OCEAN RESEARCH & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION INC

Changing the Nature of Aquatic Preservation

aka ORCA   |   Fort Pierce, FL   |  www.teamorca.org

Mission

The Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) endeavors to protect and restore aquatic ecosystems and the species they sustain through the development of innovative technologies, science-based conservation action, and community education and outreach.

Ruling year info

2006

CEO & Senior Scientist

Dr. Edith Widder

Main address

PO Box 4291

Fort Pierce, FL 34948 USA

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EIN

20-0901011

NTEE code info

Water Resource, Wetlands Conservation and Management (C32)

Educational Services and Schools - Other (B90)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (U01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Dr. Edie Widder founded ORCA because she realized the status quo of ocean conservation was losing ground—our waters were besieged by an endless wave of unseen pollutants, toxic algae, and invading species. She also realized that the traditional conservation strategies used on land—such as buying acreage or posting “No Trespassing" signs, wouldn't work for savings bodies of water.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Education

ORCA is focused on providing the next generation with the knowledge and skills needed to understand the complexity of the challenges our aquatic planet is facing and help us in our efforts to find solutions.

ORCA works with schools, homeschoolers, scouts, and community organizations across the Treasure Coast to provide both classroom and field-based lessons that are exploratory, educational, inspiring, and impactful. For over a decade, ORCA has educated students of all ages in solving the problems that are leading to the degradation of the Indian River Lagoon. Our educators and researchers work hard to engage and empower students, of all ages, to become better stewards of our environment so that they are armed with the knowledge and skill set to help solve current and future problems facing Florida's fragile ecosystems.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
People with intellectual disabilities

For ORCA’s Dr. Edie Widder, one of the keys to deep-sea exploration is bioluminescent light, which is produced by most deep-sea animals. Dr. Widder, a specialist in marine bioluminescence, has used her expertise to develop new technologies to better observe and understand these unique deep-sea dwellers.

Filmed for the first time in its natural habitat, the giant squid (Architeuthis), was able to be seen due in large part to ORCA’s Dr. Edie Widder’s experience with the Medusa deep-sea camera and her development of a novel optical lure known as the electronic jellyfish that imitates certain bioluminescent displays, thought to be attractive to large predators.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Developing methods to localize sources of pollution has been ORCA’s goal since it was founded in 2005. As our work is focused on the long-term health of the Indian River Lagoon Ecosystem we must include a focus on the assessment of threats to humans, and animals, as well as to the environment. Our vision has expanded to take on a One Health approach with our work. One Health, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recognizes that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Economically disadvantaged people

ORCA’s Ecotoxicity program uses a broad-spectrum bio-assay to analyze sediment samples to determine the amount of contaminants in a given sample. The amount of light emitted by a known concentration of bioluminescent bacteria exposed to the sample is inversely related to the toxicity of the sample. When the toxicity levels determined in this manner are mapped based on collection location, a visual representation of high toxicity values cluster together at sinks – the location where the contaminated sediments accumulate. We also routinely test sediment samples for some of the most common, and concerning, pollutants including heavy metals and glyphosate. Finally, we test all samples for nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur.

Much of the toxicity in the lagoon is associated with muck accumulation. Muck binds toxicants such as heavy metals, but it is also a source of hydrogen sulfide, produced by bacteria as they decompose organic matter in an oxygen poor environment. Hydrogen sulfide is as toxic as cyanide. It interferes with aerobic respiration, which means muck is literally smothering life in the lagoon. ORCA is investigating methods of mitigating muck accumulation as well as developing protocols for identifying other toxicants residing in the muck.

ORCA’s Ecotoxicity Program is a "canary in a coal mine" approach to assessing the health of a marine ecosystem. We complete dense sampling protocols and test sediment samples for a wide array of easily measured toxicity and nutrient parameters. The results are then mapped to show pollution hot-spots which are then monitored by ORCA's Kilroy Network to identify pollution sources.

