National Marine Sanctuaries Volunteer Programs

Volunteers help to ensure marine sanctuaries remain America's underwater treasures for future generations. Volunteers participate in a wide variety of activities including diving, whale identification, beach cleanups, water quality monitoring, collecting field observations and surveys, acting as educational docents at visitor center, and wildlife monitoring. National marine sanctuary volunteers work in close collaboration with many other groups in their local communities including boat operators, academic institutions, federal agencies, tribal agencies, NGOs, and researchers and many more.

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Olympic Coast Discovery Center

Welcome to Olympic Coast Discovery Center your friendly and free public visitor center in Port Angeles, WA, serving Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! Docents interpret the sanctuary’s natural and cultural resources and programs to local and international guests 10:00am-5:00pm daily between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend and then weekends in the fall. Interested in sharing your love for the ocean while meeting new people and learning more about our area? Inquire about our spring training in April and May to become a docent!

Volunteer working the front desk of the Olympic Coast Discovery Center
Volunteer working the front desk of the Olympic Coast Discovery Center

Volunteers working the front desk of the Olympic Coast Discovery Center

Washington Coast Cleanup

Join the Washington Coast Cleanup on Saturday, April 25th 2015 to help protect the beaches and wildlife you love and cherish! Get your friends and family together to participate in the state’s largest annual cleanup, with over fifty beaches to choose from along the coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Washington Coast Cleanup began as a series of separate beach cleanups held every April in celebration of Earth Day. From 2000-2012 a total of over 10,729 volunteers collected about 320 tons of marine debris! Sign up online to participate in this year’s WA Coast Cleanup at:

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is a proud co-sponsor of the event.

Volunteers cleaning up the beach
Volunteer removing debris from the beach

Volunteers participating in the Washington Coast Cleanup

Volunteer Exchange

Volunteers from OCNMS have hosted and participated in volunteer exchanges with three other sites in the National Marine Sanctuary System. Most recently they organized an exchange with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, hosting Californians in July 2014 on Olympic Peninsula in conjunction with OCNMS's 20th anniversary celebrations. OCNMS volunteers then traveled to Monterey Bay in February 2015 to learn about their west coast sister sanctuary and returned with a greater understanding of the sanctuary system as a whole, and increased enthusiasm to share their new knowledge and experiences. In the past OCNMS volunteers have also visited Thunder Bay (2010) and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale (2007) national marine sanctuaries.

Volunteers staffing a booth
Volunteer posing along the coastline of olympic coast
Volunteers learning about monterey bay
Volunteer in kayaks recieving instructions

Volunteers from Olympic Coast and Monterey Bay participating in the volunteer exchange

Volunteer of the Year

Volunteers are integral to the success of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and we are proud of our dedicated team of volunteers, who contribute up to 20,000 of hours each year! Our volunteers help us achieve our mission through protecting our natural and cultural resources through responsible stewardship and by promoting understanding through public outreach and education. Meet Sally and Paul Parker, Volunteers of the Year for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in 2014!

Sally and Paul Parker volunteer extensively as a citizen science team collecting data for the NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring Program and for Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST). Both programs are Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary's core programs to use citizen scientists to collect information to inform sanctuary management and engage private citizens to improve awareness of ocean health and inspire stewardship of marine resources. Sally and Paul are also instrumental as local stewards in their community at Neah Bay, participating in the fall and spring Washington Coastal Cleanups sponsored by CoastSavers each year.

Paul Parker
Sally Parker

Sally and Paul Parker, Olympic Coast volunteer of the year

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with Olympic Coast

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Stewardship through Citizen Science at the Coastal Discovery Center

The Coastal Discovery Center in San Simeon Bay is an interpretive center run by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) in collaboration with California State Parks. The Center offers interactive exhibits and education programs that highlight the natural and cultural history of the area and promote stewardship through hands-on experiences such as the plankton citizen science program. Here, participants help MBNMS staff collect water samples off of San Simeon Pier, along with chemical and physical measurements, then go back to the Center to examine life in a drop of water using a video-microscope.  Once magnified, tiny algae and animals come to life, and the beginning of the ocean food chain is realized for the first time!

