2016 Go Blue Awards Finalists

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and finalists!
The winners were announced at the Eighth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon,
held at PGA National Resort & Spa on Friday, October 28, 2016.

 

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.

George H. Burgess – Florida Museum of Natural History

George Burgess

As the Florida Program for Sharks Director at the Florida Museum of Natural History, George Burgess has been involved in shark research and conservation for over 40 years. The Florida Program for Shark Research is one of four programs comprising the National Shark Research Consortium. The objectives of this consortium are to increase the scientific knowledge of sharks and to develop public outreach and conservation initiatives. The Florida Program for Sharks also includes the International Sawfish Encounter Database and the International Shark Attack File and hosts the distinguished website focusing on shark research, fishery management and conservation.

The Florida Program for Sharks collection of nearly 220,000 shark specimens is contained in bottles that range in size from very small pill-sized bottles to large tanks. This extensive collection is one of the top 10 in North America and is located in the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. With the steady decline in shark populations, these are an immensely important record of the many shark species.

He has worked for more than 40 years to further the study of sharks, debunking the myth that they are man-eating monsters and promote conservation of these important apex predators. His research interests include the life history, ecology, systematics, fishery management and conservation of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays), shark attacks, systematics and biogeography of fishes and management, and conservation of aquatic ecosystems and their faunas and floras – especially the marine environment.

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Louie Psihoyos – Oceanic Preservation Society (Award Recipient)

Louie Psihoyos, executive director of OPS (Oceanic Preservation Society), is recognized as one of the top photographers in the world. He was hired directly out of college to shoot for National Geographic and created images for the yellow-bordered magazine for 18 years. His ability to bring humanity and wit to complicated science stories carries over to his filmmaking.

An ardent diver and dive photographer, he feels compelled to show the world the decline of our planet’s crucial resource, the oceans. Psihoyos’s life mission is to elevate the awareness and engagement of the global community around the plight of endangered species and our oceans at large by using cutting edge media that ignites global movements.

OPS, the non-profit he founded in 2005, uses film, photography, collaboration and story-telling to inspire the global community to take action around key environmental issues that threaten endangered species and our oceans at large. Psihoyos’ first documentary film, The Cove, won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary and over 75 other awards around the world. The film garnered immense critical praise and has been seen by millions of viewers worldwide. Additionally, this film has led to at least a 50 percent decline in dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Japan – the area where his lens was focused for this film project.

His second film, Racing Extinction, follows a team of artists and activists as they expose the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way viewers see the world. The film premiered on Discovery in 220 countries and territories over the course of one day, was seen by over 36 million viewers and sparked the #StartWith1Thing movement.

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Wolcott Henry – Conservationist

Wolcott Henry is an accomplished underwater photographer with a dedication to marine conservation. As president and chair of the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation and The Henry Foundation, he has aligned himself professionally with foundations which not only share in his commitment to conservation, but are dedicated to support on the ground efforts.

Wolcott has a long history of dedicating his time and expertise in the non-profit field through board service. He served on the board of directors of Earth Echo International, World Wildlife Fund – Philippines, and The Ocean Foundation, of which he was a founding chair. His prior board service includes the International League of Conservation Photographers, World Wildlife Fund – U.S., FotoWeek DC, the Divers Alert Network (DAN), and the Ocean Conservancy. Wolcott also serves on the advisory boards for Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), national council of World Wildlife Fund – U.S., the Smithsonian Ocean Science Initiative and the Frost Museum of Science.

Wolcott has worked passionately throughout his career to promote conservation photography – a concept of using underwater imagery to shed light on the unique challenges facing the natural world. He acknowledged the importance of engaging the public in marine conservation issues with an understanding that due to geographical and economical limitations, only a limited portion of the population has the ability to experience life underwater. Wolcott had a desire to bring the underwater world, as he knew it, to everyone. He worked to help establish the marine photo bank, a photo sharing site dedicated to advancing ocean conservation through imagery. The site provides high quality images, at no cost, to the non-profit community for use in public outreach and educational projects.

