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MBNMS Volunteers of the Year 2011 Chris Miller and Sharon McGuire


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Chris Miller and Sharon McGuire receiving award
From left to right: Chris Miller, Sam Farr, and Sharon McGuire

Chris Miller and Sharon McGuire are BeachCOMBERS volunteers that walk an assigned beach and look for beach-cast birds and marine mammals. For any and all birds or marine mammals, information such as species, size, condition must be collected as well as any samples or whole carcasses collected. As part of the BeachCOMBERS program, Chris and Sharon are also called upon to get assistance for wounded or sick marine mammals, and collect tar balls or evidence of oil.

Chris Miller and Sharon McGuire working on the beach
Sharon McGuire and Chris Miller

Chris and Sharon have often gone beyond the call of duty in collecting carcasses during die-off events, calling in strandings, and finding sea otters. But more than that, they often take the initiative to ask critical questions, seek understanding of unusual findings on the beach (e.g. "green stuff", helicopter activity, animal rituals), attended enrichment events and show great enthusiasm for the protection of the marine animals we study and the sanctuary as a whole. They bring in banded birds, call in stranded marine mammals and identify and report unusual species. An example of one of their most interesting finds was a Cuvier's Beaked whale – a rare and unique species. Little is known of its biology ecology, food habits, so specimens like these are precious and valuable to the scientific community.

Chris and Sharon are passionate about this work, they have gained skills and knowledge to make informed and critical decisions while on the beach. Providing timely information about what is happening to resource agencies and oil spill responders. They are involved and integral to this program. Chris and Sharon have their "Finger on the pulse of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary" every month as they do their survey – helping to detect unusual mortality events including oiling, entanglement, harmful algal blooms, and marine debris.

Chris and Sharon are incredible spokeswomen for the sanctuary and the BeachCOMBERS program; they engage others and write letters. When hearing of the loss of funding of the BeachCOMBERS program two years ago, Sharon took the initiative to contact the head of NOAA, Jane Lubchencko in support of this program. She eloquently wrote of the director's call to improve communication between scientists and the average citizen and how BeachCOMCERS fills this role. She spoke to the need of the citizen to be informed, the familiar with the places we love so we can monitor change, and to make informed decisions about how we use marine resources. And Sharon made a strong case for the contributions BeachCOMBERS makes to increase public awareness, inform public policy and giving citizen first-hand experience in the conservation and management of their local marine resources.

Chris and Sharon embody the engaged, enthusiastic volunteers every sanctuary would want to have. They have been with the program for 8 years and have no intention of looking for other volunteer work. They are fully invested and fully engaged in helping the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

URL: http://montereybay.noaa.gov/educate/voty/voty2011.html    Reviewed: March 05, 2014
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