About Mission Blue
Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a 501c3 organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”
Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 90+ respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations — from large multinational companies down to individual scientific teams doing important research.
Mission-Blue.org is an ocean community hub that seeks to make good on Sylvia’s wish by elevating public awareness about critical ocean issues and inspiring support for organizations, projects and scientific expeditions that make a positive difference for the ocean. Decades of overfishing, pollution, climate change, acidification and other human pressures threaten the fundamental nature of the ocean — and therefore threaten the future of humankind.
We encourage all global citizens who care about our oceans to reach out and support Mission Blue in any way they can. Presently, approximately 2 percent of the ocean is fully protected; five years ago, that number was around 1 percent. With concerted effort and passionate people, we can continue this positive trend and help create a global network of Hope Spots, the seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean.
Download Mission Blue Press Kit - with Photos and Videos
About the Sylvia Earle Alliance
The Sylvia Earle Alliance’s (SEA) purpose is to explore and care for the ocean. We are committed to inspiring a sea change in public awareness, access and support for marine protected areas worldwide, ranging from the deepest ocean to sunlit reefs, and from the seamounts of the high seas to coastal seagrass meadows.
We draw inspiration from the vision evoked by our founder, Dr. Sylvia Earle: to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.
Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the SEA team has embarked on a series of expeditions to further this vision and shed light on these ocean Hope Spots. We also bring the discoveries and stories of a network of ocean experts to the public through documentaries, social and traditional media, and innovative tools like Google Earth’s “Explore the Ocean” layer. Additionally, we support the work of many conservation NGO’s with whom we share the basic mission of ocean protection and public awareness.
Board of Directors
Dr. Sylvia Earle – Founder & Chair
|Linda Glover||Jim Toomey|
|Shari Sant Plummer||Shannon O’Leary|
|John Hanke||Robert Nixon|
|Daryl Hannah||Sharon Kwok|
|Eric Gordon||Dan Laffoley, PhD|
|Ann Luskey||Greg McGillivary|
|Carl Gustav Lundin||Gigi Brisson|
|Jenifer Austin Foulkes||Michael Holland|
|Patty Elkus||Meg Caldwell, PhD|
Sylvia A. Earle, Founder
National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, called Her Deepness by the New Yorker and the New York Times, Living Legend by the Library of Congress, and first Hero for the Planet by Time Magazine, is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer with experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and non-profit organizations including the Kerr McGee Corporation, Dresser Industries, Oryx Energy, the Aspen Institute, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Mote Marine Laboratory, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Rutgers Institute for Marine Science, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Ocean Futures.
Formerly Chief Scientist of NOAA, Dr. Earle is the Founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., Founder of Mission Blue and The Sylvia Earle Alliance, Chair of the Advisory Council of the Harte Research Institute, the Ocean in Google Earth, and leader of the NGS Sustainable Seas Expeditions. She has a B.S. degree from Florida State University, M.S. and PhD. from Duke University, 22 honorary degrees and has authored more than 180 scientific, technical and popular publications, lectured in more than 70 countries, and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions.
She has led more than 100 expeditions and logged more than 7000 hours underwater including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970, participating in ten saturation dives, most recently in July, 2012, and setting a record for solo diving in 1000 meters depth. Her research concerns marine ecosystems with special reference to exploration, conservation and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments.
Her special focus is on developing a global network of areas on the land and in the ocean, “Hope Spots,” to safeguard the living systems that provide the underpinnings of global processes, from maintaining biodiversity and yielding basic life support services to providing stability and resiliency in response to accelerating climate change.
Her more than 100 national and international honors include the 2011 Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal, 2011 Medal of Honor from the Dominican Republic, 2009 TED Prize, Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark, Australia’s International Banksia Award, Italy’s Artiglio Award, the International Seakeepers Award, the International Women’s Forum, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Academy of Achievement, Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, UN Global 500, and medals from the Explorers Club, the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Lindbergh Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Sigma Xi, Barnard College, and the Society of Women Geographers.
Jim Toomey, Executive Director
Jim Toomey actually wears two hats. As Board Member and Executive Director, he’s our ringleader here at Mission Blue.
For the past 20 years Jim has been writing and drawing the daily comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon, which is syndicated to over 150 newspapers. Sherman’s Lagoon combines two of his life-long passions: art and the sea. Jim has recently repurposed his cartooning skills into animation, and is working on a series of short films in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme on the topic of ocean conservation. He has given talks at a variety of venues, from his April 2010 TED Talk, to the Royal Society in London, to Harvard University to his children’s kindergarten class. Jim has been featured in many of his client newspapers, as well as Wired Magazine, National Public Radio, and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
Laura Cassiani, Chief Operating Officer
As Chief Operating Officer, Laura is responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of Mission Blue. Key functions include leading implementation of our strategic vision, developing and overseeing the Mission Blue brand, setting team priorities and tracking progress, managing the operating budget, building partnerships, and working with the Board on fundraising and other strategic priorities. She joined the foundation in September 2009.