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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.

Scott Harris – Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation (Award Recipient)

Scott Harris serves as the President of the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit based in Jupiter. The foundation’s mission is to enhance the marine environment in northern Palm Beach County by providing a conduit for funding artificial reef construction to provide new habitat for marine life that is threatened by a host of issues related to population growth.

The nonprofit foundation has raised over $700,000 to build new reefs (including a $260,000 deployment agreement with Palm Beach County) since its inception in July 2014 after Harris’ son Andrew lost his life in a boating accident. The Foundation placed a new reef made with 40 concrete coral head replicas weighing 8,000 pounds, 1.5 miles northeast of the Jupiter Inlet in August 2015. The reef is thriving and teeming with marine life, with many pictures and videos of the reef on the foundation’s website and Facebook page.

In 2015 Scott discovered and extensively surveyed an ideal shallow sand site on top of a flat plain of bedrock 800 feet east of the 2015 deployment. Presumably this area was once a productive reef before it was smothered by sand. Palm Beach County agreed the site was ideal and worked with the permitting agencies to expand the existing permit boundaries to include this site. The Foundation created its second reef in August 2016 on this ideal new site.

The 2016 project used 100 modules of three different designs to create a new reef. The new Andrew Red Harris Foundation No Shoes Reef is comprised of 50 eight-foot tall limestone rock encrusted concrete pyramids, 35 seven-foot tall Bahamian coral head replicas of original design and 15 unique concrete block structures. Scott secured engineered drawings for each of the new designs and was the primary builder of the concrete block modules.

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Joan Lorne – Permitted sea turtle monitor

Joan Lorne’s support for marine conservation began over 20 years ago when her daughter, Jackie, showed an interest in marine biology at the age of 12. Joan would selflessly drive Jackie every Saturday for four years from Delray Beach to the Marinelife Center of Juno Beach (now Loggerhead Marinelife Center) so she could spend the day volunteering. For two of those four years, she and Joan volunteered at the center during the nighttime turtle walks. As she helped Jackie achieve her dream of becoming a marine biologist (which she did become), she sparked an interest of her own in marine conservation, in particular, sea turtle conservation. For over the last 10 years, Joan has been a permitted sea turtle monitor for the Town of Gulfstream and a portion of Ocean Ridge. Several days a week she monitors about three miles of local beaches to document new sea turtle nests.

She takes it upon herself to purchase all the stakes used to mark approximately 700-900 nests annually on the beaches. She also paints all the stakes herself. In addition to this, during nesting season, Joan typically drives to Gumbo Limbo at least once a week when she finds weak hatchlings on the beach. Her work, however, does not stop there. She typically spends at least an extra hour on the beach each of those mornings educating the public, forming relationships with tourists and locals alike, who anxiously await her on the beach. She even follows up with many people by sending them additional educational information via email.

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Dr. Derek Burkholder Ph.D. – Nova Southeastern University

Dr. Derek Burkholder, PhD(web)Derek grew up in Michigan spending a lot of his childhood exploring the woods and spending time on the water (though slightly less salty water than he deals with now). His love for the outdoors and the water started early and on a family vacation to Florida when he was 8 years old and went on a marsh tour with a marine biologist.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Albion College in Michigan and during that time was first introduced to the amazing world of shark research. After graduation he moved to Florida as a research scientist at MOTE Marine Lab for a year before starting his graduate studies. Derek received his Ph.D. from Florida International University in 2012 and is currently working as a research associate as part of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Derek is currently working as a research scientist as part of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University. He has assisted Dr. Harvey with all aspects of shark research, including tracking and data analysis. His work at Nova focuses on building a local shark tagging program in South Florida where he is studying shark movements, shark diets and genetic population structure. He is instrumental in educational outreach programs and organizes periodic shark tagging expeditions for the general public. The children have the opportunity for a very hands-on experience on these expeditions. They place hooks in the bait, let out the line and drop the weight. When the sharks are reeled in, the children measure them, take DNA samples and place the tags in the dorsal fins. It is an extremely exciting and unforgettable experience for everyone, especially the children.

