in Florida. [A draft proposal to list the Gull-billed tern as a threatened species by FWC]
•    Katherine Garrido, 2007, Observations of immature sea turtles at a nearshore hardbottom development habitat in Palm Beach, Florida. [A study of habitat use by juvenile hawksbill sea turtles on the Breakers Reefs. Katherine spent several years traveling the world and helping at various sea turtles conservation organizations in St Kitts, Australia, and Hawaii]
•    Kathryn Tiling, 2007, The effects of the cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula and artificial shading on the seagrass Halodule wrightii [Katie is finishing her Ph.D. in marine ecology at Harbor Branch]
•    Andrea Gagaoudakis, 2006, Seaing science: marine science education resources [Andrea is now a teacher in San Jose, CA]
•    Matthew Mello, 2006, An investigation of the environmental and human specific factors which are detrimental to the stability of the endangered Jacquemontia reclinata. [This study examined how to enhance the population of endangered beach jacquemontia at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.]
•    Meghan Hoffman, 2005, Development’s impact on sea turtle nesting beaches along Florida’s Atlantic coast: effects of artificial lighting, beach renourishment, and beach armoring. [Meghan got an MS in environmental science at UMd and was an environmental educator at the Chesapeake Bay for several years]
•    Lyndsey Wheeler, 2003, Effects of human recreation on Lytechinus variegatus populations. [This study looked at populations of variable sea urchin in seagrass beds at a recreational beach compared to less accessible seagrass beds at Coral Cove County Park]
•    My photos of marine organisms have been used in textbooks, scientific books, NOAA’s online photo gallery, and research papers by other authors

The results of my work
•    Former students who now serve as environmental educators and scientists
•    Thirty-one publications in journals and books and one edited volume (with 45 research papers by other authors) on marine organisms, their habitats, and fisheries
•    Exploration of deep-sea reefs and other marine life on seamounts in the North Atlantic, which has been used to propose the protection of those seamounts from commercial fishing
•    Information on the deep-sea fishes and the difficulties of pursuing deep-sea fisheries
•    Determination of which fish species are rare and deserve protection in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico region (I personally assessed 70 different species)
•    Information on at least 350 recognizable individual manatees that use the Harbor Branch Oceanographic campus as a refuge, this information has been shared with MIPS, the manatee photo-identification system that is managed for all of Florida

Nikole Ordway

Force-E Divers

Nikole OrdwayI would like to nominate Nikole Ordway for the Blue Friend award.

I have known Nikole since about 2009 when My organization, Ocean Rehab would fund divers to get Reef Check Certified, She was one of only a couple in South East Florida that could do the classes and certify divers for Reef Check.

Nikole was so knowledgeable and everyone enjoyed learning from her, she put out many Reef Checkers with much enthusiasm. She has even traveled to Tobago to train them to watch the reefs and monitor other wildlife. Since then I have kept in touch with her work, She is always in the water for conservation purposes and inspiring others to do so.

Her job at Force-E Divers enables her to do what she loves, staying involved in the ongoing education, conservation, and recreation that is much needed to keep people of all ages engaged and inspiring them to take part.

She does amazing underwater photography to share the beauty of the under water world.

Nikole is a part of several other conservation groups locally. She is on the SEFCRI team http://www.southeastfloridareefs.net and involved in the Our Florida Reefs committee http://ourfloridareefs.org

Nikole does a lot of shark and turtle conservation/education and is monumental in managing the trips for Sharks 4 Kids, a group that takes out local kids to learn about sharks. Here is a link to her bio through The Force E site. https://www.force-e.com/team-view/nikole-ordway/

BIO:
Nikole Ordway started diving as a kid in San Diego, CA. She went to college at San Diego State University earning her degree in Biology and joined the dive team at the college with Erin Porter. She worked as an underwater research diver, a US Navy Marine Mammal Trainer/dive supervisor, and a dive instructor for Sport Chalet all in San Diego. However, in 2008, she longed for warmer waters and relocated to Oahu, Hawaii working for Island Divers Hawaii and Aqua Zone. While in Hawaii she earned her 100 Ton Coast Guard Captain license and joined the global coral reef monitoring team, Reef Check. In 2009, she relocated to Florida, first starting out at Pro Dive USA but finally landing at Force-E Dive Centers as the Social Media Director, Events Coordinator, and dive instructor. Currently at Force-E Dive Centers, Nikole offers classes and events with the following non-profit organizations: Reef Check, DAN, Shark Savers, REEF, Florida Hawksbill Project, Diveheart, Jim Abernethy and more.

