O'Neill Sea Odyssey

Knowledge, Empowerment, Stewardship

aka OSO   |   Santa Cruz, CA   |


O'Neill Sea Odyssey provides a hands-on educational experience to encourage the protection and preservation of our living sea and communities.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Ms. Tracey Weiss

Main address

2222 East Cliff Drive Suite #222

Santa Cruz, CA 95062 USA

Show more contact info



NTEE code info

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Children's Museums (A52)

Natural History, Natural Science Museums (A56)

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

California's Ocean Protection Council's Strategic Plan has identified a priority that individuals be encouraged to become advocates for the protection and preservation of its ocean and coast. The State Water Quality Control Board, under the federal Clean Water Act, requires communities to reduce runoff pollution -- the source of 80% of ocean pollution - through tools including education for school children. O'Neill Sea Odyssey provides stewardship education to prevent pollution from entering runoff that flows through storm drains, watersheds, and the ocean.

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?

Ocean-going science and environmental education

O’Neill Sea Odyssey (OSO) engages 4th - 6th grade youth with a hands-on science education field trip on a 65-foot catamaran on Monterey Bay and in a shore-side education center, in addition to science curriculum for the classroom. It is free, and each class completes a community service project. OSO also funds bus transportation to and from our site. Our mission is to provide a hands-on educational experience to encourage the protection and preservation of our living sea and communities.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Where we work


Economic and Environmental Leadership 2004

California Governor's award

Conservation Champion 2005

US Senator Barbara Boxer’s award

Community Spinners 2009

Special Parents Information Network

Community Impact Award 2013

Silicon Valley Business Journal

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 free participants on field trips

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, People of Latin American descent, Multiracial people, People of European descent, People of African descent

Related Program

Ocean-going science and environmental education

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Numbers based on fiscal years. 2019 = 07/01/2019-06/30/2020. 2020 = 07/01/2020 - 06/30/2021. 2021 = 07/01/2021 - 06/30/2022.

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.

By providing a free, hands-on, marine science and outdoor education program, O'Neill Sea Odyssey will:
• Help schools reach National Science and Mathematics Education Standards through outdoor education curricula aligned with NOAA's (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's) Ocean Literacy Essential Principals and Fundamental Concepts.
• Encourage environmental stewardship and leadership skills among low income, at risk and underserved youth through community service.
• Improve environmentally responsible behaviors (ERB's) among low income, at risk and underserved youth.
• Improve the health and viability of urban watersheds, wetlands and schools by promoting community service.

The curriculum is taught in a stimulating and intimate learning environment, which provides a learning experience that lasts a lifetime. The program's curriculum is designed to support the educational goals of the schools that participate, and each of the subjects taught align with both California state and federal education standards.

Hands-on activities, teaching to the different intelligences, and scaffolding new language for meaning are widely accepted teaching methods currently encouraged within education. OSO utilizes the hands-on teaching method, and activities to educate and inspire youth towards a life of stewardship. Hands-on learning in smaller group settings scaffolds vocabulary, increases participation by English learners, demonstrates academic subject matter in an engaging manner, and integrates academic subjects in an exciting learning environment. Verbal, visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners are all educated through this hands-on approach to science. OSO introduces new vocabulary to both native English speakers and English learners. The use of scientific terminology builds vocabulary and helps to further youth's educational goals in the area of literacy.

O'Neill Sea Odyssey has been providing this service for 20 years, conducting lessons on board the catamaran with follow-up lessons at the shore-side Education Center at the Santa Cruz Harbor. It is free of charge, but students earn their way into the program by designing and performing a project to benefit their community. O'Neill Sea Odyssey also raises funds for bus transportation for lower-income schools, and our in-class curriculum is being distributed nationally as of 2016.

OSO was founded in 1996. In 1999, Tom and Judy Webster established the Adam Webster Memorial Fund for special needs youth. Jack O'Neill and Harry Hind donated the O'Neill Building to OSO in 2000, to provide a shore-side education center and some revenue for the program. In 2003 OSO published a curriculum handbook including a chart with alignment to California State and Federal content standards, and distributed it nationally in collaboration with the national marine sanctuary program. OSO received the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 2004, the same year that $1.3 million in donor funds re-build upstairs of the O'Neill building with OSO education center, elevator, disabled access, and Surfrider Foundation water quality lab, while the downstairs reverted to the Santa Cruz Harbor. In 2006 OSO began paying for bus transportation for lower income schools, received Senator Barbara Boxer's Environmental Champion award and installed its weather station and integrated it into its curriculum. In 2008 OSO installed its solar system for its education center and the Surfrider Foundation.
In 2009 the Adam Webster Memorial Fund received the Community Spinners award, and in 2012 OSO's curriculum was aligned to Ocean Literacy principles and distributed throughout California. The Silicon Valley Business Journal's Community Impact Award was received in 2013 and the study of our program's long term impact on students was completed. In 2014 OSO's curriculum was aligned to Common Core & Next Generation Science Standards.

Having served 85,000 students, our organization is on track to achieve a total of 100,000 total students served by 2018, according to our 2013-2018 Five Year Strategic Plan. During last school year, OSO served 5,519 students in 207 classrooms. In 2015 OSO completed its transition from paper and clipboard collection of data on Monterey Bay to the use of iPads and a custom app, and has also filmed three classes and subsequently produced a “virtual program" for schools that cannot physically get to our location but can benefit from the program. In September, 2016, in-class, Common Core and Next Generations Science Standards curriculum will be distributed nationally via the Pepper College Readiness Network.

O'Neill Sea Odyssey's Board of Directors approved a new, five-year strategic for 2014 through 2018. The plan includes the following goals:

• In 2018 100,000 students had been served and our goal by the end of 2018 is to have served 100,000 students with our hands-on, ocean going education program.

• Continue to increase environmental stewardship and advocacy among youth through our hands-on ocean education program combined with our promotion of ocean science curriculum and watershed concepts in classrooms, especially for inland schools.

• Achieve financial sustainability through endowment & building.
• Using O'Neill Sea Odyssey's success as a model, continue to advocate for outdoor, hands-on environmental education.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Students in grades 4-6. We gather information regularly from students, teachers and administrators. We listen to community voices who are interested in the education of youth.

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Because we shifted to virtual programming, teachers gave feedback that resulted in more hands-on and focused engagement by students who tire easily during virtual presentations. The feedback we received and the actions we took to change our content and delivery resulted in more engaged students and a higher retention of information shared during our programs.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback


O'Neill Sea Odyssey

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


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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O'Neill Sea Odyssey

Board of directors
as of 01/28/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Bridget O'Neill

O'Neill Wetsuits, LLC

Board co-chair

Tim O'Neill

O'Neill Wetsuits, LLC

Tim O'Neill

Community Volunteer

Jim Thoits

Thoits Brothers. Inc.

Mike McCabe

McCabe & Totah

James Beckett

Santa Cruz Medical Foundation

Robert Bremner

Essential Surf Company LLC

Bridget O'Neill

Community Volunteer

Nick Petredis

Private Practice Attorney

Dr. Daisy Morales

Superintendent of Live Oak School District

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 1/21/2022

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
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/28/2022

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 ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
Policies and processes
  • 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.