With more than 15 years of experience in the technology industry working for companies such as NeXT and Apple, Laura brings expertise and a fresh perspective on strategy, programs, and partnerships. In 2002 she and her family moved to Switzerland where she worked for the secretariat of IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). There she spent four years working on a capital campaign for IUCN’s new sustainably-designed headquarters. With issues such as energy and climate change at the initiative’s core, she interfaced regularly with IUCN’s key programs to bring specific conservation issues to light for private sector support and partnerships. With our ocean resources rapidly diminishing, she is wholeheartedly engaged in developing strategy and programs that support the foundation’s mission to raise awareness about the plight of our ocean and catalyze action for its protection. She lives in Napa with her husband and 2 children.
Kip Evans, Director of Photography and Expeditions
As Director of Photography and Expeditions, Kip manages the SEA’s image database, expedition planning and documentary production. He is an active participant in nearly every SEA expedition, functioning as producer, director and chief cinematographer for all content. Kip’s eye for great images is constantly sought by the team to ensure the most compelling and effective messaging and story telling. He is also a Google Ocean Partner and has authored numerous postings throughout the “Explore the Ocean” layer in Google Earth. He joined the SEA in 2008 as its lead consultant for technology and expeditions.
Throughout his career, Kip has worked for many notable organizations and individuals including the National Geographic Society, where he served as the chief photographer for marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle, during a 5-year project to explore the ocean. During this period, Kip spent over 300 hours diving submersibles at depths down to 1,800 feet. Kip joined the SEAlliance Foundation in 2008 as the Director of Photography and Expeditions. Since then he has lead expeditions to Belize, Cuba, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico, documenting “Hope Spots,” special areas of the ocean that need critical protection.
Kip’s images have been widely published in books, exhibits, advertisements and magazines worldwide, including National Geographic Magazine, Patagonia, Outside, Sea and Coastal Living to name a few. During the past several years he has been on contract with National Geographic to provide photographic support to the California Education and the Environment Initiative, a state-mandated program designed for California’s K-12 education system. Kip’s photography was featured on the NBC Nightly news with Brian Williams in 2009 as part of this new initiative. In addition to his photography experience, Kip has worked as a marine biologist, expedition leader, and an educator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program. He also served as a rescue swimmer for the Pacific Grove Ocean Rescue Team for over a decade. In 2002 he received a commendation for saving the life of a young teen that had been pulled offshore by a strong rip current.
Currently Kip is focusing his attention towards highlighting marine protected areas both in California and throughout the world. His documentary, “Isla Holbox – Whale Shark Island,” won “best non-broadcast documentary” at the 2010 BLUE Film Festival held in Monterey, California. Produced in the spring of 2010, “A Wave of Change” – Central Coast Marine Protected Areas, is Kip’s latest environmental film.
Kip graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1990, with a degree in Environmental/Marine Studies. In addition to his work in the oceans, Kip also enjoys rock climbing, backpacking and cycling. He currently resides in the Monterey Bay area with his wife and two children. His current selection of fine art photography can be viewed at www.KipEvansPhotography.com.
Charlotte Vick, Director of Partnerships & Google Content Manager
As the Partnership Director for Mission Blue, Charlotte Vick serves as curator for Google Earth’s “Explore the Ocean” layer introduced by Google in 2009. Working with over 350 ocean partners in civil society, government, research, exploration, education and media, this collaboration with Google has produced over 3,000 stories about marine life, science and exploration, ocean and atmosphere, ecosystems, marine protected areas and human connection in Google Earth.
Charlotte understands government and the private sector. She has worked in economic and environmental planning, project development and start-ups in interactive media and ocean technology. Her network is international and multi-cultural with experience working in many countries.
Her experience includes leading international teams and serving on the boards in both for profit and non-profit corporations in leadership positions. Planning, fundraising, marketing and communications are her primary offering as a board member/advisor for many organizations. Currently she serves with the Sargasso Sea Alliance, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, the High Seas Alliance, the Blue Ocean Film Festival, Global Foundation for Democracy and Development Environmental Film Festival, SXSW Eco and the Research Coordination Network.
Charlotte holds a BA degree from the University of Texas at Austin and also attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she studied and worked in ocean science and research at the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research and in affiliation with the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii. She regularly attends and presents at conferences relating to conservation, educational content development and media production.
