Nature Festival Promotes Local Economy, Conservation
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary co-sponsored the Point Reyes Birding and Nature Festival in 2011, drawing more than 1,000 participants to the Point Reyes community for the annual event. The festival, which included lectures and field trips to local destinations, offered wildlife enthusiasts from near and far opportunities to observe and learn from experts in the field. Businesses benefited from tourist dollars infused into the local economy prior to the busy summer season. Sanctuary staff highlighted sanctuary habitats at hotspots for observing pelagic wildlife, particularly seabirds, and the importance of healthy offshore habitats.
Channel Islands Volunteer Program, MERITO Initiative Staff Receive Awards
The Channel Islands Naturalist Corps received the Take Pride in America Outstanding Federal Volunteer Program Award, recognizing 140 specially trained volunteers who educate visitors and conduct citizen science, reaching more than 500,000 people on whale watching tours, island hikes and community events. Also in 2011, Rocio Lozano-Knowlton received the National Ocean Service’s Team Member of the Year award for her leadership of the sanctuary’s MERITO (Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans) initiative, providing bilingual education and outreach to thousands of underprivileged students.
Sanctuary Advisory Council Contributes Nearly 2,000 Hours of Service
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council took on an increased level of engagement in the sanctuary management plan scoping and review process, establishing nine working groups to identify priority issues and provide recommendations in the management of the sanctuary. The working groups’ task was to find gaps in current resource protection efforts and identify possible roles the sanctuary could play in the future. Meanwhile, direct representation for the islands of Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i was added to the council and the council’s Youth Representative participated in the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Ocean for Life program.
Gray’s Reef Film Festival Brings Ocean Issues to the Big Screen
The 2011 Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival in Savannah, Ga., focused on two critical issues for the marine environment: ocean acidification as a result of climate change and the growing problem of marine debris. The free annual festival was held at two venues: the Jepson Center for the Arts and the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Trustees Theater. In conjunction with the films, the Telfair Museums-Jepson Center for the Arts held an exhibit by noted landscape photographer Sal Lopes, called “The Water Project.” Approximately 3,000 people attended the multi-media festival events.
Volunteer Exchange Broadens Understanding of Maritime Cultures
Olympic Coast Discovery Center volunteers and staff participated in the second part of a two-year reciprocal exchange with volunteers from Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In 2011, the group explored the geology, economy and maritime history of the Alpena area. The visit culminated with participation in Maritime Fest, an annual event drawing more than 10,000 people to the Thunder Bay sanctuary. As a result of the exchange, volunteers who serve in visitor centers in both sanctuaries are better equipped to explain the significance and diversity of maritime cultures in these two special places.
Stellwagen Ambassadors Go Forth to Inform the Public
In 2011, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary established a formal volunteer program that reached more than 1,700 people through library programs, public talks and outreach events. Stellwagen Ambassadors are individuals who volunteer for extensive training and then serve as a docent corps, representing the sanctuary around the region. One new volunteer effort, called “A Child’s Sanctuary,” brings ambassadors to the Scituate Library to educate young children and their parents about sanctuary resources. The sanctuary is planning to expand this program to other communities. In addition to sanctuary ambassadors, five college interns provided technical assistance in 2011 to sanctuary staff while gaining field experience.
Team OCEAN Volunteers Make a Difference in Monterey Bay
Volunteers are integral to carrying out the sanctuaries’ mission, from helping monitor natural resources to educating the public. Team OCEAN is a volunteer kayaker-outreach program whose goal is to reduce disturbance to marine mammals in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Since 2000, volunteers have communicated with more than 63,000 visitors on the water. A 2011 study found that the percentage of kayakers causing disturbance to resting sea otters was significantly lower when Team OCEAN volunteers were present. Recommendations from this study include expanding the presence of Team OCEAN volunteers to educate the public about how to view wildlife in a responsible manner.
Volunteer Divers Assist with Thunder Bay Sanctuary Research
2011 ushered in the first-ever NOAA certified volunteer divers for Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The shipwreck Montana was documented with the help of members of the National Association of Black SCUBA Divers (NABS). NABS divers began the project by completing the requirements to be certified NOAA Science Equivalent Divers. They also participated in tutorials on multi-beam sonar survey and artifact conservation. Thunder Bay has been working with NABS members for several years in order to create a strong group of sanctuary volunteers to assist in maritime heritage resource protection at Thunder Bay and throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System.
Ocean Guardian Schools Remove Thousands of Pounds of Trash, Non-Native Plants
NOAA’s Ocean Guardian Schools ended the 2010-2011 school year on a high note, with more than 2,000 pounds of trash removed from local beaches, single-use plastics banned at school functions, and more than 75,000 square feet of non-native plants removed from the environment. In its third year, the Ocean Guardian School program worked with 25 schools throughout California to encourage students and teachers to make a commitment to the protection and conservation of their local watersheds, the world's ocean, and special ocean places like national marine sanctuaries. Other program accomplishments include distributing reusable bags and water bottles, installing recycling bins, and planting native flora.