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Nicholas Ogle – School of Environment, Arts and Society at FIU

Nicholas Ogle graduated with honors from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a minor in marine biology. He is the environmental education and outreach coordinator for the School of Environment, Arts and Society at FIU, also known as SEAS. SEAS is committed to understanding the natural world, our place in it, and addressing the challenges that arise from the interactions between humans and the environment. Through research, education and an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, SEAS strives to bring about positive, palpable changes on local, national and international levels.

Alongside SEAS and its partners, Nicholas is dedicated to providing experiential and service learning opportunities for K-12 students in the South Florida community. He accomplishes this through in-class programming and guided field experiences. He works closely with schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and oversees a myriad of education and outreach programs aimed at getting students engaged with the natural world. Some of his projects include Coastlines to Classrooms, Discover Our Backyard and EcoAcademy Summer Camp. He also runs several on-campus service learning events such as coastal clean ups, invasive species removals and native ecosystem plantings using sea oats as well as mangroves. Through “Adopt a Mangrove,” a seedling is dedicated to a person, nurtured in FIU’s Shade House, then replanted to reinforce mangrove forests or to areas where mangroves had been removed in the past. Additionally, he has worked diligently with high school students from the MAST@FIU (Marine Academy of Science and Technology) program to engage them with native ecosystems which gives them hands-on experiences with scientific procedures. He helps them understand the environmental problems and solutions. With the students, he is exploring long-term data used to determine the effects of seasonal and environmental changes on juvenile fish species in Biscayne Bay.

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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.

Dr. Derek Burkholder PH.D. – Nova Southeastern University (Award Recipient)

Dr. Derek Burkholder, PhD(web)

Derek grew up in Michigan spending a lot of his childhood exploring the woods and spending time on the water (though slightly less salty water than he deals with now). His love for the outdoors and the water started early and on a family vacation to Florida when he was 8 years old and went on a marsh tour with a marine biologist.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Albion College in Michigan and during that time was first introduced to the amazing world of shark research. After graduation he moved to Florida as a research scientist at MOTE Marine Lab for a year before starting his graduate studies. Derek received his Ph.D. from Florida International University in 2012 and is currently working as a research associate as part of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University.

Derek is currently working as a research scientist as part of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University. He has assisted Dr. Harvey with all aspects of shark research, including tracking and data analysis. His work at Nova focuses on building a local shark tagging program in South Florida where he is studying shark movements, shark diets and genetic population structure. He is instrumental in educational outreach programs and organizes periodic shark tagging expeditions for the general public. The children have the opportunity for a very hands-on experience on these expeditions. They place hooks in the bait, let out the line and drop the weight. When the sharks are reeled in, the children measure them, take DNA samples and place the tags in the dorsal fins. It is an extremely exciting and unforgettable experience for everyone, especially the children.

Read More >>


Diane Buhler – Conservationist

DBuhler 4x6(web)

Diane Buhler has an immense passion for the ocean as well being a proactive ambassador to many worldwide marine conservation efforts. Over the years, Diane has hosted a Conservation International event alongside Sylvia Earle in New York to raise funds for conservation, started the Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation and has volunteered countless hours. She has also participated in the West Palm 100, held successful Great American Clean Up days, collected thousands of plastic caps cleaned, sorted and donated to the charity ‘Caps of Love’, and has assisted with a Shark Savers (now a part of WildAid) sharks count program off Palm Beach. She has also been a longtime supporter of Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

In 2013, Diane saw a huge need for help on the beaches of Palm Beach. Through her own volunteer efforts of cleaning enormous sections of beach of ocean pollution, she decided follow her heart, narrow her efforts and focus on the trash and ADOPT Palm Beach via SWA’s Adopt a Spot. One year later, Diane was IRS approved after filing for a non-profit when she founded Friends of Palm Beach and has since hosted 53 volunteer events totaling over 5,500 man hours and removing over 30,000 pounds of trash. With the ongoing mission “to clean the beaches of Palm Beach to remove trash, litter and unnatural debris and to educate the community on the effects of this on our environment” one was immediately impressed by Diane’s diligence, hard work, total commitment and appreciation of the marine environment and everyone who volunteers for this cause.