Lazaro Ruda

The Living Sea

Lazaro Ruda“My greatest hope is that my images of our amazing ocean planet help you understand it a little better and that my passion and admiration for the natural world becomes your own” – Lazaro Ruda

Because of his superhuman passion and tireless work ethic in the fields of Sea Turtle Awareness, Ocean Conservation, and Underwater Photography, I would like to nominate, Riviera Beach resident, Lazaro Ruda for the 2015 Blue Friend of the Year Award. Through his website, TheLivingSea, Lazaro uses his photography to bring light to a world that may be foreign to many of us. With decades of scuba diving, photography, and conservation experience, he has dedicated his life to the pursuit of bringing understanding and compassion for our oceans to people everywhere.

As a native of Florida, Lazaro ( or “Laz” as we like to call him) has always had a deep love affair with the ocean. When not engaging or encouraging the public at local art shows, benefit events, or through TheLivingSea website as it pertains to ocean photography and conservation efforts, you will find him diving the local waters of Palm Beach County… learning, searching, and more than anything else, enjoying it’s awe-inspiring mystery. The sea lives through Lazaro and he lives for the sea.

While his volunteer work with local sea turtle organizations is revered and respected by many, you would never know that by speaking with the man. Never boastful or self serving, the most you will receive when praising him is that special “Laz smile” and a simple “thank you”. besides spreading sea turtle awareness, his volunteer work (all conducted under Florida State Permit) also includes walking our beaches counting successful nests or false crawls, nest excavation, getting proper counts, and helping disoriented hatchlings get back on track to their new ocean home. No matter what the need may be, Laz is there.

Lazaro’s passion for marine life conservation is expressed through his photography, video, and blogs that he shares with us on TheLivingSea website, Facebook and many other social media platforms. Posting often, it is there that he invites us to share in his story, all the while reaching out to people everywhere about proper interaction with with nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. With an eye for the sea like no other, Lazaro’s photographs have a vast impact that reaches far beyond Florida, sparking curiosity that, in turn, makes audiences want to learn and explore for themselves. Often described “moving”, “unique” and “inspiring”, his work has received worldwide recognition. Many scuba and nature publications have sung his praises for his ability to capture the majesty and mystery of our various ocean nature. Of note, his picture of a remora on the pectoral fin of a whale shark won Scuba Diving’s Reader’s Choice Award in 2013. I myself showcase the vision of his photography in my own home, a constant reminder of how beautiful the world can be while at the same time alerting us to just how precious its continued preservation truly is.

For this reason, I would like to nominate Lazaro “Laz” Ruda for the 2015 Blue Friend of the Year Award. I thank you for your considerations.

Sincerely,
Nicola Kundrun

Julie Walters

Discovery Cove Orlando

Julie WaltersAs a child, Julie M. Walters developed a deep connection to marine wildlife and the ocean during family vacations to Florida. She carried this connection with her into adulthood and has made a career out of caring for marine mammals and promoting conservation of all marine life and environments.

Julie began her zoological career in 2003 working with and rescuing various marine mammals with SeaWorld Orlando. This opportunity allowed Julie to not only be a primary responder on manatee and cetacean rescues, but also work with a team to rehabilitate and release the animals back to their natural environment. She enjoyed her rescue work so much that she also volunteered her time with FWCC and USGS for manatee health assessments.

In 2010 Julie expanded her career to Discovery Cove where she introduces guests to Bottlenose Dolphins. She is continually recognized as a team member focused on conservation, and has implemented fun ways for the rest of her team to include marine conservation in their guest interactions. Julie realizes a goal of touching each guest with a message of conservation, and enjoys challenging them to pick up one piece of trash every single day. Dolphins are not the limit of her message though; she always finds a way to teach about seafood sustainability, sharks, and turtle preservation as well.