Population(s) Served
Adults

ORCA’s Kilroy monitoring system is a real time monitoring system that can be deployed in shallow depth waterways and can be modified to meet individual needs. The ORCA’s Kilroy system can monitor flow speed, flow direction, water temperature, water depth, salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, ORP, turbidity, chlorophyll, blue green algae, FDOM, NO2/NO3, and ortho-phosphate. Live data from the Kilroy monitoring system is available to the public at ORCA’s website www.teamorca.org. Historical information from these sites are also available from the Kilroy web page.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The goal of ORCA’s Citizen Science Program is to educate and engage community members in solving the problems that are leading to the degradation of the Indian River Lagoon.

Our educators and scientists train citizen volunteers to participate in different components of our research programs and initiatives.

This approach allows us to uniquely involve residents of all ages in measuring and monitoring local environmental conditions, identifying pollution in and around the lagoon, and arming and activating their own community to address these problems and develop solutions.

Through the power of Citizen Science, ORCA aims to:
(1) Build relationships with volunteers, community organizations, and local businesses to develop a conservation focused community
(2) Cultivate an ethic of care and concern for the Indian River Lagoon and its watershed
(3) Offer meaningful participation in real environmental problem solving
(4) Open pathways to science and scientific literacy

with the understanding that ORCA can unite educators, scientists, policymakers, and Citizen Scientists in the common goal of protecting and restoring our precious natural resources.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Students

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

We at ORCA have come to envision a fundamentally new approach to ocean conservation—one focused on improving the quality of water—the precious habitat fish, marine mammals and other wildlife require for survival. As the nation’s first technology-based marine conservation organization, ORCA’s unique niche in responding to large-scale deterioration of the marine environment is to:

• Collect accurate and scientifically defensible data on water quality and its impact on marine ecosystems.

• Provide the data to the public and decision makers in an easily accessible and understandable format.

• Engage communities in marine conservation action, with positive reinforcement for their efforts through feedback involving easily understandable scientific data.

By combining innovative technology, applied science, and community outreach, ORCA is leading the way in protection and conservation of our valuable coast, estuaries and oceans -- saving these precious habitats for the generations of tomorrow.

• Collect accurate and scientifically defensible data on water quality and its impact on marine ecosystems.

• Provide the data to the public and decision makers in an easily accessible and understandable format.

• Engage communities in marine conservation action, with positive reinforcement for their efforts through feedback involving easily understandable scientific data.

Through a mix of public and private funding, ORCA has developed innovated technologies to monitor and map pollution in the Indian River Lagoon, including its unique Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity (FAST) system, the Kilroy Monitoring Network, and others. These technologies continue to be utilized daily by ORCA scientists. ORCA has also seen growing support for its educational programs, and endeavors to educate the next generation of conservationists through school visits, summer camps, and nursery programs.

After 10 years of developing and standardizing novel engineering and scientific methods to assess and monitor the health of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), ORCA is now entering the realm of habitat restoration and shoreline reclamation.

We have collected cutting-edge data, including both the Kilroy and Ecotoxicity programs, and mapped areas that are amenable to restoration. We believe we have done our due diligence in this regard and are now prepared to utilize our data in an effort to reclaim the lagoon.

The focus of ORCA's habitat restoration program is the construction of living shorelines. Living shorelines are shoreline protection projects that provide habitat for plants and animals, stabilize shorelines and improve water quality. Living shorelines usually include the construction of a hard structure or breakwater made from rock or bagged shell and the planting of native vegetation along intertidal shorelines. The breakwaters play an important role in living shorelines as they help with erosional issues, slow the intrusion of muck and storm water and provide essential hard surface for a variety of sheltered and attached organisms. The inclusion of needed habitat as part of IRL restoration is well documented.

Financials

OCEAN RESEARCH & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION INC
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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OCEAN RESEARCH & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION INC

Board of directors
as of 7/12/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Wayne Mills

ORCA

Term: 2013 -

Mary Chapman, J.D.

Herb Fitz Gibbon

Colin Bailey

Suzanne Carter

Gail Shepherd

Ed Massey

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Not applicable
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Not applicable
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Not applicable

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 7/12/2021,

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

No data

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

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Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data