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:

Terri Wright
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Terri Wright has been a volunteer in the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps since 2014. She provides public outreach and interpretation of sanctuary resources to thousands of members of the public annually on whale watch tours and at community outreach events. Terri is a passionate volunteer, being recognized for her efforts serving as a mentor and trainer for new members of the Naturalist Corps and for going above and beyond the call of duty to donate her skills as a professional book publisher and graphics designer. Terri created new sanctuary education and outreach products and volunteer training tools. She designed “Sharks and Rays of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary” poster and companion coloring book, for both print and digital access. Terri has donated countless hours to develop these products which benefit the public and mission of the sanctuary program, as well as her fellow Naturalist Corps volunteers. She is an inspiration and true steward of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Robert Lee
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Through Rob’s volunteerism more people are able to experience the riches of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and increase their awe and appreciation for knowing such an environment like this exists off of California. Most people have never seen Cordell Bank, but through Rob’s efforts and contributions, photos and incredible 360 degree video imagery allow more people to see and experience this special place. This will help us to highlight the value of sanctuaries and other MPA systems as solutions to climate impacts and other threats while illustrating Cordell Bank as a “hope” spot to inspire awe and desire for conservation.

Terry Helmers 
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Terry brings knowledge, skill and years of experience to his work as a volunteer with the maritime heritage, buoy, and science teams at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Terry started volunteering with the sanctuary in the summer of 2019, and immediately became a valued member of the dive team. While initially recognized for his maritime heritage expertise and support of that team, his wealth of knowledge and experience with boat moorings made him an asset to the buoy team as well. His ability to join field missions when a weather window appears, good nature, experience and passion for the sanctuary make him an incalculably valuable asset and a pleasure to work beside.



Dr. Adrienne Correa 
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Dr. Correa is passionate about both protecting Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary resources and making sure that people learn about this special place in the Gulf of Mexico. She has been an asset to the sanctuary since she first connected with the staff in 2015, actively engaging with education, outreach, research, diving, and policy activities for many years. Her ability to respond quickly to the sanctuary’s needs has been key to response efforts on more than one occasion.

Julia Hansen, Samantha Hamilton, Armstrong Sankowsky
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary

While COVID-19 pandemic remained for part of 2022, virtual student volunteers supported their sanctuary by organizing photo libraries and creating online guides for scuba divers to make the most of their trip to the sanctuary. The group of virtual student volunteers, Julia Hansen, Samantha Hamilton, and Armstrong Sankowsky, used their skills and background to help others virtually explore and appreciate the wonders of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Caroline “Cea” Higgins
Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Cea Higgins has supported the management of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary for over a decade, including six years of service on the site’s advisory council. In 2022, Cea led a Vessel Incidents Subcommittee of the council to identify solutions to prevent and reduce harm from vessel groundings. Concurrently, she coordinated with a similar subcommittee of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council to ensure consistent recommendations for abutting west coast sanctuaries. The recommendations identify interagency communication, policy, education and enforcement needs that will help protect sanctuary resources. Her efforts have already resulted in the sanctuary increasing partner agency communication and coordination to improve incident response.


Grover Hatcher
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Grover has been a volunteer for 5 years now, and is always willing to lend a helping hand. He is a leader for our Turtle Patrol and Team Ocean programs, and helps the sanctuary spread important messages about conservation far beyond our visitor center walls. It’s clear that Grover has a deep respect and passion for Hawaiian wildlife and culture, and is always striving to learn more and share his knowledge. He is dependable and entheausiastic, and we’re lucky to have him!



Eileen Abel
Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Serving as a sanctuary advisory council member and Chair since 2019, Eileen Abel has provided countless hours and energy to progressing the mission of Mallows Bay – Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. She is dedicated to energizing the council, forming partnerships in the community, and advocating not only for Mallows Bay but the entire sanctuary system. Eileen meets regularly each week with the Vice-Chair, Sanctuary Superintendent, and SAC Coordinator to prepare for the quarterly meetings to keep abreast of current programs and events, and to make connections for the sanctuary to the community. Eileen is also the first person to volunteer for outreach events, participating in the sanctuary’s Juneteenth and Blue Star Families events, the sanctuary’s inaugural community events. She also leads personal kayak tours of the sanctuary and works to make strategic connections to further the sanctuary’s mission. Eileen’s passion for the sanctuary, education, and protecting the sanctuary’s resources is contagious and invigorates other to join.

Jessica Baum
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Jessica Baum has contributed to multiple volunteer water quality monitoring programs with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. She has participated in the Sanctuary’s Snapshot Day and Urban Watch programs which are both community science programs that take water quality samples from local streams and outfalls that lead into the ocean. These community science programs are crucial to collecting large volumes of data over short periods of time. Without the volunteers like Jessica assisting the Sanctuary with these water quality efforts, we would not have all of our long term data sets to assess the water quality of creeks, rivers, and stormwater outfalls that lead into the Sanctuary from the surrounding watersheds and urban landscapes. Jessica has shown up consistently to these water quality events and continuously does a great job at properly collecting water quality samples and the corresponding data.