California Sea Lions experienced high numbers of strandings on the West Coast in 2014. Julie was selected by her managers to travel to California and assist their peers at SeaWorld San Diego with the overwhelming number of rescues. She stayed for over a month helping with hundreds of emaciated sea lion pups from rescue all the way through release.

Julie also lives what she teaches. She strives to make a difference by recycling and picking up trash every time she leaves the house. She can often be found driving around Orlando in her electric car, talking with anyone who will listen about the benefits of not using gasoline. This year she is organizing her very own coastal cleanup with friends and family to celebrate the 30th anniversary of International Coastal Clean Up. Whether it is right on the beach or in her own back yard, Julie would do anything to help wildlife and dedicates her life to this passion.

Thank you for your time,
Nicholas Ricci
nicholas.ricci@me.com


Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists
:
Recognizes a person under age 17 who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Sophie Allen

Youth Ocean Ambassador

Sophie AllenIt is without reservation that I nominate Sophie Allen for the 2015 Blue Hatchling Youth Award.  Simply put, Sophie is an ardent ocean lover.  In fact, Sophie’s passion for our oceans is demonstrated in her email address: saaoceanlover@yahoo.com.  Sophie’s love for our oceans is genuinely reflected in her myriad of community and personal activities which she engages in to help our Blue planet.

Sophie is entering her third year of active community service as a Junior Friend of MacArthur Beach State Park where she attends monthly meetings and volunteers regularly in a variety of activities from removing invasive plant species to restore the natural dunes to volunteering in their annual Naturescape Festival.  Junior Friends also pick up marine debris from the beach and estuary environments.  In addition, to the clean-ups at MacArthur Beach, Sophie has been participating in the International Coastal Cleanup and Great American Cleanup on an individual level for the past nine years, mostly working to help clean up Johns Island in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  Recently, in order to fight marine debris, Sophie has volunteered to host the Bag Monster Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BagMonstserofSoFlo and to use the Bag Monster costume to help draw awareness to the problem of plastics in our oceans.

Sophie’s passion for the ocean does not limit itself to community service and local volunteering.  Recently (after meeting Jim Abernethy), she has donated her time to spreading the message about shark conservation through the use of film and the internet.  In 2015, her short film “Shark Souvenirs” was accepted as a finalist in the 2015 Beneath the Waves-Youth Making Ripples Film Festival & Competition.  At the Film Festival, her film was recognized by Shark4Kids for its message in which she creatively explains that people should not buy shark souvenirs.  However, if they do, they should only buy fossilized shark souvenirs and not shark parts, such as shark jaws, that promote the slaughter of sharks.  Her parting message is one that simply states, “Sharks are much more valuable alive than dead.”  I encourage you to watch her film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV79fixkaqo  This summer Sophie got the chance to take her shark conservation efforts to a new level by volunteering in a shark tagging research cruise with the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.  She was part of a volunteer crew that helped scientists and graduate students catch, tag and release sharks off of Key Biscayne.  The tagging mission was a great success, tagging five different species: a Bull Shark, a Nurse Shark, a Lemon Shark and a Sandbar shark.

In 2014, Sophie volunteered along with other students from Palm Beach County to present at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.  The students from Palm Beach County met with students from around the state and shared how they are helping our oceans and their local marine conservation efforts. In addition, as a competitor in the 2015 MATE (Marine Advance Technology Education) Florida Regional ROV Competition, Sophie volunteered in Lantana’s 2015 World Oceans Day Festival to help demonstrate underwater ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles).  Demonstrations included how students could build ROVs and how ROVs are being used today to help study the oceans, as well as engage in ocean explorations and cleanups.

It should be noted that the above volunteer efforts have happened while Sophie has remained academically focused and a dedicated musician.  Indeed, Sophie recently started 9th grade at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, where she plays the French Horn.  At Dreyfoos, she hopes to be able to continue her volunteer efforts and take her marine conservation to even a new level.

Super Science Sharks

Ellie Bickel, Ella Chait, Winni Cox, Joix Gelman, Annika Karbstein, Addie Vining

Super Science Sharks - The Benjamin SchoolThe Go Blue Awards Blue Hatchling Youth Award Recognizes a youth, ages 17 and under who through their volunteer efforts have made significant contributions in marine conservation.

