2015 Go Blue Awards Finalists

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and finalists!
The winners were 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.

Award Recipient: Dr. Sylvia Earle – National Geographic, Mission Blue, Former Chief Scientist NOAA

Sylvia-150409973webThe 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.

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

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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.

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Dr. Terry NortonGeorgia Sea Turtle Center, Director & Veterinarian

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Terry 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.

Award Recipient: Tracy Siani“Citizen Scientist”

Tracy-Siani-photowebFor 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.

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

Steve-Burton-2webSteve 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.

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Hannah MeddAmerican Shark Conservancy

HannahMedd-HeadshotwebHannah 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.

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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.

Award Recipient: Jon A. Moore FAU Wilkes Honors College

BF-Jon-MoorewebNarrative
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).

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Katelyn Cucinotta – Sea to Shore Alliance

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Born 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.

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Elizabeth Eubanks Science Teacher-formerly with Palm Beach Maritime Academy

Elizabeth-EubankswebElizabeth 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.

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

BlairMasephotoweb
Blair 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.

Read More >>

Hannah Medd American Shark Conservancy

HannahMedd-HeadshotwebHannah 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.

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Nikole Ordway Force-E Divers

I 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

Laz-Headshotweb“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.

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Julie Walters Discovery Cove Orlando

Julie_waltersheadshotAs 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 2015. 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.

Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:

Recognizes a person under age 17 who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Award Recipients: Lilly & Trent TougasYouth Ocean Ambassadors

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Lilly 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.

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Sophie AllenYouth Ocean Ambassador

Sophie-Allen-PhotowebIt 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.

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Super Science SharksEllie Bickel, Ella Chait, Winni Cox, Joix Gelman, Annika Karbstein, Addie Vining

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The 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
– Supporting our Community
– Increasing Awareness (Recycling)
– Partnering with the Community

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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.

Award Recipient: The Breakers Palm BeachRick Hawkins, Director of Materials Management & Green Team

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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)

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GoPro

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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 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)

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Marriott Oceana PalmsChris Cano, General Manager  & Jill Mahood, Guest Relations Manager

Marriott-Oceana-PalmswebMarriott’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.

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