The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) has selected Maui resident Robyn Walters as the 2014 Volunteer of the Year. Walters was honored for her exceptional contributions to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Walters began her volunteer work with the national marine sanctuary in Hawaii in 2010. Last year alone, she logged more than 450 service hours. Her volunteer work encompasses several responsibilities. Walters is a public lecturer; a school group educational activities leader; a visitor center docent; a meeting organizer; a sanctuary representative at community outreach events; a speaker and participant on whale watch cruises; a volunteer trainer and mentor; and a leader in citizen science initiatives.
“Robyn Waters embodies the selfless commitment of citizens in sanctuary communities nationwide who lend their time and expertise to help us achieve our mission,” said Daniel J. Basta, director, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Our volunteers are an important part of our team and a reason for our success.”
Walters will be recognized with other honorees–U.S. Senator Carl Levin and Joint Ocean Commission Initiative co-chairs William Ruckelshaus and Norm Mineta–on June 10 in Washington D.C. She also has been invited to deliver remarks on her work and importance of volunteerism for national marine sanctuaries. The awards gala is held in conjunction with Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), Washington’s premier ocean-focused conference. CHOW 2014 will take place June 10-12 at the Newseum and bring together policymakers, industry leaders, academics, scientists, and conservationists to shape marine policy and provoke conversation about critical ocean and coastal issues.
“We could not be more proud of Robyn and all of the sanctuary volunteers that she represents,” said Malia Chow, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary superintendent. “Robyn’s commitment and dedication over the past years has been truly outstanding and we are thrilled that she is bringing this prestigious award home to Hawaii.”
Nationally, volunteers contribute more than 100,000 hours annually to the National Marine Sanctuary System in the areas of research, monitoring, enforcement, education and outreach, and management advisory. Walters’ work supports the national marine sanctuary in Hawaii during a particularly important time, as the sanctuary is proposing to shift from a single species focus on humpback whales to an ecosystem-based approach, according to NMSF.
“Every year it is difficult to select only one of 14 tremendously qualified Volunteers of the Year from the sanctuary sites to recognize nationally,” said NMSF President and CEO Jason Patlis. “The service of all the sanctuary volunteers is truly inspirational, and recognizing the volunteer programs is one of the most important – and most gratifying – ways that the NMSF supports the national marine sanctuary system.”
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, a private, non-profit organization that was created to assist the federally managed National Marine Sanctuary Program with education and outreach programs, was designed to preserve, protect and promote meaningful opportunities for public interaction with the nation’s marine sanctuaries. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is administered by a partnership of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the State of Hawaii through the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). The sanctuary works to protect humpback whales through research, education, conservation and stewardship.
Currently, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is seeking to fill two primary and four alternate seats on its advisory council. The council ensures public input into sanctuary matters and provides advice to sanctuary management. The two primary seats are business/commerce and tourism. The sanctuary is also looking to fill four alternate seats: Native Hawaiian, Hawaii County, Honolulu County and commercial shipping.
“The members of our advisory council represent an extremely important element of our community,” said Chow. “Their input, experience and expertise assist sanctuary managers in making informed and timely decisions on how best to protect and conserve our important cultural and natural resources.”
Alternates attend meetings when primary members are not available and assume a seat if a primary member resigns. All candidates are selected based on their expertise and experience in relation to the seat for which they are applying, community and professional affiliations and views regarding the protection and management of marine resources.
Applications are due June 30. To receive an application kit or for further information, please contact council coordinator Daniela Kittinger via e-mail at Daniela.Kittinger@noaa.gov; by phone at 808-725-5905; or visit the sanctuary website at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov. Completed applications should be submitted to: Inouye Regional Center, ATTN: NOS/HIHWNMS/Daniela Kittinger, 1845 Wasp Blvd., Building 176, Honolulu, HI 96818.
Photo: Fritz Geller-Grimm/Wikimedia Commons