I would like to nominate The Super Science Sharks an innovative group of 3rd & 4th grade girls from The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL for their commitment to raising the awareness of environmental conservation and their deep commitment to pollution prevention, recycling, and environmental clean-up.

This passionate group of young women formed when they realized that our oceans and beaches, as well as the animals who call these ecosystems home, are under threat due to debris and pollution.

The young ladies said it best when they stated, “We are privileged to live near the beach but we have noticed that there is more plastic on the beach.”

Excited to take action this energetic group of young ladies decided to spend their free time, in partnership with their teachers, advocating for pollution prevention and clean-up of Florida’s beautiful environment.

The Super Science Sharks quickly established goals of their working group:

Clean up and Pollution Prevention:
We want to have clean beaches and beautiful forests. We also want to protect animals and plants. We want to inspire people to think about their plastic bag use so there’s less trash.

Supporting our Community:
The Super Science Sharks entered their educational campaign in the Jason.org national recycling project and decided if they won that they would donate their winnings to Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to rehabilitating sea turtles and educating the public about the importance of our oceans.  The Super Science Sharks did win the project (1st place!) and promptly donated $750.00 to Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Increasing Awareness (Recycling):
As we went through this, some of us did not realize how our families recycled. The rest of us increased our awareness of recycling in our own households. We used this opportunity to educate our extended families from our grandparents to our littlest siblings. We learned how much our families care about recycling.

Partnering with the Community:
The Super Science Sharks are a force within our local community and they have created innovative partnership allowing them to get their message out at a number of local venues:

Local Supermarkets:
Two (2) of our local grocery stores agreed to post our signs up front. They also put a sign in their employee break room to educate their baggers about using fewer bags. Our grocery stores see about 25,000 customers per week so we are reaching almost 50,000 people every week!

Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Exhibit Hall:
Our poster at Loggerhead Marinelife Center will reach 300,000 visitors per year where it is on permanent display and will be featured on their Facebook page which has over 30,000 “likes” and in their newsletter.

Additional locations where the Super Science Sharks have place educational materials:
Local libraries, Local dance studios, the local community swimming facility, local community tennis courts, at The Benjamin School.

•    Additionally the Super Science Sharks presented to an all-school assembly the topic: the importance of recycling and reducing the usage of plastic bags.

Learning and next steps:

We learned many things:
•    It wasn’t as easy as we thought to convince some people that recycling plastic bags is important

•    Local business was more supportive of our efforts

•    Bigger businesses were harder to persuade to join us

•    Perfect places to reach people were hard to find

•    People we knew were most supportive

•    We became closer as a group as we worked to educate people

Lilly & Trent Tougas

Youth Ocean Ambassadors

Lilly & Trent TougasLilly and Trent began their conservation journeys with “bEARTHday parties”, lemonade stands, and “Cupcakes for the Planet”, but quickly became respected activists for our environment. Locally, they have worked closely with Harbor Branch where they helped organize the premier of “This is Your Oceans: Sharks” and a lion fish education/tasting event for over 300. They brought the Mobile Learning Classroom to their area, an $8,000.00 accomplishment, to educate children about the environment. Through outings to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, events with the Guy Harvey Foundation, and outreach programs like “Project Seahorse” and “Wildlife Voice” with shark conservationist Jim Abernethy, they help peers and friends learn about endangered species. They started the monthly “Mayors Beach Clean-ups” which ran for an entire year, uniting Treasure Coast communities with their mayors for a good cause. The Disney Vero Beach resort and Busch Wildlife partnered with them on a clean-up that included over 150 people! If they aren’t bagging and deploying oyster beds, they are campaigning for the environment, speaking to schools, camps, and girl scout troops. Lilly and Trent are active in their schools’ Environmental Protection Agencies. She provided her middle school’s curriculum for Ocean and Environmental Studies, set up “shark week”, and prompted the school to write to Tallahassee on behalf of sharks. Currently, they use art, music, and media to engage youth groups with the environment. One art project, made from beach trash, demonstrates the damage done by careless humans.