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Dr. Thomas Chesnes – Palm Beach Atlantic University

Tom Chesnes doing research 2016 (web)Growing up in Florida, Dr. Thomas Chesnes became interested in coastal ecosystems/estuaries and the environment at an early age, focused on learning about local flora and fauna. He realized that coastal and estuarine studies provided critical and foundational information for conservation. Studying the entire ecosystem, instead of species-by-species research, provided more complete information on the interaction of communities with the environment. For instance, in order to understand conservation of the unique Everglades ecosystem and its coastal shores, Chesnes felt it was critical to study the interaction between fresh water flowing off the land into surrounding marine systems.

Not only has Chesnes’ extensive research into ecosystems and life history of flora and fauna provided scientifically-based life history and environmental information, but he has also taken the next step through educational efforts, as well as working with managing agencies to apply this information for the benefits of both marine and fresh water conservation. He has researched seagrass communities for years in John D. MacArthur State Park, Lake Worth Lagoon and Florida Bay. Seagrasses are part of the base of the food chain and provide food, habitat and mating/nesting sites for large numbers of estuarine and coastal marine fishes and invertebrates, as well as sea turtles and manatees. In-shore areas, including seagrasses and mangroves provide detritus that in turn feed offshore coral and worm reefs. His long time efforts also include studies of a number of individual species, some of which inhabit or utilize seagrass beds, such as red and gray snappers, Gulf killifish, other marine fish and mangrove saltmarsh snakes.

The ecology of fresh water greater sirens (an important but little-studied amphibian) and the threats posed by invasive Burmese pythons were included in studies of the freshwater Everglades environments. His research into beach re-nourishment and salinity, spatial and temporal patterns in submerged macrophyte communities in Florida Bay added greatly to conservation knowledge and improved resource management efforts.

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Gary Appleson – Sea Turtle Conservancy

Garry Appleson Pix(web)Gary Appleson has spoken for sea turtles and the coasts for more than two decades, holding a master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a bachelor’s in Political Science with a specialty in Environmental Policy, both from the University of Florida. For the past 20 years, Gary Appleson he has been involved in environmental advocacy and education, most recently working with several Florida-based nonprofit organizations. In the 1990s, he worked for a Gainesville-based land trust, successfully working to secure protection for and public acquisition of environmental lands in Florida. He then joined Florida Defenders of the Environment as the coordinator of its Ocklawaha River Restoration Project, aimed at restoring one of Florida’s unique river systems. In 1999, he joined the Florida-based Caribbean Conservation Corporation (Now the Sea Turtle Conservancy) as its policy coordinator.

As the policy coordinator, he is responsible for monitoring Florida laws and regulations impacting sea turtles and sea turtle habitats, coastal management and development policies and the coastal environment. CCC is widely known as the oldest marine turtle research and conservation group in the world. Less well-known is their leadership in the area of coastal management policy, which has a major impact on the health of sea turtle nesting sites in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Gary is involved in all aspects of sea turtle conservation and policy and is a registered lobbyist in Florida. He monitors the laws and regulations impacting coastal policies, the coastal environment and sea turtles. This includes monitoring the state’s regulatory program for coastal construction, beach nourishment and coastal armoring. Gary serves on the scientific advisory committee of a state-funded research program developing alternative “environmentally friendly” design parameters for beach nourishment projects in Florida.

