National Marine Mammal Foundation

aka National Marine Mammal Foundation   |   San Diego, CA   |


The National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) has a mission to improve and protect life for marine mammals, humans, and our shared oceans through science, service & education.

Ruling year info



Dr. Sam Ridgway DVM, PhD, DACZM

Executive Director

Dr. Cynthia Smith DVM

Main address

2240 Shelter Island Drive Suite 200

San Diego, CA 92106 USA

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NTEE code info

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (D05)

Veterinary Services (D40)

Other Services (D60)

IRS filing requirement

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

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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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?

Conservation Medicine

Conservation Medicine—Understanding the man-made and environmental factors that cause illness and mortality, and identify ways to support population recovery.

Changes to the environment from oil spills to altered habitats can impact the health of marine mammals. Our Conservation Medicine team operates regionally, nationally, and internationally to investigate the man-made and natural stressors that drive disease and mortality in wild marine mammal populations. Our goal is to understand the long-term and cumulative impacts of increasing interactions between humans and marine mammals, chemical spills in marine habitats, coastal development, and a changing environment. By combining our expertise in veterinary medicine with our expertise in field biology and wildlife epidemiology, we are able to address some of the most pressing issues facing at-risk marine mammal populations.

Much of our research has focused in the Gulf of Mexico to understand the health and recovery of dolphin and whale populations following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. This collaborative research began as part of the DWH Natural Resource Damage Assessment and has continued with support from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. Dr. Cynthia Smith is leading a project to understand the causes of reproductive failure in dolphins from areas of the Gulf coast that were heavily impacted by the DWH spill. Dr. Lori Schwacke leads the Consortium for Advanced Research on Marine Mammal Health Assessment (CARMMHA) — a collaborative team involving 10 partner organizations from across the globe.

Population(s) Served

Animal Health & Welfare—Preventing, detecting, and treating disease in marine mammals and enhancing animal welfare through medicine and research.

The NMMF recognizes the great privilege and responsibility in working with animals under human care. Providing direct care to marine mammals allows us the opportunity to learn about their species in ways not possible in the wild. These lessons are then applied to wild animal populations in an effort to promote species conservation of marine mammals around the world.

The NMMF strives to advance health and welfare for all marine mammals. We often launch new efforts by examining cutting-edge research and medical advances made in human and veterinary medicine that could be applied to marine mammal medicine. We collaborate with world-renowned experts and facilities to help reach our goals. We develop, test, and validate diagnostic tools; accurately and rapidly detect disease; and characterize the health status of marine mammal communities.

Population(s) Served

Education & Outreach—Inspiring minds through marine mammal science.

Our community outreach programs highlight NMMF discoveries about marine mammals to promote creative thinking and inspire greater commitment to the conservation of marine mammals and habitats. We partner with organizations and institutions, allowing outreach programs to reach a broad audience. We engage students in underserved communities.

Online Learning: Our online learning brings signature workshops to life by providing access to curriculum resources and materials to be used by schools and community groups.

Education Workshops: As part of our commitment to education, the NMMF developed a series of workshops that focus on important topics in the marine mammal scientific community.

Internships: The Animal Care and Training Internship with the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program gives undergraduate students a dynamic educational experience in the marine mammal field while offering valuable career experience.

Population(s) Served

A Collaborative, Community-Based Approach to the Conservation of Small Cetaceans—The NMMF is committed to working collaboratively with local partners on bold solutions, not bound by traditional practices, to conserve species and improve ecosystems globally.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sounded the alarm for a broader, more integrated approach to conservation of at-risk small cetaceans. The extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin and the catastrophic decline of the vaquita porpoise were noted examples of why waiting too long to consider all conservation options should be avoided.

The NMMF launched Operation GRACE. By leveraging our team’s veterinary and conservation medicine expertise, we apply our unique veterinary perspective to holistic conservation programs targeted at threatened and endangered marine mammals, their ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them.

Population(s) Served

Biologic & Bioacoustics Research—Performing basic research that enhances overall understanding of the biology of marine mammals with the goal of improving species conservation.

The Biologic and Bioacoustic Research program performs fundamental research on the biology of marine mammals, including their behavior, physiology, and ecology, with the goal of mitigating human impacts and improving the conservation of marine mammal species. Research is also conducted to better understand how certain types of human activity affects marine mammals.

The results of these studies tie directly into NMMF's conservation efforts. The information is made readily available through publications in scientific journals, presentations at scientific meetings, outreach to communities, and through NMMF social media. Members of the Biologic and Bioacoustic Research group also engage with federal regulators to ensure they are informed of the latest science relevant to marine mammal conservation and management.

Population(s) Served

Environmental Stewardship—Facilitating assessments of the impact that human actions have on the ocean environment, particularly impacts to marine mammals.

The Environmental Stewardship Program develops and facilitates Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and other technical documents required by agencies for activities that may impact the ocean environment. The program creates sustainable solutions, maximizes environmental benefits, and develops plans to mitigate environmental impacts. The program ensures projects comply with federal, state, local, and tribal regulations, such as the Endangered Species.

Current Efforts—The Environmental Stewardship Program is working with the U.S. Navy to assess potential noise impacts from its training exercises in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The program is assessing the potential impact of noise-producing military activities on the endangered Cook Inlet Beluga whale, its habitat, and its prey.

Population(s) Served

Animal Care & Training—Proudly caring for marine mammals and providing expertise in marine mammal care, behavior, and welfare.

Our team of animal care experts has extensive experience training unique behaviors in a multitude of complex environments while providing animals with the highest quality of care. As we strive to continually improve and advance our approaches and techniques, we are in turn advancing and informing the methods utilized in the conservation of wild populations.

A Truly World Class Team—Our Animal Care and Training team members come from diverse backgrounds but have one thing in common, a shared passion for the animals we are fortunate to work with every day.

Ocean Partners—By building positive relationships, we partner with the marine mammals in an open ocean environment. Our animal training techniques, applied in open ocean settings, enable groundbreaking research to better understand and protect marine mammals all over the world.

Population(s) Served

Where we work


National Marine Mammal Foundation

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


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National Marine Mammal Foundation

Board of directors
as of 04/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Dr. Sam Ridgway

National Marine Mammal Foundation

Sam Ridgway

National Marine Mammal Foundation, President

Marilee Menard

Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, Executive Director (ret.)

Homer (Hop) Porter

SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, Executive Director (ret.)

Rick Gulley

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Treasurer

Julie Scardina

SeaWorld, Director of Animal Training and Ambassador Programs (ret.)

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? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • 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? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/5/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/25/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.