In Florida, they promote the Clean Water Challenge with the Wyland Foundation to encourage towns in Florida to conserve water. As oceanic branch directors for Wild Over Wildlife, a nonprofit organization, they are producing a photo calendar and documentary films on manatees and sea turtles. They are also continuing a mangrove restoration project with FIU. This year they have organized ecotourism events for families including a shark tagging trip with NSU, a manatee educational tour in Crystal River, and a turtle hatchling release in Dania. They have been involved with the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit from the start. When Lilly isn’t a panelist, she makes educational videos with Wyland to share with the participants and they run an ocean conservation booth to include all the young environmentalists. She has served on the panel for Shark-Con and spoke at the Love Your Lagoon Symposium in Miami. This team worked tirelessly all year long with “Expedition Florida 500” during Florida’s 500th birthday, even throwing Florida a birthday party where Gloria Estefan’s daughter, Emily, performed. Upon hearing that an Orlando food truck was selling shark tacos, Lilly and Trent made a video with Dr. Sylvia Earle that resulted in petitions being filed and outrage in the conservation community. Lilly is also the latest Shark Whisperer Organization’s Kidz Conservation Award recipient.

Outside of Florida, Lilly and Trent have gone to Washington DC on three occasions fighting for Florida’s water and participating in a press conference in front of the Capitol Building. At age 9, Lilly first spoke to a large crowd at the Washington DC FOCUS (Forest Oceans Climates Us) event with NOAA, Wyland, the US Forest Service, and Congress. Lilly received an award from Carter Oosterhouse of HGTV’s “Seen Going Green”. She and Trent have also worked closely with HBO on the environmental documentary, “Saving my Tomorrow”. Their work has been recognized through newspapers, online articles, awards, scholarships, and interviews.

Internationally, Lilly and Trent have worked to further ocean conservation as well. In 2008, Lilly went to the Beijing Olympics as a part of “Hands Across The Oceans” where people from around the world joined hands to promote environmental awareness of all bodies of water. There, Lilly received her Ambassador For The Planet medal from Wyland, while Trent was honored with his medal at a later date along with Hollywood producer, Jon Landau. Trent delivered an unforgettable speech which prompted Wyland to ask him to join “Comics for Conservation”. This has allowed Trent to work with comedians such as Jon Lovitz! In Mexico, Lilly and Trent participated in the Whale Shark Festival for two years, working to protect the world’s largest fish with the Shark Angels’ campaign. They have assisted with several marine mammal rescues including a campaign to help a Caribbean spotted dolphin named Cutter and the pilot whales in the Keys with MMC.

Lilly and Trent’s young lives have centered around service to our planet from the local to international levels. Their compassion for marine animals across the globe has known no boundaries. They truly make a difference by inspiring the next generation to take action and reverse the damage that has been done.


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.

GoPro

GoProThe Go Blue Awards 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.

I would like to nominate GoPro as the Blue Business of the Year for their innovative camera technology which allows users to capture stunning images and video (s) of multiple environmental ecosystems:

• GoPros help to raise conservation awareness, the images and video generated by GoPros help to promote conservation and protection of our planet’s environmental resources.

GoPro’s capture stunning images of our oceans and marine ecosystems:
GoPro Cameras are waterproof and often times used to capture images and video of our coastal and ocean ecosystems.  Photos, and video are extremely compelling to tell LMC’s story of rehabilitating sea turtle patients and protecting the oceans and beaches they call home.

• Much of Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s messaging is sent through digital mediums.  In this day and age of handheld devices, social media, and storytelling via video, great imagery – which for LMC is captured in challenging environments (beaches, water, hospital tanks)- is critical to, “get the word out” regarding LMC’s efforts to advocate for the endangered sea turtle populations and our world’s oceans.

GoPro cameras are used very frequently on LMC’s campus:
-To capture images/video of sea turtle patients in their hospital tanks
-To capture images/video of sea turtles being released back into the ocean after a successful rehabilitation (beach-side)
-To capture images/video of sea turtles being released back into the ocean after a successful rehabilitation (from an off-shore boat release)
-To capture images/video of sea turtles in their natural environments (reefs, lagoons, open ocean)

A letter from GoPro’s Founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman:

Think it. See it. Do it.