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Jamie Aquino – Haiti Ocean Project

Jamie Michelle Aquino(web) Growing up in South Florida, Jamie Michelle Aquino has always had a deep love and passion for the ocean and its marine inhabitants. While in middle school, she spent a summer attending Sea Camp in Big Pine Key, where she saw dolphins swimming in the wild for the first time. She spent many of her weekends in high school on our family’s boat, where she learned how to drive in rough seas and anchor near a rocky reef.

A successful journalist, it was motherhood that changed the direction of her life. Jamie got her Florida teaching license, and in 2007, she was hired to teach journalism and English at Plantation High School in Plantation, Florida. On her first day, she knew that the best way to teach her students about the world was to get them out of the classroom. With her love of the sea and the approval of her students, they launched Pier2Pier, an awareness campaign to protect Florida’s wild dolphins and manatees. She took students with her to survey manatee populations and identify threats to wild dolphins. Also in 2007, inspired by her then Haitian-American students, Jamie launched Haiti Ocean Project, to protect Haiti’s marine mammals and educate the Haitian youth about their ocean. While Haiti Ocean Project was still being organized, Pier2Pier was a full-fledged campaign, which was quickly partnering with a number of local, state and international marine mammal conservation organizations. As a result of her efforts with Pier2Pier, Jamie spearheaded an initiative to name Backstreet Boy Nick Carter as a Special Ambassador of the Year of the Dolphin by the United States Environment Programme (UNEP) and Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). To add to the success of the campaign, the Pier2Pier website was named a grand prize winner in the 2008 Doors to Diplomacy international website competition, co-sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

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Marcel Bigue – Wild Aid San Francisco

IMG_2662 (web)Marcel Bigue is the Marine Program Director of WildAid San Francisco, where he developed a globally recognized marine enforcement model that has been replicated in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Belize, Mexico, Indonesia, Barbuda, Nicaragua and Palau, as well as establishing comprehensive marine enforcement plans to lower costs while increasing system efficacy. He also assembles and managed multi-disciplinary teams including engineers, law enforcement experts and scientists to develop government fisheries enforcement strategies.

While program manager of WildAid Ecuador, he spearheaded national media awareness campaign with J. Walter Thompson, Ecuadorian World Cup soccer professionals and universities to support the shark finning ban.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) cover only two percent of the world’s oceans yet are vital to protecting biodiversity and habitat. Approximately one-third of the global population depends on fish for food and nutrition. Unfortunately, 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished or at capacity. As they decline, more vessels target marine reserves, making their enforcement even more important to protect marine life. WildAid’s marine program, led by Bigue, protects exceptional marine habitat and unique marine species including the Galapagos Islands, home to nearly 3,000 marine species, many which are found nowhere else on earth; the Midriff Islands in Mexico, nicknamed the world’s aquarium; and Palau, a country that made history by declaring 80 percent of their national waters a marine reserve.

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Nicholas Ogle – School of Environment, Arts and Society at FIU

Nicholas Ogle graduated with honors from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a minor in marine biology. He is the environmental education and outreach coordinator for the School of Environment, Arts and Society at FIU, also known as SEAS. SEAS is committed to understanding the natural world, our place in it, and addressing the challenges that arise from the interactions between humans and the environment. Through research, education and an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, SEAS strives to bring about positive, palpable changes on local, national and international levels.

Alongside SEAS and its partners, Nicholas is dedicated to providing experiential and service learning opportunities for K-12 students in the South Florida community. He accomplishes this through in-class programming and guided field experiences. He works closely with schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and oversees a myriad of education and outreach programs aimed at getting students engaged with the natural world. Some of his projects include Coastlines to Classrooms, Discover Our Backyard and EcoAcademy Summer Camp. He also runs several on-campus service learning events such as coastal clean ups, invasive species removals and native ecosystem plantings using sea oats as well as mangroves. Through “Adopt a Mangrove,” a seedling is dedicated to a person, nurtured in FIU’s Shade House, then replanted to reinforce mangrove forests or to areas where mangroves had been removed in the past. Additionally, he has worked diligently with high school students from the MAST@FIU (Marine Academy of Science and Technology) program to engage them with native ecosystems which gives them hands-on experiences with scientific procedures. He helps them understand the environmental problems and solutions. With the students, he is exploring long-term data used to determine the effects of seasonal and environmental changes on juvenile fish species in Biscayne Bay.

