All-Star Heal the Bay Volunteer Awards
Usually this time of year, we are hosting our annual volunteer party (and eating donuts!) to celebrate Super Healers – an elite squad of Heal the Bay volunteers who have gone above and beyond. Even though we still can’t gather, we still can recognize and thank our volunteers. Let’s celebrate our 2021 Super Healers!
The past year was full of adversity and challenges. As our physical doors closed in March of 2020, Heal the Bay’s work never stopped. Even during times of uncertainty, it was no surprise that our connected and passionate community of volunteers continued to help out in a big way.
Although we are unable to gather all together for our annual volunteer recognition party, all of the staff at Heal the Bay felt it of the utmost importance to recognize the people we so greatly rely on to keep our ship smoothly sailing. From the depth of the ocean, we thank each and every one of of volunteers for your dedication and support.
Aquarium Aquarist Volunteers: Rachel Watson, Nadya Sharif, CJ Leede, and Elina Babay
The 2020 pandemic led to the Heal the Bay offices closing and the Heal the Bay Aquarium closing its doors to the public. However, during this time of masks and social distancing, there was one population that remained unaffected and (clearly) flippant about any of these health regulations – the fishes, crabs, sea stars, and local aquatic species of the Santa Monica Bay housed at Heal the Bay Aquarium. Despite LA County closures, these incredible animals still required daily care and support by the essential workers of Heal the Bay. With such strict limitations, it is without a doubt that we were able to uphold such world class care because of an All-Star team of volunteers that fared the tumultuous seas to help out. Rachel Watson, Nadya Sharif, CJ Leede, and Elina Babay deserve the highest recognition and Giant Squid sized gratitude for their dedication, hard work and passion in supporting the livelihood of the animals at Heal the Bay Aquarium. On behalf of Heal the Bay, myself (Laura Rink – Associate Director of Ops), and all the fishes of the deep blue sea, we give great thanks and appreciation.
Education Volunteers: Laura Schare and Crystal Sandoval
Extra special thanks to our rock star Education volunteers, Laura Schare and Crystal Sandoval (also a past intern), for continuously providing support from in-person field trips at the beginning of the year, through virtual camp programs, and now virtual field trips. Laura also helped put together and deliver one of our Knowledge Drops presentations on Community Science. She helped teach about iNaturalist, the City Nature Challenge, and how community science can help inspire everyday people to learn more about nature and science in genera.
Beach Programs: Club Heal the Bay at Santa Monica High School
Club Heal the Bay at SAMOHI is a student-led club dedicated to protect the health of our local shoreline and watersheds. Steps they’ve taken toward this goal include conducting beach cleanups, discussing the reduction of their carbon footprints, fundraising for reusable sanitary products, informing students about sorting out waste, and advocating for a stronger MS4 permit.
MPA Watch: John Wells
Since joining Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch Program in February 2020, John has conducted over 140 MPA Watch surveys, accounting for nearly HALF the total surveys completed last year! We are so grateful and fortunate to have this increased attention to our MPAs at a time when we have an exceptional need to record unprecedented changes in human recreational and consumptive behavior in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you so much John for your contribution, we couldn’t have done it without you!
A little more about this All Star:
John Wells has lived in four states, two of which are located near the ocean: Arizona, California, New York, and Colorado. When everyone else was moving in the opposite direction, John moved back to Los Angeles from Colorado Springs upon retirement in 2018. He earned degrees in Biochemistry from Cal State LA and UCLA, and ever the environmentalist, he worked as a chemical analyst measuring EPA Priority Pollutants in the 1980’s. More recently he explored careers in grounds and building maintenance and instruction in school bus driving. Due to a love of hiking and the great outdoors, the MPA Watch program is a natural fit for him, and the MPA Watch program remains an excellent source of safe, outdoor activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. He doesn’t consider performing MPA Watch survey’s a “work,” as he greatly enjoys doing them.
Speakers Bureau: David A. Weeshoff
After retiring in 2005, Dave became a volunteer at International Bird Rescue in San Pedro, CA where he assists in the care of sick and injured aquatic birds and directly observes the impacts of poor water quality on their health.
In February 2006, he joined the Speaker’s Bureau to address ocean pollution issues with audiences ranging from pre-school through adults, and has done so for over 21,000 people. He was a Regional Stakeholder and helped design the Marine Protected Areas off the Southern California coast.
He has traveled to the Arctic, Antarctic, and many other bird habitats worldwide, and shares his photos including penguins, whales, turtles, and polar bears with audiences to highlight the impacts of pollution on our natural world.
- Site Captain each Coastal Cleanup Day 2015 through 2020
- Awarded SuperHealer Award for 2006
- Awarded Jean Howell Award 2009
Science & Policy: Michelle Allen
Michelle Allen has been crucial in maintaining momentum for our LA River camera trapping project in partnership with SAMO and the NPS in 2020 and again in 2021. A dedicated volunteer, Michelle began with Heal the Bay in 2018 as part of the summer Stream Team where they collected water quality samples at two sites in Malibu with another exceptional Heal the Bay volunteer, Christina Huggs. The two made a great community science team and went on to explore another Heal the Bay science program, wildlife camera trapping along the LA River! Again, Michelle’s reliability and enthusiasm for science shown bright to keep our data collection going, even during the most unprecedented times. You are truly a pleasure to work with Michelle and we couldn’t have done it without you! We are so grateful and you continue to make such a positive impression on so many of us at Heal the Bay.
A little more about this All Star:
Starting as a student at CSUN, Michelle worked at Heal the Bay during the summer seasons under Dr. Katherine Pease on the Stream Team program collecting samples for water quality in the Malibu Creek area for the River Report card. Now finished with her B.S. in Environmental and Occupational Health and a minor in Sustainability, she works part time and interns for Food and Water Watch on the Take Back the Tap program. She is a Fellow and works with a few different schools all around the country to ban single-use plastic bottles on campuses. Michelle wants to make as much a difference in her community and get as involved in any way in all things environmental. In her free time, she loves to run, dance, go on long hikes, and spend time with loved ones whenever she can. Podcasts are what she listens to while she cleans her house. And, her very cute fluffy kitty’s name is Tamale.
Shout out to those volunteer educators who led or co-led our some of our Knowledge Drop sessions! Stiv Wilson, Dave Weeshoff, Shona Ganguly, Tom Ford, Dana Muray, John Dorsey, Laura Schare, and Brook Peterson.