National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Welcomes Three New Trustees to its Board

Contact: Christine Brittain,, 301-608-3040 ext. 315

Welcome our Newest Members

Jim Hnat, Dane Nichols, and Phil Stephenson bring diverse experience and expertise to the Foundation

Washington, DC; February 21, 2017 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced the selection of three new members to its Board of Trustees.   Jim Hnat, Dane Nichols, and Phil Stephenson bring strong business and communications expertise to help the Foundation connect Americans to their national marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries and support these unique places for current and future generations.

“Marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries play a vital role in conserving our natural, historic and cultural resources and the Foundation’s work is critical to their success,” said Kristen Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.  “We are excited to have Jim Hnat, Dane Nichols, and Phil Stephenson join the Board to help strengthen our efforts.”

“Jim, Dane, and Phil share a deep passion for conserving our oceans and Great Lakes and bring valuable skills and perspectives to the Board,” said Bob Trainor, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  “We welcome them to the Board.”

Jim Hnat is a certified diver, surfer and frequent traveler to ‎oceanic destinations. He’s also JetBlue’s executive vice president and general counsel, responsible for legal, government affairs, compliance and sustainability at the New York-based airline.  Prior to JetBlue he served as an attorney at the New York office of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy, LLC.  Jim received a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Boston University and his law degree from Notre Dame Law School.

“The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a tremendous asset to our country and I am honored to join the organization’s board in supporting its great work,” said Hnat. “Together we’ll ensure that precious marine environments are protected and can continue to serve as both incredible playgrounds and real-life classrooms for the next generation.”

Dane Nichols co-founded Natural Step US and Rachel’s Network.  She served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Island Press and for the Ocean Conservancy.  Dane has lived in Brazil, Belgium, Cuba and Paraguay.  While in Paraguay, she helped protect Mbaracayu, a 95,000 sq. ha. tract of subtropical Atlantic rainforest, now a United Nation Bio-Reserve.  Dane brings a strong background in communication which will help the Foundation strengthen its public awareness efforts and engage a broader and more diverse audience for marine conservation.  Dane is a graduate of Smith College.

“Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan and spending many summers at the ocean, in Rhode Island, I have water in my DNA,” said Dane Nichols. “I am deeply concerned about the changes taking place in the oceans of the world and am committed to combating and reversing those effects.  Sanctuaries are a national treasure and a place where species can be protected and preserved. It is critical to engage the public in ocean conservation.”

Phil Stephenson is a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School.  Phil Stephenson worked as an attorney, U.S. Treasury Department official under President George HW Bush and oil industry executive.  On retiring from active business, he endowed the Stephenson Foundation, a private 501(c)3 dedicated to supporting ocean exploration, protection, and education.  An avid sailor and scuba diver since the age of 12, Phil also serves on the Board of Pristine Seas, a National Geographic sponsored program to identify, document and protect pristine areas of the ocean.  Phil’s background in business and support for ocean exploration, protection, and education will strengthen the Foundation’s efforts to demonstrate the value of our oceans and Great Lakes to the American people and surrounding communities.

“I did not know much about the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation before attending Capitol Hill Ocean Week a few years ago,” Phil Stephenson said.  “Then the more I learned about their mission, to support and expand protected oceans in US waters, the more supportive I became.  It seems a natural analog to the National Park System – but in the sea and Great Lakes. I hope to work convincing others, including our government officials, that this mission is indeed worthwhile.”

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the chief national not-for-profit partner for marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries.  The Foundation works to conserve these unique areas through research and conservation, education, citizen science, outreach and community engagement.  The Foundation is also a respected advocate for ocean stewardship nationally and worldwide. Learn more at:

Spanning more than 620,000 square miles, from Michigan to Florida and Cape Cod to American Samoa, the National Marine Sanctuary System includes 13 national marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries and two marine national monuments. These unique waters sustain critical, breathtaking marine habitats that provide homes to endangered and threatened species. They preserve America’s rich maritime heritage. And they are living laboratories for science, research, education and conservation. Sanctuaries also offer world-class outdoor recreation experiences for all ages and support local communities by bringing billions of dollars to their economies.