Read More >>


Veronica Frehm – John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Veronica Frehm(web)

Veronica Frehm has made significant contributions in marine conservation and environmental education through her field work in public environmental education. Veronica believes it is imperative to educate students on the environment and the ocean through field experiences. She believes that if a child does not attain first-hand knowledge about the environment, they will be less likely to care about it and ultimately will not be able to make informed decisions about it in the future.

Currently, Veronica is director of education at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park located in coastal Palm Beach County, where she is in charge of the development, implementation and training of the staff, volunteers and interns that deliver the park’s environmental education Field Experience programs. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park serves over 5,200 students from Palm Beach County annually, focused on natural science education. Veronica manages daily Field Environmental Education experiences for students grades 1-12 with 14 different grade specific options from which teachers may choose. Throughout all of the experiences, themes revolve around learning about different marine and coastal environments and the important role of marine conservation. Each Field Experience is designed to enhance learning in the classroom and brings it to life with hands-on experiences at the park.

Recently, the park’s Natural Science Education Program received the 2015 Friends of Florida State Parks state-wide awards for the Natural Science Education Program. It also received an award for its Student Stewards: A Focus on Water Resources curriculum which highlights natural water resources. The Student Stewards: A Focus on Water Resources curriculum teaches students of a variety of ages about the complexity and importance of our human connection with water and the environment. This curriculum not only provides awareness of water related issues and scientific knowledge about water and the environment, but takes learning to the next level by encouraging participants to take action.

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Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:

Recognizes students up to and including 12th grade who have made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Brooke Welch – Youth Ocean Ambassador (Award Recipient)

Brooke is currently a member of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s High School Intern program and has served as an active volunteer over the years. Since September 2013, Brooke has volunteered over 750 hours to Mote Marine Laboratory’s Community Outreach, Spotted Eagle Ray Conservation research and education programs.

Brooke’s passion for ocean conservation has led her to establish the Sarasota Ocean Preservers, a local cleanup organization for youth that focuses on marine debris removal, ocean education and community outreach. Not only does Brooke organize and lead important cleanup efforts, but she also engages hobbyists in an effort to bridge their interests with ocean conservation. Furthermore, she has begun to catalog the marine species in the area in hopes to correlate seasonal migrations with human interactions and habitat impacts. As a direct result of her work, Brooke has been invited to serve as a guest speaker at the annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, where she inspires and educates hundreds of young ocean enthusiasts each year.

As a high school intern, Brooke serves as an educational volunteer to youth and adults in marine science. Brooke created a hands on educational research project where students can conduct mock research on a spotted eagle ray, and the idea has been replicated and is being used for marine education in Cuba and Mexico.

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Cori McWilliams – Youth Ocean Ambassador


Cori McWilliams has grown up surrounded by people who believe that education and hands-on experience are the keys to creating a fine marine conservationist, and in turn she utilizes that same methodology with others. By age 4, Cori developed a passion for sea turtle conservation, and was sharing her knowledge to entire grade levels of students by writing and presenting a sea turtle conservation program by the time she was in second grade. Since that time, she has shared this program with hundreds of school students.

