Florida Keys chapter of National Marine Sanctuary Foundation names leadership

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation welcomes Lad Akins as director and Sara Rankin as development officer of its newly-established Florida Keys chapter.

Akins, a longtime advocate for Florida Keys waters, was the founding executive director of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and is currently the CEO of Blue Earth Conservation. Rankin brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit management and development in Florida and nationally with organizations including Autism Speaks, the United Way and the American Lung Association. Akins and Rankin will lead efforts in the Keys and across Florida to expand private support for the protection and restoration of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and conduct education and outreach programs that promote stewardship of our ocean and strengthen conservation.

Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “We are excited to welcome Lad and Sara to the Florida Keys chapter of the Foundation. Their leadership success at non-profit organizations combined with their demonstrated commitment and passion for conserving the waters of the Keys makes clear that they are the right choices to lead the chapter.”

First formed in January 2019 through a merger with the Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys, the chapter’s priorities include establishing partnerships with local businesses and organizations to invest in on-the-water conservation projects. The chapter’s current programs include supporting marine debris removal through Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys, improving buoy and marker infrastructure to support sustainable recreational use, and supporting efforts to combat coral disease and restore the reef ecosystem.

The chapter supports Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects spectacular, unique, and nationally significant marine resources, including North America’s only coral barrier reef, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove-fringed islands, and more than 6,000 species of marine life. The sanctuary also protects an estimated 800 underwater historic sites. As one North America’s most popular diving and fishing destinations, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary supports the region’s success in global tourism, with more than half the jobs in Monroe County tied to ocean activities resulting in $3.7 billion in sales and income in 2017. Beyond its recreation riches, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provides innovative education programs, citizen science, volunteer opportunities, and high-tech research and conservation work.


Contact: Chip Weiskotten

Director of Strategic Communications

301.608.3040 x 305