We dream. We have passionate ideas about what’s possible in this world. Our passions lead us to create experiences and realities that expand our world and inspire those around us.

GoPro helps people capture and share their lives’ most meaningful experiences with others—to celebrate them together.

Like how a day on the mountain with friends is more meaningful than one spent alone, the sharing of our collective experiences makes our lives more fun.

The world’s most versatile cameras are what we make.

Enabling you to share your life through incredible photos and videos is what we do.

This is your life…GoPro.

Giving Back:
In October of 2014 the founder (Nick and Jill Woodman) of GoPro donated over $500 million dollars of stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  The Woodman’s said, “We wake up every morning grateful for the opportunities life has given us.  We hope to return the favor as best we can.”

Get Sponsored:
GoPro offers sponsorships and grants to a wide verity of individuals, events, and nonprofit organizations giving away millions of sponsorship and grant dollars annually.

A specific environmental project founded by GoPro:
Surfboards for a shared planet: collecting foam, recycling resins, reducing VOCs; helping to make some of the world’s first fully recyclable surfboards.

Marriott Oceana Palms

Chris Cano, General Manager  & Jill Mahood, Guest Relations Manager

Marriott Oceana Palms
Marriott’s Oceana Palms, and Chris Cano, the leader and General Manager of Marriott’s Oceana Palms, should be considered as a recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award and the Blue Business of the Year Award for many reasons.  Marriott’s Oceana Palms sits directly on Riviera Beach, and the endangered sea turtles are part of our daily lives.  Here are some of the reasons this resort should be considered:

o    We increase awareness on the beach by educating our beach associates about the importance of keeping the nests safe and unharmed.  Also, the beach team educates our owners and guests on hatchlings and what to do should anyone find one.
o    We have placards posted around the pool and the deck area going to the beach informing all of our owners and guests about the sea turtles, specifically the loggerhead sea turtle.  These placards provide information about the lifecycle and tips on how we can help conserve these marine animals.
o    We host a “Turtle Talk” activity on Wednesdays at 4:30pm.  During this activity, we discuss turtle conservation and sometimes have the pleasure of having a representative of Loggerhead Marinelife Center lead the activity.  Owners and guests can see how their daily lives impact sea turtles, and what we can do to help conservation efforts.
o    There are several (five) sea turtle “banks” around property.  Owners, Guests, and Associates are encouraged to drop coins in these banks to raise funds so the resort can adopt sea turtles.  This is a resort effort and since June alone we have adopted seven sea turtles from Loggerhead Marinelife Center.  We also frame the Certificates of Adoption and the photos provided by Loggerhead Marinelife Center in our resort to showcase our Spirit to Serve our community.
o    One associate found a hatchling on property and drove it to Loggerhead Marinelife Center; other associates continue to save hatchlings in their personal lives; driving them all to Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
o    As a resort, we promoted and created activities around World Oceans Day, which we celebrated on July 17th.  We promoted this day on social media, flyers around the resort, and in our weekly activity guide.
o    As a resort, we host and participate in Beach Clean-Ups.  So far this year, we have hosted four Beach-Clean Up events.  All associates that participate receive a bucket, and gloves and pick up trash on our beach for 30 minutes.
o    On March 1st, we hosted a sea turtle awareness event, “Black Out Party” where owners and guests watched “Turtle Tale” and information was provided about turtle season.
o    The resort switches all lights on property to turtle lights, which suggestions are provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, March 1st – October 31st.
o    The Sunrise building (building closest to the ocean) has tinted glass in all guest rooms.
o    Reflections and The MarketPlace Bistro uses motorized shades during turtle season .
o    On our Sales and Marketing floor (floor 7), we have sensor lights in areas where there are no drapes to assist in keeping it dark at night.

As you can see, Marriott’s Oceana Palms does a lot to conserve and protect sea turtles.  We educate our associates, owners, and guests, and also have processes in place to ensure we are providing the correct habitat the sea turtles require to nest.  We also donate funds by adopting turtles (seven so far!) and display our efforts of conservation with picture frames, activities, conservation discussions and special events.

The Breakers Palm Beach

Rick Hawkins, Director of Materials Management & Green Team

The Breakers - Palm Beach

The Go Blue Awards 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.