Gabrielle Fa’ai’uaso
National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa 

Gabrielle Fa’ai’uaso is an established local photographer, videographer, and well-known community member, volunteering many invaluable hours at NMSAS. As a friend of the sanctuary, she has lent her professional skills and expertise in filming, editing, and teaching for NMSAS events and projects. She has been a major asset to NMSAS, connecting the sanctuary’s goals and objectives to her reach of community members both locally and abroad. Some notable examples of her contributions to NMSAS include co-hosting a student filmmaking workshop and competition with NMSAS, attracting partnerships from businesses to sponsor events and projects, and co-creating a video series for the annual Get Into Your Sanctuary campaigns. Best of all, Gabrielle is an ocean and environmental steward, raising awareness of climate change, sustainable living, and supporting local efforts on her personal platform. NMSAS would like to recognize Gabrielle Fa’ai’uaso as the 2022 Volunteer of the Year, and thanks her for her continued and unwavering support for NMSAS over the years.

Lee Whitford
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Lee is an exemplary citizen who values the science, management and outreach aspects of marine protected areas. Her understanding of Olympic Peninsula and its unique characteristics allow her to support ideas and strategies for place-based efforts, which resonates stronger with sanctuary partners and stakeholders. Under her leadership OCNMS AC tackled tackle tough issues while promoting mutual learning, respectful dialogue, and creative solutions. Lee is a gregarious individual, with an infectious laugh, who has expended the reach of Olympic Coast programs by actively cross-pollinating ideas with other Sanctuary Advisory Councils. Outside of the council, she continues to bring more awareness to, and deepen the credibility and public regard of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. In short, Lee’s efforts over the past 13 years are worthy of recognition

Ty Shimabukuro
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Ty Shimubukuro is an exemplary ocean steward for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center (MDC). The Monument is a place that many visitors know little about or have experienced first hand. It is through the messaging, introductions and interpretation of our docents that flourish a visitor’s interest and garner their commitment to learning more.

Peter Briggs
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Peter Briggs is a volunteer for the Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards (S4) Program and has volunteered with us since 2011. He is an integral part of the team as an experienced bird observer and recorder. Peter assists other volunteers with seabird species identification and is always excited to share his expertise with others. He is an incredible mentor for new volunteers, and he has trained many over the years. Peter has collected data on more than 30 whale watch trips, and 38 standardized cruises- which is almost 80% of our S4 trips on the R/V Auk. Peter was one of our dedicated and trustworthy volunteers helping us to continue monitoring seabirds throughout the pandemic, participating in almost every S4 trip from 2020-2022. In addition to Peter’s work with the S4 program, he volunteers as a bird and marine mammal observer on other sanctuary research cruises, such as Internal Waves and Sandlance. His work helps scientists to better understand the environmental processes and ecological relationships of species in the sanctuary. Peter has also assisted with a Shearwater Tagging cruise where he helped handle a great shearwater as scientists gathered biological samples and attached a satellite tag to the bird.

Robert Krafft
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

For nearly two decades, Bob Krafft has been a passionate champion for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the entire ONMS system. As a respected member of the Alpena community, Bob has a deep connection to the Great Lakes through his combined love for Great Lakes fishing and maritime history. Whenever there is a new project or opportunity, Bob is the first one to step forward, roll up his sleeves, and contribute to the success. Last summer, with Viking Expedition ships making port-of-calls in Alpena and Thunder Bay being at the hub of the activities, Bob was always present to take on tasks no matter how small or large and always with a smile on his face.

Bob has also contributed his time and talents to the sanctuary’s annual film festival, helping to make it a success for over ten years. In fact, the sanctuary team has come to rely on Bob’s logistics savvy and management skills as a House Manager for the 5-day film festival. Bob has also been a consistent voice on our Advisory Council providing sound advice and representing the community.

Bob is the epitome of a dedicated sanctuary volunteer. His enthusiasm is sincere and contagious and reaches beyond his actual volunteer time; he is a strong voice for the Sanctuary in Northeast Michigan.

Robert Krafft is a retired First Lieutenant with the Michigan State Police. He grew up in Port Huron on the shore of Lake Huron where he graduated from St Clair County Community College with an Associate Degree in Biology. He then went to work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Bob joined the Michigan State Police in 1973 and was assigned to the Detroit Post for several years before being transferred to Lansing. He was then promoted to Post Commander of the Alpena Post in 1985 and served there until his retirement in 2000.