Celebrating our 2020 Volunteers of the Year

By Jen Mendez

December 2020

Congratulations to 2020 Volunteers of the Year for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries! Announcing our Volunteers of the Year is our way of saying thank you to these extraordinary people who take time out of their lives for the betterment of America’s underwater parks. With countless projects such as working in close collaboration with groups in local communities, cleanups, field observations, and many more, our volunteers are an integral part of our sanctuary programs.

Al Moe — Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Al Moe

Volunteering for over 15 years at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Al Moe has supported multiple projects and programs such as assisting in engine repairs to the Lady Michigan glass-bottom boat, securing a major property donation to the Friends of Thunder Bay from The Nature Conservancy, and garnering community support for extensive development plans for the riverfront adjacent to the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center for water recreation and education.

Arianna DiMucci — Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

Arianna DiMucci

With experience in conservation of underwater archaeological materials, Arianna DiMucci provided invaluable support for Monitor National Marine Sanctuary’s cultural heritage preservation program with The Mariners’ Museum and Park. She assisted with the bore cleaning of USS Monitor’s shell guns, helped with behind-the-scenes conservation laboratory tours, object documentation, cleaning hull elements of the shipwreck, and assisting with the re-support initiative of the ironclad’s iconic rotating gun turret in 2019. All these activities, along with many others, help further the mission of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and The Mariners' Museum to preserve artifacts from USS Monitor.

Aurora Avallone — Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Aurora Avallone

Aurora Avallone volunteers for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and has taken on a number of roles engaging tens of thousands of children and adults through sanctuary programs, such as the Sanctuary Sea Scouts and Shore to Sanctuary, helping families and students understand the importance of the ocean and their impacts. In the past year alone, Aurora has served as Sanctuary Advisory Council Youth Primary Seat, an official sanctuary ambassador, Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Steward Program citizen science assistant, and steering committee spokesperson successfully advocating for the town of Scituate to purchase coastal land. Aurora’s dedicated efforts forward every part of Stellwagen’s mission, from increasing awareness, support, and protection, to making sanctuaries great places to work.

Bruce Popham — Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Bruce Popham

Bruce Popham joined the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council in 2006 and has represented the recreational fishing and boating industries as the owner of Marathon Boatyard, one of the only designated “clean boatyards” in the Florida Keys. During his time on the Sanctuary Advisory Council, he served as the chair and helped the sanctuary and the council navigate important issues including the first comprehensive review of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s boundaries, zones, regulations, and management plan. Bruce also played an integral leadership role in transitioning Sanctuary Friends of the Florida Keys into what is now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and is an essential community liaison in the sanctuary’s Restoration Blueprint campaign, utilizing his long-standing reputation and relationships in the Florida Keys to garner additional support for the sanctuary, which is home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America.

Professors Bryan Mossing and Benjamin Curran — Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Bryan Mossing
Benjamin Curran

Professors Bryan Mossing and Benjamin Curran of Savannah Technical College volunteered to make the ambitious vision for a large exhibit for the Gray’s Reef Expo: Celebrating NOAA’s 50th Anniversary event a reality. Using it as a teaching tool, the professors led their students and volunteers in building a 120-foot-long, 8-foot-tall curved exhibit that included 30 sections and 60 panels highlighting the wonders of the sanctuary, which saved Gray’s Reef tens of thousands of dollars. Thanks to these two innovative and inspirational professors, Savannah Technical College created a quality product that will interpret the resources of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary to the public for many years to come.

Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez — Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez

One of the first volunteer divers for Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez has participated in water quality cruises to maintain instrumentation, biological monitoring cruises to collect coral reef data, and provided invaluable deck support to ensure the safety of the dive team. Fernando is currently a graduate student at Texas A&M University at Galveston, balancing course work, his own research, and teaching assistantships with volunteering for the sanctuary. In addition to being dedicated to his education, he demonstrates dedication to the National Marine Sanctuary System, volunteering for many multi-day research cruises, training support, and education/outreach events in Flower Garden Banks.