I would like to nominate The Breakers Palm Beach as the Blue Business of the Year for their long standing commitment to environmental conservation and the community where they do business.

Retrofitting a resort built in the 1920’s to become one of the most energy efficient resorts in the world is no small task and The Breakers proves year after year that they are committed to environmental excellence.

Fast Facts, in 2014 The Breakers:
• Implemented ultra-energy efficient water saving digital washing machines transitioning away from machines which used four (4) gallons of water per one (1) pound of linen to new machines which only use ½ gallon of water per one (1) pound of linen washed.
• Invested over $500,000 in energy efficient LED lighting across the property
• Donated over 855 pillows to local charities
• Donated over 2,500lbs of food to local organizations
• Donated over 1.4m in cash or in-kind donations to local charities
• Team members donated over 13,000 service hours to local charities within this total, The Breakers team members donated time to Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC)

History:
Opened in 1927, The Breakers Palm Beach was fashioned after the Villa Medici in Rome.  Seventy-five artisans were brought from Italy to complete the magnificent paintings on the ceilings of the 200-foot long main lobby and first-floor public rooms.  Today The Breakers sits on over 140 acres and has over 2,000 team members looking after the property.  The Breakers remains privately owned.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at The Breakers:
While Corporate Social Responsibility is a common phrase in today’s conversations and company communications, The Breakers Palm Beach views CSR as doing the right thing.  The Breakers comprehensive CSR report was created to memorialize their significant efforts and recognize their employees and initiatives which put our community (and their guests) first.  A link to the CSR report is here: http://www.thebreakers.com/social_responsibility/CSR/

A significant focus of The Breakers CSR is the environment and a program The Breakers calls, “Eco Sensibility.”  From the resorts on-site organic vegetable & herb garden to their zero emission employee transportation shuttlebuses, The Breakers stands second to none when it comes to being one of Palm Beach County’s most respected environmental hoteliers.  This focus on conservation is nothing new and has been a long standing pillar of the Resort’s history.  In 2006 The Breakers was the first resort in Palm Beach County to earn Green Lodging certification.

The Breakers has an employee chaired “Green Team” comprised of ten (10) team members from various working teams across the resort.  The Green Team focuses on three (3) primary areas of conservation efficiencies:
1.    Water Conservation
2.    Waste Reduction
3.    Energy Efficiency

Other novel conservation initiatives ‘powered’ by The Breakers Green Team:
• The Breakers Environmental Policy: Drafted in 2010 and included in the employee handbook this policy guides all team members on water, waste, and energy best practices.
• Local Food Use:  The Breakers is committed to purchasing the majority of food from local farms and is growing a large amount of vegetables and herbs on-site in its organic garden.
• Electric Car Partnership: In addition to electric car charging stations on property, The Breakers has two zero emission Nissan LEAF vehicles which guests can rent.
• Florida Green Lodging Program: The Breakers continues to be a part of this program, since 2006
• Green Power Leadership Club (new in 2014): Awarded membership in this club by the EPA by implementing aggressive conservation measures
• Clean the world – soap recycling and distribution: Since 2009, 35,758lbs of soap has been recycled creating over 108,000 new bars of soap for those in need.

o    Additionally this program alone recycled over 11,500lbs of plastic bottles.  To ensure the Breakers reduces packaging consumption, all toiletries are made with 100% postconsumer recycled content.

• Rainforest Alliance (RA) Sustainable Coffee: The coffee served in the resort is Rainforest Alliance Certified.  Fun fact: The Breakers was the first resort in the world to make RA coffee available to its guests!

In addition to all of the above mentioned conservation measures on its property, The Breakers is committed to sea turtle safer lighting and general turtle nesting season best practices on its property.  The Breakers is often noted for their support of the community including Loggerhead Marinelife Center and it is wonderful to see a large well respected business be so very committed to environmental awareness and best practices.


2015 Go Blue Awards Luncheon S
ponsors:

 



      


 
LYNNE & PETE WELLS
BOB CHLEBEK
DR. JACK LIGHTON
ROSS & SUSAN JOHNSON
BARBARA SAVASTANO

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