The second week of June marked a historic moment for Ocean Connectors. On June 5th, the annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) conference commenced at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Kristen Sarri, President of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, welcomed hundreds of CHOW attendees, including Ocean Connectors Executive Director Frances Kinney, who visited DC for the first time this month. The conference provided an unforgettable opportunity for Frances to learn from featured panelists and moderators covering a range of topics related to the restoration of marine and Great Lakes ecosystems, our changing ocean, and working together for sustainable waters. Frances learned a great deal from a dynamic panel of Emerging Leaders who discussed how industries, aquariums, and universities are all working towards the common goal of sustainability, as well as from an inspiring Ocean Acidification session moderated by the talented Alexis Valauri-Orton, Program Manager at The Ocean Foundation.
That evening, Frances attended the 16th Annual Ocean Awards Gala, which honored Gordon and Betty Moore, Will Benson of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the BBC for their monumental contributions to ocean conservation. Frances, among more than 500 guests, reconnected with fellow graduates of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and met visionary ocean heroes such as Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, who helped pave the way for women to pursue careers in marine exploration and SCUBA. Dr. Earle led the first all-female research expedition “Tektite II: Mission 6” in 1970, in which she and four other women dove 50 feet below the surface to a small structure where they lived and studied for two weeks. Dr. Earle’s many achievements in marine research and conservation over the past 60 years have helped women to become recognized (and celebrated) as ocean explorers, and needless to say, meeting her in-person was a watershed moment for Frances. It was an honor to be among such esteemed guests, who in various ways have contributed to the growth and success of Ocean Connectors today.
On June 6th, Frances attended a networking event at The Ocean Foundation offices in DC, where she met with other projects of The Ocean Foundation as well as key staff who are integral to helping Ocean Connectors by providing financial management and administrative services from across the country. After more than ten years at the helm of Ocean Connectors in San Diego, including nine years as a fiscal sponsorship project of The Ocean Foundation, it was a long-awaited pleasure for Frances to finally see The Ocean Foundation offices and to visit in-person with her whole Ocean Foundation “family”.
On June 7th, Frances participated in the first-ever CHOW Capitol Hill Day, which allowed conference attendees to meet with congressional representatives and policymakers to share priorities for the future of ocean conservation and to gain support for the issues facing communities around the nation. Alongside Michael Stocker, Director of Ocean Conservation Research, Frances met with U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents California’s 2nd District. She was able to share how vital it is that we have support on all levels for coastal education programs in California and throughout the U.S.
The week culminated with World Oceans Day on June 8th, marking the end of a truly inspiring and rewarding week spent meeting with partners, colleagues, funders, and leaders who are helping to ensure that protecting the oceans is at the forefront of all our decision-making and actions.