Capitol Hill Ocean Talk – Volunteering in Sanctuaries

Welcome to Capitol Hill Ocean Talk on I’m your host, Kate Thompson, and we’re live at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. for Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2014 Throughout the week, we will be bringing you informal behind-the-scenes conversations with some of the most influential ocean leaders here at CHOW. If you’re just joining us, that was Counselor to the President, John Podesta, delivering the opening keynote for the symposium, including a very exciting announcement about the new nomination process for our national marine sanctuaries. We’ll have more on that later, but first I’d like to thank the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for hosting this event for the 13th year in a row. Thank you as well to our generous sponsors including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council, Pacific Life, and the Campbell foundation.

For the next three days, we will be streaming every minute of CHOW, which brings together ocean leaders from around the world to tackle the most critical issues facing our blue planet. New this year, viewers at can chat their questions to us each day throughout our broadcast. Now, joining me in the studio we actually have Tracy Hajduk, our national education and volunteer coordinator for NOAA’s office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and Robyn Walters, the Sanctuary Foundation Volunteer of the Year. Thank you, two, so much for being here today with me in studio. Thanks for having us. So, we just heard an amazing, exciting announcement from John Podesta regarding the National Marine Sanctuary system and its new nomination process. So, communities are an extreme key to what we do in sanctuaries and volunteers, of course, are part of those communities, so, Tracy, I just wanted to talk to you real quickly, because we talk a lot about how individual action can create positive change for the ocean, so how important are volunteers across the National Marine Sanctuary system? They really are important to our office.

Our volunteers do so much for us and they really help us meet our mission in ways that we’re not able to do alone. You know, we have the volunteers, I like to say are kind of the eyes and ears of the sanctuary; they’re out there, they’re working with the public, they’re engaging with the community, they’re out monitoring the beaches, collecting important citizen science data, and interacting with school children and visitors to our visitor center. So, they just do so much that we’re not able to do alone, that our staff just wouldn’t have the time to do, and we just appreciate them so much, and again just make these huge contributions to our program. So, how many, across the system do we have? We’ve got a good number of volunteers, which I’m really proud to say. We have both long-term volunteers, so those are volunteers that may be with us for a longer period time – a year, a couple months, some of them even 15 or 20 years – and, we also have a lot of volunteers that show up for maybe a special one-day event. So, if you add those two groups together we actually have about 4,000 volunteers. 4,000 volunteers. That’s pretty amazing, considering we only have five hundred employees across the system.

It’s pretty impacting. And if you actually add up their hours, if you take you know the volunteer hours from, say, for instance last year, was about 127,000 hours and I always like to break that down to how many full-time employees that would be. It’s over 60. So, it really does help. It makes our program larger and be able to do a lot that we wouldn’t be able to do without them. So, today we are extremely lucky, in that we have this year’s volunteer of the year in studio with us, Robyn Walters. Robyn, thank you so much for being with us today. It’s my pleasure to be here. Well, you were selected by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as Volunteer of the Year for her work with Hawaiian Islands humpback whale National Marine Sanctuary. How did you feel when you got that call that you got the award? I was in the visitor center and one of the staff people came down and said, “Robyn, come upstairs, you have to talk with Jason Patlis on the phone,” and when Jason told me that I was selected as the National Volunteer, I was flabbergasted, I really terrifically honored but very, very surprised.

Well, as Tracy mentioned, we have 4,000 volunteers across the system, so of course you are one of those amazing volunteers and were chosen as Volunteer of the Year this year. You, yourself logged 450 hours for us. Why do you donate so much time to the sanctuary? Well, I I learned a long time ago that retirement is a lie and when I moved to Hawaii full-time with my husband, I said I have to give back and ended up with one job at the sanctuary. Now, I have ten jobs at the sanctuary. I’m just a girl who can’t say no, and it’s so vitally important and so vitaly interesting and it keeps those of us of a certain age involved and interested and interesting. Well, this evening at the Ocean Awards Gala, you will be receiving your award. I’m very excited to see you receive that award in front of our colleagues and the ocean leaders across the nation.

So, again congratulations on being our Volunteer of the Year. It’s pretty impressive, since we have 4,000 of you across the system. So, just coming in Capitol Hill Ocean Week, is Jason Patlis. Jason. So, we’re really excited to be here again at Capitol Hill Ocean Week, and it’s your 14th year. Oh, 13th year. I’m pushing it, pushing it. 13th year. I’m sure you think that at this point but what does the Sanctuary Foundation have in store this year at Capitol Hill Ocean Week? Well, if you guys have been paying attention, you just heard one of the very big things we have in store a very big announcement by Council to President Obama, John Podesta, mentioning that for the first time in 20 years we will be opening the door to new sanctuary nominations. That’s something that many of us working at National Marine Sanctuaries has wanted for a long time. And Mr.

Podesta’s announcement is just the first of what we expect throughout the week of announcements from different speakers. And, in addition to, that we just have an ongoing dialogue of cutting-edge issues looking at the challenging threats and issues facing our ocean and what we need to do about them. What makes CHOW such an important part of that global ocean dialogue? It brings national leaders together from around the country and on occasion from around the world. It gives them an opportunity to convene, it gives the audience, particularly online these days, an opportunity to hear from these national leaders to learn what is being done and what still needs to be done. So, with this new exciting announcement that you just talked about from John Podesta what is the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s role in that process? So, our role, first and foremost, is to support our National Marine Sanctuaries. We do it in a variety of ways. We do it through we do it to advocacy, we do it through policy education, and CHOW is a good example of that.

We do it through fundraising, because the federal probations is always never enough for what’s needed and so we look to leverage private-sector dollars with public appropriations. And those are among the things that we do at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Well, Jason, thank you so much for quickly joining us after Podesta and his wonderful announcement in the keynote for CHOW this year. So, communities make a difference and they make a difference in the nomination process, and they make a difference to wonderful people like you, Robyn, so we’re very excited to see Robyn get her award tonight at the Ocean Awards Gala that the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosts every year. We actually will be giving you an exciting glimpse into that, probably tomorrow, on tomorrow’s broadcaster or Thursday’s broadcast, so make sure you tune in to get that information and to see Robyn accept her award and thank you so much for all that you do for sanctuaries and for the ocean and we’re so excited to see what’s coming up with more announcements in CHOW this week.

And, if I may, let me say a big congratulations to Robyn as well. It’s an honor for us to be able to recognize the work that the volunteers do around the country. And it’s a pleasure for me to spend some more time with you as well. Well, wonderful. So, today at CHOW the focus is all about our changing ocean planet, starting with the state of the ocean panel coming up right after this at 11 o’clock. At 1:15 p.m. we have climate realities: preparing for the worst. We’ll take stock of the very real risks posed by global climate change and the hard decisions we face as we are forced to adapt to climate related impacts. The final panel of the day will be U.S. action on the global stage at 3 p.m. a discussion on the United States role in an increasing connected world.

Be sure to tune in at 10:30 a.m., noon, and 2:30 p.m. Eastern every day for more Capitol Hill Ocean Talk here on Check the schedule for our full line up of special guests discussing big questions about the current state and uncertain future of our ocean. Stay tuned, chat us your questions, and don’t miss a minute of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, right here on