Congratulations to this year’s volunteers of the year!
Each year, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation shines a light on the invaluable role of volunteers to our national marine sanctuaries through its Volunteer of the Year awards. We invited each of the 15 sites in the National Marine Sanctuary System to select one volunteer, or a volunteer team, whom they feel made an outstanding contribution to their sanctuary and the entire sanctuary system, as their site’s Volunteer of the Year. This is our way of acknowledging the efforts of individuals who donate their time and energy to help us protect and conserve America’s underwater treasures to safeguard them now and for future generations.
These volunteers participate in a wide variety of activities including diving, whale identification, beach cleanups, water quality monitoring, collecting field observations and surveys, acting as visitor center docents, and wildlife monitoring.
Volunteers of the Year are acknowledged specifically for their contributions in the last year but many of them have been actively supporting their site for far longer, and continue to support sanctuaries. Thank you to these Volunteers of the Year, and all the volunteers in the National Marine Sanctuary System, for your dedication and compassion in helping others discover the wonder in our national marine sanctuaries.
This year’s Volunteers of the Year are:
Capt. David Bacon
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Capt. David Bacon, a 16-year volunteer member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), has provided steady, wise advice on how sanctuaries can work better with recreational fishing communities, not overlook subsistence anglers, and care for the productive fishing grounds found within and around the CINMS. His reliable attendance and active participation at advisory council meetings has helped the entire maritime community learn about and appreciate the joys and endless variations of fishing adventures available within the sanctuary. He is also a journalist and educator, and regularly takes science and resource protection issues from advisory council meetings and shares informative and inspiring stories in various publications. His 2021 story on how mylar balloons frequently end up in the sanctuary, for example, helped raise community awareness about this problem and what can be done about it. Capt. David has also continued to help ONMS, other agencies, and all stakeholders understand the challenges posed to recreational fishers by no-take areas. This advice is critical for CINMS and ONMS to take seriously in consideration of managing the sanctuary for public enjoyment.
Jeffrey Dorman and Julian Rose
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Jeffrey and Julian, as members of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, respectively, co-chaired a joint working group on reducing the risk of ship strikes to whales within national marine sanctuaries. They both spent many hours coordinating and facilitating the working group as well as lead the production of the group’s final report. The report of this working group provided valuable advice to the superintendent of Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries.
Rebecca Akin and Martha Joseph
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Rebecca Akin and Martha Joseph joined Beach Watch in 2016. This team of volunteer surveyors regularly survey beaches along the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Their essential detection of wildlife, human activities and unusual events helps inform sanctuary managers and researchers. We can count on Rebecca and Martha for their professional decorum and to provide reliable, accurate and consistent data. Martha and Rebecca really shine through their support of other volunteers by routinely pitching in as substitute surveyors for others to ensure consistent beach data collection.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
Suzanne has contributed to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale in many ways. She is an incredible artist and has spent many hours painting and developing new materials for the Sanctuary to use in our education and outreach efforts. She works in our visitor center, helps with school groups, and plays an active role in almost all of our outreach events. Suzanne is passionate about Hawaiian wildlife and culture, and extremely knowledgeable. She is excellent at interacting with the community, and inspires our visitors and keiki (children) to care for our ocean. We’re so thankful for all of the incredible work she’s done!
Dr. Brittany Brown
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
Dr. Brittany Brown volunteered to be part of the science crew for the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (MNMS) July 2021 field project. The field project was designed to aid in documenting the maritime cultural landscape off North Carolina, highlighting historical shipwrecks, surrounding Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The project ran on a 24-hour schedule, and Dr. Brown volunteered to work the overnight watch, for over a week, to help with the acquisition of sonar data. By offering to work this shift, along with the countless other contributions she made in helping to set up the equipment, problem solve, and break down of equipment at the end of the cruise, Dr. Brown proved invaluable to the success of this project. Dr. Brown was selected by MNMS because of her dedication to the success of the project and stepping up to take over a difficult position where quick thinking and problem solving was necessary. Her dedication to the scope and needs of the project, positive mental attitude, and previous experiences were all crucial to the overall success of this field operation.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Brian Nelson is a man of many talents wearing many hats. By day he is the City of Monterey’s Acting Harbor Master, nights and weekends, he can be found at the pool as dive instructor, conducting outreach on behalf of the Sanctuary at dive and Rotary club meetings or working alongside his wife on her dive charter boat Beachhopper II. Brian is serving his 11th and final year on the MBNMS Advisory Council as the Diving Seat and has chaired the council for the last four years. During his tenure, his focus has been to better engage ocean dependent business, recognizing their conservation efforts and enhancing sanctuary support. Brian is passionate about connecting our constituents to the sanctuary and has developed two bi-monthly targeted newsletters, reaching thousands of subscribers affiliated with the diving, recreation and tourism communities, greatly enhancing MBNMS’s reach and providing an avenue for them to respond. Feedback from these constituents was key for MBNMS’s management plan review process. Brian’s outreach efforts led to the MBNMS SAC Challenge – where every advisory council member was tasked with raising their own bar in terms of better community engagement.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Megan Juran has a long history of community engagement and stewardship of the marine environment. Since 2014, Megan has been actively involved in Citizen Science projects with Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and more recently stepped up and volunteered to fill a vacant coordinator position to lead Washington CoastSavers outreach. Her work with CoastSavers maintained and enhanced efforts to reduce marine debris along Washington state beaches, including Olympic Coast, through annual cleanups, education, and action. Specifically, Megan increased the social media presence and following of Washington CoastSavers, streamlined volunteer registration processes, and increased dialogue, planning and organization with key federal, state, county and local partners to initiate a successful remote debris cache cleanup at wilderness beach location
Gabriella “Gabbie” Ulloa
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Gabriella “Gabbie” Ulloa graduated from California State University, Monterey Bay in 2021, with a degree in environmental studies and a minor in environmental science. In her senior year, she served as a U.S. Department of State Virtual Student Federal Service Intern for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where she gained real-world experience in environmental policy and outreach and used her skills in intercultural communication to expand the site’s reach. Gabbie drafted weekly social media posts in Spanish and English, more than doubling the sanctuary’s media content and engagement and reaching new, more diverse audiences. She wrote a web story about Stellwagen’s 2020-21 interns to accompany a video produced by another intern. The products are featured on NOAA’s website, and the State Department is using them to promote their internships. Gabbie and a third intern proposed and developed text for a welcome and inclusion message and an Indigenous land acknowledgement, both published on Stellwagen’s website. Gabbie’s goal is to spread awareness and educate the public about ecological and environmental injustices in order to move towards a more equitable future for all. She notes, “In order for marine conservation to be successful, all communities must be involved in the conversation.”
Dr. Patricia Janes
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Dr. Patty Janes is a Professor in Hospitality and Tourism Management at Grand Valley State University. In her 30-year academic career she has taught 20 different courses with her primary teaching areas include tourism marketing and research. She has worked professionally and consulted with 20 tourism organizations, her greatest tenure with the Marriott Corporation. Patty has over 40 publications including a marketing textbook and has conducted over 100 professional presentations. Patty’s service on various state and national boards led to the development of Michigan Cares for Tourism, a volunteer effort of the tourism industry helping restore Michigan’s historic, natural, and cultural attractions.