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Announcing the 2016 Sea to Shining Sea Award Winner

by Tracy Hajduk and Oren Lieber-Kotz

November 2016

Carolyn Skinder guiding young naturalists as they look through binoculars
2016 Sea to Shining Sea Award Winner Carolyn Skinder guides young naturalists in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: NOAA

For four years, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has recognized outstanding achievement in the fields of interpretation and environmental education by presenting the Sea to Shining Sea Award for Excellence in Interpretation and Education to employees, contractors and volunteers. The award recognizes demonstrated successes in advancing ocean and climate literacy and conservation through national marine sanctuaries. It also recognizes awardees’ innovation and creative solutions for successfully enhancing the public's understanding of the National Marine Sanctuary System and the resources it protects.

This year, the award is presented to Carolyn Skinder for Public Engagement in Wildlife Viewing.

Photo of Carolyn Skinder and her award
Photo of Carolyn Skinder and her award
2016 Sea to Shining Sea Award Winner Carolyn Skinder accepted the award at the National Association of Interpretation (NAI) Conference. Photos: NOAA

The growth of the northern elephant seal population in California is an ocean conservation success story. The seals’ population increase, as well as their engaging social behavior and sheer size, has made viewing northern elephant seals in their natural habitat one of the most sought-after experiences in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s southern region. To maximize the visitor experience while also ensuring the safety of seals and visitors, the sanctuary faced a serious interpretive challenge.

Photo of many elephant seals lying on the sand at a beach
Northern elephant seals crowd the beach at Piedras Blancas in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Chad King/NOAA

Carolyn Skinder, the sanctuary’s southern region program coordinator, was up to the task. To creatively address that challenge, she collaborated with partners, including California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo marketing students, to create a poster and campaign to provide a clear, engaging message on safe wildlife viewing. In addition, she used feedback from local businesses on tourist needs to craft brochures and a one-minute wildlife viewing video. The success of the poster and other outreach materials was demonstrated by the number of partners and other business that requested and displayed them. Carolyn continues to work with state and federal agencies, as well as local conservation groups and the tourism bureau to create clear and consistent messaging.

Photo of an elephant seal laying on a man with the caption dont be that guy
Carolyn collaborated with marketing students from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo to create a poster and campaign about safe wildlife viewing. Image courtesy of CalPoly SLO.

The Sea to Shining Sea Award was presented in November 2016 at the National Association of Interpretation (NAI) Conference in Corpus Christi, TX during the federal awards ceremony. Tracy Hajduk, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries national education coordinator, presented the award.

Congratulations to Carolyn Skinder for her excellence and dedication in enhancing ocean and climate literacy in national marine sanctuaries and enhancing public understanding of the National Marine Sanctuary System and the resources it protects through Public Engagement in Wildlife Viewing.