Cori is the founder and program coordinator of the Kids for the Sea conservation club. To date, the club has received over $500 in grants, utilizing the funds to expand a portable re-usable debris collection container project in conjunction with the “Stow It Don’t Throw It” program and Mote Aquarium. Cori coordinated collection of containers via donation solicitation from local individuals/businesses, and worked with Environmental Learning Center and Stella Maris Environmental Research to co-host workshops in which over 100 children (including day campers and Boys and Girls Club members) and adults were taught about the effects of marine pollution and then able to assemble and keep their own debris containers. In total, over 700 debris containers were distributed, recipients including: Keep Indian River Beautiful, Barrier Island Center (some for ongoing use in their school education programs (serving approximately 300 students last school year) and beach clean-ups, and others given to summer day campers), Stella Maris Environmental Research, Kids for the Sea beach clean-up attendees, and local fisherman and beachgoers. In just the first six months of 2016, Cori hosted beach clean-ups in which 74 participants removed 248 pounds of trash from Indian River and Brevard counties’ beaches.

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Sophie Allen – Youth Ocean Ambassador

Sophie is 15 years old, a past Blue Hatchling Finalist and a sophomore at Dreyfoos School of the Arts this year. In addition to her musical interests that she pursues at Dreyfoos, growing up in Palm Beach County has shaped Sophie into a passionate ocean lover. She not only seeks enjoyment from the ocean as a certified Scuba diver, kayaker and stand up paddle boarder, but she also works hard to educate herself on marine issues and volunteers her time to engage in marine conservation activities.

Sophie is entering her fourth 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 community service activities from removing invasive plant species to restoring the natural beach dunes. As a Junior Friend, Sophie volunteers in MacArthur Beach State Park’s annual Naturescape Festival where she helps with educational activities oriented towards teaching younger kids about the ocean. This past spring, Sophie was invited to travel and attend the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans to present a science poster on behalf of the Junior Friends of MacArthur Beach for OSM’s K-12 Youth Poster Symposium. Her poster presentation highlighted Junior Friends’ experiment on growing mediums for sea oats and their dune restoration efforts.

Sophie’s passion for the ocean does not limit itself to community service. In recent years, she has used her considerable talents to create marine conservation videos. In 2015, her short film “Shark Souvenirs” was accepted as a finalist in the 2015 Beneath the Waves-Youth Making Ripples student Film Festival and she received special recognition by Shark4kids for her video’s shark conservation message. In 2016, her video “Little Hope Spots” built upon Sylvia Earle’s idea of marine hope spots and featured the conservation efforts of Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management in restoring the Lake Worth Lagoon and providing artificial reefs to increase marine biodiversity.

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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.

The Scuba Club

For almost 45 years, The Scuba Club has proved to be a business that promotes and encourages conservation through its business practices, preservation activities and examples in the community. As the longest running dive operation in Palm Beach County, they Scuba certify hundreds of people each year. In each class, students learn about the beauty and importance of marine life and how to safely and respectfully interact with it. After 44 years, the message of conservation has made a major impact on the local community. The Scuba Club has been opposed to spear fishing since it opened in 1972, and continues to stand by the belief that no one should kill the ocean’s natural ecosystem. Spearfishing is only allowed for lionfish, which is an invasive species. The Scuba Club’s college-educated staff are good examples to fellow divers of how to respectfully interact with marine animals and reef systems. They clearly and gently correct divers who are not respectful of the ocean habitat. The Scuba Club is active supporters of Lionfish derbies, which act to deplete the invasive lionfish species on our reefs. They hold their own derbies and reward divers who help to solve the problem. The Scuba Club encourages their staff, members and customers to clean up the reef as they dive. Many divers bring up trash from the bottom, helping to save the lives of turtles, fish and other marine species.

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Marriott Ocean Palms


Marriott’s Oceana Palms is one of many resorts within Marriott Vacations Worldwide and has been recognized for outstanding performance for a variety of departments, associate engagement, and also won Resort of the Year in 2014. Marriott’s Oceana Palms achieved Marriott Vacations Worldwide World Class Resort in 2015 for outstanding performance on several metrics, including financials, guest satisfaction, associate engagement and community outreach efforts.

Marriott’s Oceana Palms is located on the beautiful Singer Island in Florida. The resort rests directly on the beach and offers breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean from every villa on property, and the location on Singer Island allows the hotel the opportunity to protect many sea turtle nests that appear between nesting season, March 1 and October 31, and provide many enrichment programs and tools for  owners and guests to learn more about the local sea turtles and conservation efforts.

