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Sanctuary Currents 2009
Back to the Future: Preserving the Sanctuary by Exploring Its Past

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Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Awards


In 1993, in celebration of the first anniversary of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a series of awards were presented to people and organizations who contributed significantly to the development of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary through education, conservation, research, business, political, and public involvement. In subsequent years, awards have been presented to people and organizations that have greatly contributed to the implementation of programs geared towards meeting the goals of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

2008/2009 Awards



Ruth Vreeland Public Official: John Ricker
Citizen: Kathe Tanner
Conservation: Laura Kasa
Education: Laura Lee Lienk
Science/Research: Rikk Kvitek
Business: Kayak Connection
Organization: Department of Public Works and Utilities, City of Watsonville


Ruth Vreeland Public Official:

John Ricker has worked for Santa Cruz County for over three decades and is now Division Director, overseeing land use and water resources. Throughout his career, John has sought collaborative solutions to pressing water resource issues. He worked with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and local stakeholders to establish a management program for the San Lorenzo River watershed and helped establish a comprehensive water quality monitoring program long before it was mandated by the state. More recently John has led an effort to identify sources of bacteria through DNA ribotyping and the use of bacterioides, leading to a much-improved understanding of the sources. His program contributed over 30 years of water quality data to the Sanctuary's Central Coast Data Synthesis, Assessment and Management (SAM) project. John was a key member of the sanctuary's Beach Closure Action Plan group and his expertise was invaluable in developing that plan. John is also a founding member of the sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program Committee and represents the central coast on the Clean Beaches Task Force.


Kathe Tanner is an award winning reporter and columnist for The Tribune and The Cambrian and has followed sanctuary developments since its designation in 1992. Kathe goes beyond simple reporting and spends the time needed to understand the conservation and management issues facing our magnificent coast. It is not uncommon to find Kathe as far north as Monterey attending sanctuary events, interfacing with staff and volunteers to get the sanctuary scoop and when necessary, ask the hard questions. Kathe's regular and accurate articles on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary help to strengthen the relationship between San Luis Obipo County residents and the ocean treasure in their backyard. Kathe's efforts demonstrate the importance of the press and exemplify good journalism. She is appreciated for the extra effort she makes, as a responsible citizen, when reporting on the sanctuary, its issues and accomplishments.


Since Laura Kasa joined Save Our Shores (SOS) as Executive Director in 2006, she has reinvigorated the organization, adding new staff, programs and board members. Under her leadership, SOS runs the Marine Debris, DockWalker, Clean Boating and Sanctuary Steward programs, working with local communities to engage them in marine conservation activities. Laura's creativity and enthusiasm have brought new life and ideas to existing programs. SOS has long been a leader of beach cleanups, but under Laura's direction, stepped up its conservation efforts and handed out over 1,500 recycling and trash bags to beach-goers and attendees of the Aptos Fourth of July celebration last year. In 2007 volunteers cleaned up 40 tons of trash and fireworks from seven beaches, but with the added efforts in 2008, that figure was reduced to less than eight tons. To get to the root of the problem, SOS also launched a "Bring Your Own" campaign, encouraging community members to bring their own grocery bags, coffee mugs and take-out containers instead of using disposable packaging. Under Laura's leadership, SOS recently secured bans of polystyrene in Capitola, Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley.


For over 15 years, Laura Lee Lienk has served as director of the Return of the Natives (RON) Restoration Education Project, an education branch of the Watershed Institute, California State University, Monterey Bay. Under her direction, RON has empowered thousands of students and community members to participate in hands-on native plant and habitat restoration projects that protect waterways and lands draining into the sanctuary. RON's school activities form the core of its programs and include teacher training, construction of school gardens and greenhouses, and school field trips to public lands restoration sites. Ms. Lienk has also been instrumental in the development of Camp SEA Lab, serving as a founding member of the Board of Directors and Principle Investigator. Camp SEA Lab provides marine-oriented programs that promote science, education and adventure for youth, their families and teachers. The program explores the wonders of the coastal environment from the tops of the watersheds to the depths of the sanctuary. Under her leadership and guidance, Camp SEA Lab has served over 4,000 youth and teachers with hands-on learning opportunities.


Dr. Rikk Kvitek is an outstanding marine scientist, educator and public servant who has spent much of the last 20 years working on applied research projects in Monterey Bay and Elkhorn Slough. Formerly a scientist at Moss Landing Marine Labs, he is now a professor at California State University, Monterey Bay where he developed and directs a very successful geospatial (GIS, GPS and Remote Sensing) curriculum as well as the Seafloor Mapping Lab. Dr. Kvitek and his students have provided detailed and accurate information about seafloor terrain, habitats and ecology of the sanctuary. An accomplished teacher, he uses the mapping lab along with two research vessels equipped with side scan sonar, a multibeam bathymetry unit and an ROV as a real-world, hands-on "classroom" for dozens of undergraduate students each semester. A majority of their projects, from multibeam mapping of critical sanctuary habitat areas to characterizing the benthic and planktonic communities of Elkhorn Slough directly contribute to our understanding of the sanctuary. Dr. Kvitek is also a great mentor of students as many of his graduates have assumed leadership roles in the management of ocean resources in our communities.


Since 1990, Kayak Connection, based in Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, has introduced thousands of people to kayaking through its instruction programs, tours and rentals. In 1998 Kayak Connection began offering a very popular kayaking summer program for children through the City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation, serving between 150 and 200 students every year. Kayak Connection also runs an outdoor education school at Elkhorn Slough that focuses on the sanctuary and coastal environment. During the school year, they offer non-profit rates for classrooms so that students can become acquainted with the sanctuary's marine environment. Schools come from all across California as well as other states to participate in this kayaking opportunity. Camp Sea Lab, a science-based outdoor program for local schools also uses Kayak Connection for their kayak experiences during the spring and summer months.


The Department of Public Works and Utilities, City of Watsonville has embraced and incorporated the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its messaging into the programming they provide for their community. The City of Watsonville Public Works and Utilities Department provides opportunities for students, teachers, residents and the business community to learn about recycling, composting, litter prevention, watershed protection and water conservation. Through their storm water program, the city has incorporated numerous practices to improve water quality both within their own departments and by educating the local population. The City of Watsonville embodies how a community should embrace their role as an active part of a watershed and sanctuary community.

Past MBNMS Award Winners

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
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