Our Ocean Heroes finalists love the ocean, that’s clear from the work they do. But each finalist has their own unique story about what inspired their love for the oceans and their need to protect the waters and the life in them. You’ve met our finalists, now get to know them better then vote for your favorites.
We asked each of our finalists about what inspired them to get involved in ocean conservation, and here’s what they had to say:
Sara Brenes: I have always loved the ocean and especially sharks. I watched the movie Sharkwater and I was blown away by what was happening to sharks. I had no idea, and all I could think about was ways to help them. I asked my mom if I could start a charity and she did not realize I was serious. But I kept bothering her and bothering her and speaking to people about it and then it happened. I just could not imagine a world without oceans. I love being in the ocean and I cannot imagine our world without ocean life. I want to be able to share this love with my children one day and other people as well. I decided to make it my mission to educate people and I learned I could help to change people's opinions, especially by having shark encounters myself and sharing my experiences.
The Calvineers: Editor’s Note: This message comes from Bill McWeeny, the Principal Investigator and mentor for the Calvineers. The Calvineers grow up in Castine, Maine, surrounded by the waters of Penobscot Bay. Many of the students' parents attended and/or work at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. The ocean is very much a part of these students' lives. I use my connections to the Ocean in their classes weekly, and I have them read Rachel Carson. The first generation Calvineers formed the volunteer project in 2004 because they were interested in animal rights. This theme is strong in the present Calvineers. This group has many reasons for being inspired in ocean conservation, from wanting to work closely with wild animals to looking for ways of expressing a love of nature (through anatomy and art form).
Sam Harris: I was born to do it. I don't know I'm pretty sure I'm half shark. My heart just says do it. I have known this since I was a baby.
James Hemphill: I started taking an interest in wildlife when I was five years old hiking in the marine estuary trails and cypress swamps at First Landing State Park with my dad. The fact that I lived in a coastal city and vacationed in the Outer Banks sparked my passion and respect for the ocean. I swam and played at the beach and Chesapeake Bay and kayaked the Currituck Sound since I can remember. I learned the importance of marine ecology at a young age. This is my home. Every day I see and smell the water. If I don’t do something to clean it up, who will?
Teakahla WhiteCloud: I was inspired watching my parents and seeing the baby hatchlings dying because of artificial lights and no one was doing anything about it here. I thought we should help because we need to keep sea turtles on our Earth. So if I have to make sure they live still in the oceans then I have to put all the hatchlings that I can into the ocean and ask other kids to help.
Rick Steiner: At the age of 21 (1975), I first came to Alaska on a NOAA ship surveying the Katmai coast, and that's when I fell in head-over-heels in love with Alaska and the oceans. Over the following decades, I witnessed the continual degradation of ocean ecosystems, punctuated by the overnight disaster of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. This intensified my outspoken, science-based advocacy in Alaska, the nation, and globally.
Michele Hunter: Upon visiting Pacific Marine Mammal Center (called Friends of the Sea Lion at that time) over 20 years ago, I was moved and inspired by the good work that this organization was doing. I came back the next weekend to visit and inquired about volunteering. The Director at that time, Judi Jones said she had a feeling about me and moved me up the waiting list and I started as a Sunday morning volunteer.
Donald Voss: I was wounded in Vietnam and used swimming and scuba as the device that allowed me to walk again when it was thought to be unlikely. I have over 10,000 logged dives and have been to most exotic dive locations around the world. There is no place that is not damaged by humans and human trash. I have fashioned a reasonable method to remove this trash and restore the beauty that was there to assist my soul and body when I needed some help. I have a passion to reverse this problem. This is something I can do that matters, and I have the time to do it.
Kristofor Lofgren: I love the ocean. There is nothing that I enjoy more than living, playing, and being near its power. The ocean is the single most valuable natural resource we have on this planet. To not be involved in taking care of it seems negligent at best.
Dave Rauschkolb: The 2009 Florida Legislature passing a bill in the House of Representatives to open up Florida's waters to near and off shore drilling. I am a lifelong surfer and am passionate about the preservation and importance of every drop of water I have surfed in.
Hardy Jones: I was originally inspired by the works of Jacques Cousteau. But the real inspiration came when I began diving in the late 1950s and saw the wonders of the ocean world. I have been sustained by feedback from people young and old around the world to the messages we offer via film, books, and internet.
Voting will be open until Wednesday, July 11th. Vote for your favorite finalists today!
Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Cousteau Society,digitalmedia.net, NOAA, NOAA, Oceana/Keith Ellenbogen, bobmccaughey.com, Oceana/Carlos Suarez, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Oceana/Dustin Cranor, Oceana/Carlos Suarez, Oceana/Keith Ellenbogen (middle)