In addition to conservation efforts related directly to the sea turtles, Marriott’s Oceana Palms has initiated a “Green Team” that meets to discuss ways to conserve and help protect the environment.

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Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation (Award Recipient)

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation (PBC Parks) holds a long standing multi-faceted approach to promoting (and protecting) Palm Beach County’s beautiful environmental spaces and their immediate support of LMC’s new Balloon Ban. PBC Parks houses many unique recreational and cultural facilities, like Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Loggerhead Park, Phil Foster Park (one of Palm Beach County’s most accessible and biodiverse scuba and snorkeling trails), and the Juno Beach Pier (operated by Loggerhead Marinelife Center).

In addition to park spaces, PBC parks hosts multiple events which are tailored to help promote protection and education for the environment events include beach cleanups, educational sessions for guests of all ages. the Coastal Conservation Concert (C3), a community event celebrating coastal habitats and conservation and the LMC Balloon Ban – tested and launched in Loggerhead Park.

This year in partnership with Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation approved the first ‘test’ deployment of LMC’s balloon ban in Loggerhead Park. This successful partnership between Parks and LMC was responsible for eliminating balloons from Loggerhead Park’s rental pavilions which are adjacent to one of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches on our planet. In addition, Loggerhead Park is also a hot-spot for birders. Sea turtles and birds are often the unintended target of balloons and these animals can frequently become entangled in balloons and or mistake them for food, ingesting the balloons which frequently leads to the animal’s death.

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Saltwater Brewery


Saltwater Brewery is a Palm Beach County based brewery who has a very rich focus on community collaborations and support with a specific focus of their corporate mission about ocean conservation. From the “mission” section of their website: Our goal is to maintain the world’s greatest wonder by giving back to the ocean through Ocean Based Charities (CCA, Surfrider, Ocean Foundation, MOTE).

In addition to supporting great marine-related organizations, Saltwater noticed a significant problem in their industry, noting that most plastic beverage six‐pack rings end up in our oceans and pose a serious threat to wildlife. Together with an organization called Webelievers, Saltwater Brewery ideated, designed, tested and prototyped the first ever Edible Six Pack Rings. A six‐pack packaging, made with byproducts of the beer making process, that instead of killing animals, feeds them. They are also 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

The edible six pack campaign garnered local, national, and even international attention which was great for Saltwater Brewery but even better for our ocean and our marine life! Impressions on YouTube are nearly 500,000 and Saltwater Brewery had hundreds of traditional and digital media articles written about their innovative product and innovative corporate culture designed to give back and protect the ocean and marine life.

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Bahamas National Trust


The Bahamas National Trust exemplifies outstanding contributions towards promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/ or marine ecosystems through their business practices. This organization extends its reach through multiple parks located in Abaco, Andros, Conception Island, Crooked Island, and Eleuthera. Through the implementation of science projects, The Bahamas National Trust has produced a positive impact on marine conservation. The Bahamas National Trust addresses marine conservation through their Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs), Reverse the Decline (RTD) project, Conch-servation campaign, GIS unit, and National Park Research Projects. The execution of REAs helps with park planning, management activities, identification of new areas to protect, and gives the organization a more detailed understanding of the habitats health status and species of concern.

While REAs address the overall assessment of various habitats, the RTD focuses on one specific marine conservation issue – coral. This project is aimed at reversing the decline of key reef building coral species in The Bahamas. Reversing the decline of key reef building coral species is essential to sustaining fish populations. According to the World Resources Institute, “properly managed coral reefs can yield an average of 15 tons of fish and other seafood per square kilometer each year” (WRI). The RTD seeks to protect key coral reef building species, such as the branching elkhorn and staghorn corals. In addition, the RTD is a long-term project that aims to promote research, conservation, policy and education.

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