In addition to their important role in the food chain and as producers of oxygen world-wide, some plankton can produce a toxin harmful to wildlife and humans. For this reason the California Department of Public Health is interested in the data our citizen scientists collect, and results and samples are sent to a laboratory to be further analyzed. 

By visiting the Coastal Discovery Center in San Simeon, citizens of all ages can participate in this state-wide plankton monitoring program while learning the importance of keeping all life in the ocean, no matter how small, healthy for future generations.

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin

For more information on education programs and citizen science programs offered at the Coastal Discovery Center in San Simeon, call 805-927-6575 or go to:

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards

The Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards (S4) collect data on 50 cruises a year, 5 on the our Research Vessel Auk and 45 on whale watch vessels. These 80 citizen scientists donate 3,000 hours a year and document more than 25,000 bird sightings a year.  The Stewards raise awareness and increase our understanding of local birds. The data will also be used as part of a regional effort to model coastal and ocean ecosystems along the east coast of the U.S. and Canada.

This 27th Stellwagen Christmas Bird Count took place this December. Birders had favorable conditions: although overcast skies prevailed, the lack of glare and the almost flat sea conditions led to excellent sightings and some interesting results.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

people on a glass bottom boat looking at a shipwreck
Sanctuary Ambassadors volunteer leading tour aboard a glass bottom boat. Photo: TBNMS/NOAA

Sanctuary Ambassadors

Every summer, Sanctuary Ambassadors volunteer to lead tours aboard a glass bottom boat that carries passengers on an exploration of the historic shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS). By the end of the season, these volunteers will have donated nearly 1,000 hours and connected with over 10,000 visitors who love the rich, maritime history of the Great Lakes!

(Photo: NOAA, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary) #SeeShipwrecks

Research Collection

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary jointly manages one of the largest collections of Great Lakes maritime history in existence, donated by Pat Labadie and June Perry in 2003.  In addition, TBNMS houses the states maritime archaeology collection headed by Wayne Lusardi. Volunteers help with research collection by organizing and archiving research material, preserving historic photographs and articles, and conserving maritime artifacts.

National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa

volunteers line up for a group photo at the Healthy People-Healthy Ocean Family Fun Day
Healthy People-Healthy Ocean Family Fun Day

Healthy People – Healthy Ocean (Sanctuary Wellness)

The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa hosted the "Healthy People-Healthy Ocean Family Fun Day" on Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - an occasion to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Sanctuary Wellness –Tae Bo Fitness at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center.

The event attracted close to 400 individuals, including children, each of whom received additional factual information about the importance of marine conservation as well as pointers on fitness and healthy eating/living. Fitness demos from the different fitness groups on island, (Hot Hula, Zumba, Body Combat, MMA, and Tae Bo), were enjoyed to the fullest by everyone. The Kids' Korner was buzzing with an array of fun games.

The sanctuary was fortunate to have over 20 volunteers that assisted from instructing, demonstrating, and manning game booths for the children. They also measured body mass index, provided consultations, and offered nutrition tips. Among the volunteers and associations that were gracious enough to give up their Saturday were, the American Samoa Red Cross,  staff and students of the American Samoa Community College's Community and Natural Resources Division (Land Grant Program), coaches/instructors from KABOOM (athletic club), nurses, and dietitians.
volunteers line up for a group photo at the Healthy People-Healthy Ocean Family Fun Day volunteers line up for a group photo at the Healthy People-Healthy Ocean Family Fun Day
Official greeting for the arrival of the Hōkūle‘a and it's support vessel Hikianalia

Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage - Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia Arrival

On August 21, 2014 American Samoa received the Hōkūle‘a and it's support vessel Hikianalia on their Mālama Honua Voyage that will take them around the world by 2017. The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa organized the official greeting with a traditional ‘ava ceremony, a feast, and performances to honor their arrival.

The greeting procession involved two traditional Samoan fautasi longboats that seat 40 crew members each and 4 outrigger canoes to escort the vessels, and transport the crews of Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia to shore.  A delegation of chiefs welcomed and honored the crews with an ‘ava ceremony, while performances by Swains island community and the American Samoa Community College Samoan Studies dance troop followed.

The event drew hundreds of spectators from across the island and this momentous occasion would not have been a success without the time and service provided by the 425 members of the community, the government of American Samoa, and the assistance of the SSV Robert C. Seamans