Deb Castellana, Director of Communications
Deb Castellana grew up in Cold Spring Harbor, a small village on Long Island Sound in New York. Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sound, and the freshwater creeks of the North Shore, Deb was under the ocean’s spell from an early age. Of the many places she’s lived, her home has never been more than 7 miles away from the ocean. She has lived in Sweden, Mexico, Cape Cod, and on her own boat in Palm Beach and the Bahamas, before relocating to California in 1998.
Deb learned to dive in Palm Beach Florida from diving legend Norine Rouse in the 1980’s. “Norine played a huge part in shaping my life. Like a polar bear with her cub, she brought me into the blue heart of the planet. I never looked back. I was home.”
Since then, Deb has worked in several maritime professions – from boatyard management to working as boat captain on a luxury yacht in Mexico, to dive mastering and working as a marine archeologist. She has also been a consultant and translator for websites featuring solo around the world sailing races. She has sailed her own yacht in the Bahamas & Caribbean, been through hurricanes and is still in love with the sea.
A dive trip to Palm Beach in the summer of 2009 made it clear – the ocean she knew was actually changing. “And what I was hearing about the state of our oceans was concerning me. I had no idea that fisheries collapse was so widespread. I really didn’t understand about climate change and ocean acidification. And Plastics. Who knew that plastic never decomposes?”
Deb is dedicated to spreading awareness about ocean issues, and doing what she can to save what we can of our world ocean and it’s myriad of creatures while we still have the window to do it. This is why Mission Blue’s Hope Spot program is so appealing. “It makes sense and I believe it can work. It actually makes me feel hopeful for the future.”
Brett Garling, Communications Manager
Brett manages partner relationships and provides communications strategy for Mission Blue. As the son of an original national organizer for Earth Day, Brett grew up in a family dedicated to preserving the integrity of our environment. Brett graduated from Tufts with a degree in International Relations and has focused his career on producing communications strategy, content marketing and video production for organizations that better our planet. Having signed on over 100 Mission Blue partners since 2012, Brett continues to grow the program, as well as supports Mission Blue social media, newsletter outreach and other foundation initiatives. On the side, Brett plays professional jazz piano and enjoys hiking and sailing in the Bay area.
Courtney Mattison, Website Editor
Courtney manages and produces original content for the Mission Blue website. With a Master of Arts in environmental studies from Brown University, she has a deep understanding of marine conservation science and policy – particularly regarding coral reef ecosystems – and believes in finding creative ways to bring ocean issues above the surface to inspire conservation.
Courtney is also a prominent environmental artist and her large-scale ceramic sculptural works have been exhibited at notable science and art venues around the country in an effort to promote awareness for the protection of coral reefs and Mission Blue’s Hope Spots. The culmination of her master’s thesis at Brown was her first large-scale ceramic coral reef sculptural installation titled Our Changing Seas I: A coral reef story, which she created at the Rhode Island School of Design. This piece debuted at the U.S. Department of Commerce – headquarters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – and is currently on loan at the American Association for the Advancement of Science – publisher of Science Magazine – in Washington, DC. In 2013 Courtney was commissioned to create Our Changing Seas II: An Atlantic and Caribbean coral reef story for the lobby of Nova Southeastern University’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research. In 2014 she completed Our Changing Seas III to debut at the Tang Museum and looks forward to continuing the series.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Courtney grew up exploring the ocean and became an avid scuba diver at age 18. In 2008 she completed an interdisciplinary BA in sculpture and marine ecology at Skidmore College with coursework at James Cook University in Australia, where she studied coral reef ecology and fell in love with the Great Barrier Reef. She then spent a year as a fellow at the Harvard Ceramics Program before graduate school. She works from her “Inland Sea Studio” in the Art District on Santa Fe in Denver, CO. www.courtneymattison.com
Rachel Labbé-Bellas, Development Coordinator
Rachel is the Development Coordinator for Mission Blue’s fundraising efforts. She came to SEA’s team after recently moving to California to find work in her field. Rachel is interested in all things related to the water since a young age, being a competitive swimmer, a lifeguard, and then becoming a marine scientist. Rachel is from Canada, but has spent the past ten years of her education traveling and working abroad, becoming fluent in four languages. With a background in marine science, she has taken every opportunity to travel the world to research the ocean’s biology and dive the world’s greatest sites. She has lived in Panama to study tropical biology, volunteered in the Philippines to research Thresher Sharks, and also in Ecuador to research Humpback Whales. Rachel’s passion is to share her love for the sea with other people, and wants to bridge the disconnect between science and society.
She has a BS in Biology from McGill University (2008) and a MS in Ecology from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) (2013) in Brazil. Currently she is also working at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California and is a Seafood Watch Analyst with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.