Kyla-Marie Turner — Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Kyla-Marie Turner

Kyla-Marie Turner is a kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiian), who became a volunteer for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in June 2019 with goals to assist with group education, events, and helping students from Kamehameha Schools learn ways to give back to their community. Working with teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade, she helped create an exhibition with art pieces created by students that reflected their own success as leaders as a way to honor an elder in their life that has greatly influenced them. With the theme “Child of Promise” and the cultural focus of relationship to land, ocean, and kuleana (responsibility), she aims to bring the community together to learn about their cultural connections to the Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Robert ‘Bob’ Gladden — Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Robert Gladden

Bob Gladden has been a primary player over the last decade maintaining our presence in Kona as an entanglement response and community outreach volunteer for Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. With his support, the sanctuary has done the highest number of large whale entanglement response training of any region (based on the 2017 and 2018 national reports), and he built the sanctuary’s first underwater pole-camera system. Bob’s award of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary Volunteer of the Year is a tribute to his dedication and passion helping the sanctuary in its mission to protect humpback whales and their habitat.

Zander Brennen and Wendy Niles — Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Zander Brennen and Wendy Niles

Zander and Wendy have traveled more than 1,200 miles and contributed over 200 hours without missing a single survey in over five years, to monitor and collect data for the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary beaches through the Beach Watch program. Being true citizen scientists, they collected data on a pinniped haul-out in Mendocino County years before they joined Beach Watch and shared their decades of data with the sanctuary science team who found they had documented a new elephant seal breeding colony not previously known to NOAA scientists. Thanks to Zander and Wendy, NOAA now has documentation for one of the northern-most breeding colonies for elephant seals along the West Coast.

Dick Ogg — Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Dick Ogg

Being a member of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and a commercial fishing vessel owner and operator, Dick has provided a critical link between the fishing community and sanctuary management by sharing information about commercial fishing, gear innovations, and whale entanglements with gear. He volunteered to be a member of California Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to reduce the entanglement of whales in fishing gear and due to his influence, the Bodega Bay crabbing fleet was the first port to recommend delaying the opening of crab season to limit whale entanglement in crab pot lines. Dick also participated in sanctuary overflights to look for whales, and used his boat and crew to retrieve crab pots abandoned in the sanctuary.

Dr. Jan Newton — Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Dr. Jan Newton

Dr. Jan Newton is the senior principal oceanographer for the University of Washington's Applied Physics Lab, the executive director and principal investigator of the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, and co-chair for the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network. She joined the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council as a way of sharing knowledge about marine ecosystems with hopes to enable protection of the Olympic Coast sanctuary through facilitating informed management decisions. She is a vocal champion of the designation of the sanctuary as a sentinel site for ocean acidification (OASes), participating in the Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification working group, which achieved the goal of OASes classification for the sanctuary.

Claire Cappelle — National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa

Claire Cappelle

Claire Cappelle volunteers at National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa and has assisted with various special events at the sanctuary including the Fautasi Heritage Symposium, Exploration Vessel Nautilus telepresence events, Get Into Your Sanctuary program, Fagota Mo Taeao Fishing Tournament, and the remotely operated vehicle high school workshops and competitions. Claire has been a major help with archival research for maritime cultural landscape history which was used for the new exhibit in the rotunda room of the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center, and draft fautasi magazine. She also visited the local public library and local newspaper company to pore through historical fautasi documents and articles, and has written narrative summaries now included in the Fautasi Heritage magazine.

Kim Akeman — Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Kim Akeman

Kim Akeman embodies the mission of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in her work as a Bay Net volunteer. She is devoted to educating and informing coastal visitors about the marine life that inhabits Monterey Bay and keeps watch over the harbor seals that pup on Monterey Peninsula beaches by monitoring births, photographing moms and pups, and alerting local enforcement officials to issues concerning harbor seals. By spending over a thousand hours each year, over the past 10 years, Kim makes a noticeable impact in the number of people that hear about the Monterey Bay sanctuary and the protections for harbor seals and other marine life.

Linda Windsor — Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

Linda Windsor

Linda Windsor joined the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps five years ago, enhancing the experiences and safety of thousands of visitors to Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park. Linda excels at providing interpretive services to visitors and is involved with different operations including interpretation, training other volunteers, maintaining interpretive materials and displays, and providing general assistance to campers, day visitors, and island staff. In 2017 she participated in a five-day sanctuary sponsored National Association of Interpretation’s Certified Interpretive Guide training, furthering her skills working with the public.

Congratulations again to the National Marine Sanctuaries Volunteers of the Year for 2020! Our amazing volunteers contribute significantly to the success of our sanctuaries. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for all the dedication and support they have provided over the years. America’s underwater parks would not be the same without you.

Jen Mendez is a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine and a Virtual Student Federal Service Intern for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.