ocean hero finalists
In a cavernous warehouse in Louisiana’s bayou country, hundreds of oiled birds are getting a chance at survival after the BP oil disaster threatened their lives. Most of them are brown pelicans, Louisana’s state bird, along with some gulls, herons, gannets and terns. Until a couple of weeks ago, there weren’t many birds in this makeshift facility backed up against the Mississippi. But with the oil slick’s expansion closer to shore, the number of birds affected exploded – and the rescue center is racing to keep up.
The center is run by Jay Holcomb, and is primarily staffed by his International Bird Rescue Research Center team. Today, I visited Jay along with Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz, and got a firsthand look at the critical work that Jay and his team are doing.
We were also on hand to congratulate Jay on winning Oceana’s 2010 Ocean Heroes Award. He was unable to attend the award ceremony in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago because he was too busy doing the work of an ocean hero – saving birds in the Gulf.
Here’s a video of Jackie talking to Jay about his work and what happens to the birds after they're released. You can hear the helicopters going out to the spill site overhead.
The 2010 Junior Ocean Hero Winners are the Shark Finatics, a group of students at Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York who have raised more than $2,000 for shark research and conservation organizations around the world - and an immeasurable amount of awareness about shark finning.
We spoke to the Finatics' teacher, Robin Culler, who was overjoyed to hear that her students had been named Ocean Heroes.
How does it feel to win this award?
Words can't even begin to describe how it feels winning this award! The Finatics have many friends and fans, around the world, who have been such a great support since the very beginning. The kids can't even begin to comprehend the magnitude of all of this. I'm not sure I can either!
It seems we are living in a time when the oceans really need a hero.
Because of the situation in the Gulf, oceans and our environment are making major daily news. To be winning recognition for all of our work in shark conservation at this time is extremely poignant.
It is unfortunate that it often takes a catastrophe, such as the oil spill, for people to sit up and pay attention to the state of our oceans. I doubt the average person even knows that over 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from our oceans. Unhealthy oceans will trickle down to unhealthy us.
This year’s Adult Ocean Hero is Jay Holcomb, the Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). As I wrote a few weeks ago, Jay is down on the Gulf Coast leading his organization’s efforts to clean up oiled birds from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
How does it feel to win this award?
In a nut shell, it feels really great. I never did the work I do expecting to be awarded for it. My career stems from a passion that has burned in me since I was a child. Being recognized for helping to protect and represent the oceans more or less justifies the sacrifices I have made in my life for my work.
The timing is pretty incredible, huh?
It’s ironic and poignant that I won this award while I am in the midst of what is looking like the greatest oil spill disaster of all time, and that of course is polluting the ocean and the ecosystems within it.
The impact on the ocean and the world will be severe. This we know. But as horrible as this spill is, the timing may be perfect. This disaster is an opportunity to make the point that the ocean systems are the lifeblood of life on earth as we know it.
Look at what our quest for oil has done, and if this does not evoke a change in how we "fuel" our world then nothing will. We are ALL responsible for this. Not just BP or the oil industry or our government.
This is the eleventh and final post in a series about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Rounding out our Ocean Heroes finalist series is Diana Gonzalez, who became an ocean activist by accident -- and is making a big difference.
As a high school freshman last year, she was signed up for a marine science course, but decided she wanted to take choir instead. Her counselor said it wasn’t possible, so she kept the class.
She's been singing the ocean's praises ever since.
This is the tenth in a series of posts about the 2010 Ocean Hero finalists.
Today’s featured finalist already has an impressive resume, and she’s still in high school.
For the past three years, high school junior Bonnie Lei has been conducting independent research on the population structure and evolutionary history of sea slugs to create a better understanding of biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean.
She has reclassified the tropical Spurilla genus, identified a possible new species, and she even presented her research at the international American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) annual meetings in 2009 and 2010.
“With the escalating loss of marine species comes the loss of stability and productivity in entire ecosystems,” she wrote in an essay for us. “It will be impossible to protect these species unless a lucid picture of the distribution, genetic differences, and uniqueness of the populations today is provided.”
This is the ninth in a series of posts about the 2010 Ocean Hero finalists.
The Shark Finatics are a group of students at Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York. Green Chimneys is renowned for helping emotionally injured children through animal-assisted therapy.
Teacher Robin Culler has worked in the Speech Department for over 11 years. When she read a book about sharks aloud to her students, they were horrified to learn about the brutal practice of shark finning and vowed to tell as many people as they could.
The students, who soon became known as the Shark Finatics, decided to "adopt" a shark. They helped make shark magnets to raise money for their first shark, Jonny, from Fox Shark Research. In 2009, they were proud adoptive parents to 21 sharks.
Through various projects, they have raised more than $2,000 for shark research and conservation organizations around the world. And they have reached out to hundreds of people about the threats facing sharks.
This is the eighth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Gillnet fisheries use hundreds of yards of fishing net that remain in the water for days or longer, ensnaring sea turtles and other species incidentally.
Carolyn was inspired to act after visiting Jean Beasley’s sea turtle hospital in Topsail Island, NC several years ago. She decided to undertake a grass roots advocacy effort to help save sea turtles as her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
This is the seventh in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Last week I highlighted our adult Ocean Hero finalists, so this week it’s the juniors’ turn. First up is 13-year-old Ayla Besemer, who may just be the next Al Gore -- for the oceans. (Except she is way cuter.)
Inspired by the beauty of the creatures in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” 13-year-old Ayla and her friend Simon created “Save Our Seas,” an interactive presentation kids everywhere can give that highlights ocean threats and 15 actions kids can take today.
To date, Ayla has given her “Save Our Seas” presentation to more than 1,500 people in seven states and the Bahamas.
This is the sixth in a series of posts about the Ocean Heroes finalists.
We’re wrapping up our week of Adult Ocean Hero finalists with Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols.
J.’s love of sea turtles started when he was a kid, growing out of a dual obsession with dinosaurs and the ocean.
That curious kid grew up to become an ocean activist and Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences. He has authored more than 50 scientific papers, book chapters, articles and reports on sea turtle ecology and ocean conservation. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Time and Newsweek, among others.
This is the fifth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
Today’s featured finalist, Sara Bayles, is the author of The Daily Ocean blog, which documents her experiment to see how much debris she can collect from her local beach in 365 non-consecutive days.
For 20 minutes at a time she has removed more than 450 pounds of trash from a beach in Santa Monica in just over 110 days. On The Daily Ocean, Sara exposes our dependence on single-use plastic while challenging her readers to make small shifts in their own lives.