A different kind of diplomat

Colorado Ocean Coalition’s Ocean Ambassadors | courtesy photo

Ocean Ambassadors work to protect the world's water

Here’s a stellar example of how one organization tapped into the personal passions of its followers.

Earlier this year, Boulder based Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO) reached out to the world and said send us your ocean lovers. COCO was launching its pilot Ocean Ambassadors Certification Program, an idea to teach the ins, outs and in-betweens of marine conservation so people intent on making a difference could act from a place of knowledge.

An eclectic mix of people near and far flocked to apply. Twenty-two undertook the 30-day training. Today those certified Ocean Ambassadors are collaborating or launching their own programs to clean up, shield and sustain the water that makes life on this planet possible.

“Better understanding in-depth aspects of marine conservation gave our ambassadors a high level of confidence,” explains Meghan Heaney-Grier, the OA program coordinator. “By pairing that knowledge with leadership training and solution-based thinking, the ideas and action have really take off.”

The certification program last May included 18 expert lecturers, hands-on field work and group activities. Since then, participants have been working to fulfill a 50-hour volunteer commitment towards ocean conservation projects of their choosing. Many have long-since passed up that number. Some are collaborating with COCO; others are working on independent projects. We touched bases with three:

OA_Susan_Moran-148dac4e6e39a3d2ce6135bcbba4841aSusan K. Moran
Already a skilled communicator and science writer, Susan Moran saw OA certification as a path to expand her perspective on ocean issues. Essentially, she plunged in to get closer to subjects she often covers as an independent print journalist and host of KGNU’s weekly radio program How On Earth.

“The training was valuable on many fronts,” she says. “Beyond the technical side, it was inspiring to be with so many sharp and interested people. It was a good mix journalistically speaking.”

OA certification was a launching point for Ms. Moran’s service project: a fabulous series of regular interview segments on How On Earth called The Ocean Is Us. Sitting down with experts to dig into subjects like endocrine disruptors in drinking water, Ms. Moran has a way of making these issues understandable, interesting and compelling — exactly the kind of activism COCO was hoping OA certification could inspire.

OA_Jessie_Berggren-9d183fc1c3b92f6c8d1c73de9ea72af9Jessie Berggren
A follower of the Oceanic Preservation Society, jewelry designer Jessie Berggren chanced upon a Tweet plugging Ocean Ambassadors and noticed it just happened to be in her hometown. She applied.

“The film The Cove absolutely rocked my world,” she says. “I wanted to do something meaningful but I didn’t have any kind of formal scientific training.”

The Yale graduate who designs for Swoon Jewelry Studios became a certified Ocean Ambassador. Ms. Berggren’s service work includes designing a sterling silver jewelry line starring the COCO logo and emblematic phrase “Making Waves.”

COCO Key Chain“As conversation starters, the pieces are meant to raise awareness about COCO and also to raise funds for the organization,” she says. They are available here starting next week. 

Jane EnterlineJane Enterline
A Washington state native who was born and raised in Michigan, Jane Enterline is a Boulder-based water activist, sailor, mother and part-time math tutor. Already monitoring Colorado rivers and streams as a volunteer “Stream Team” member of Colorado River Watch, she felt COCO’s OA program was a good opportunity to expand her reach.

Today she is creating a new COCO chapter in the Great Lakes, where she and her family spend a good deal of the summer. The Great Lakes is home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 4,300 square miles of protected waters of Lake Huron. The budding Great Lakes Ocean Coalition chapter Ms. Enterline is launching will highlight the role of the National Marine Sanctuary Program and advocate for an expanded network of marine sanctuaries in the Great Lakes. It will also advocate and celebrate local actions to promote healthy oceans.


Besides gaining a much deeper understanding of marine conservation, all of the Ocean Ambassadors now know – and collaborate with – a community of people who are equally zealous about the cause.

“We have created this passionate, excited and creative OA army to take on their own initiatives as well as to help COCO expand,” Ms. Heaney-Grier says. “It’s a pretty incredible launching pad for all of us.”

If you’re interested in becoming OA certified yourself, a 2015 class is planned. Watch for announcements and dates by liking Colorado Ocean Coalition on Facebook.