Discover Wonder

aka Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Washington Coastsavers   |   Silver Spring, MD   |


The Foundation is a leading voice for U.S. protected waters, working with communities to conserve and expand these special places for a healthy ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. Working together, we safeguard species and the places they call home, and preserve America’s maritime history. The Foundation has a proven track record as a credible non-partisan voice for marine and Great Lakes protected areas at the national level, and for developing partnerships to support conservation work in sanctuaries. We use science, legal, and policy expertise to inform our programs.

Ruling year info


President & CEO

Ms. Kristen J. Sarri

Main address

8455 Colesville Rd Suite 1275

Silver Spring, MD 20910 USA

Show more contact info



NTEE code info

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

Protection of Endangered Species (D31)

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

The world’s most pressing challenges are often difficult to see. Pollution; climate change; coral reef degradation; and species extinction, are all problems that live beneath the ocean surface. They grow invisibly, but pose a global threat. America's national marine sanctuaries are our essential network of protected waters that sustain coastal communities and our shared heritage, offer refuge for endangered species, and serve as living laboratories for critical conservation and prevention research. The Foundation seeks to connect people to their ocean and Great Lakes, inspiring their stewardship and a lifelong devotion to their care and protection.

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?

Whale Conservation

Sanctuaries are home to iconic whale species including Blue, Right, Humpback, Gray, and Killer Whales. Unfortunately, each year, hundreds of whales become entangled in fishing gear and other debris; or, struck by ships transiting busy channels. The Foundation provides critical funds to sanctuaries to rescue whales, and work with shipping companies to slow their rate of speed to prevent injury and death due to strikes. The Foundation also actively pursues opportunities for research, education, citizen science, and community stewardship with blue businesses.

Population(s) Served

Establishing meaningful connections between young people with our great outdoors is vital for the health of our public waters and lands. Two programs that help build these connections are the Ocean Guardian School Program and newly-established Ocean Guardian Dive Club. These programs encourage children, teachers, schools, and dive shops to discover, explore, and engage in their natural world. The programs inspire changes in environmental stewardship behavior in schools, communities, and beyond.The program supports hands-on ocean stewardship projects for kindergarten through 12th grade in five ocean and climate literacy pathways: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot; Marine Debris; Restoration; Schoolyard Habitat; and Energy and Ocean Health.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Capitol Hill Ocean Week offers unique opportunities to advance conservation and public policy goals for our ocean and Great Lakes. Speakers, invited guests, and attendees
include Members of Congress and staff, Administration officials, local and state government representatives, business executives, military officials, academic luminaries, and leaders in the nonprofit sector.
Through the generosity of sponsors, the Foundation is able to offer “open source” programming that brings together hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds to engage in the discussion of critical issues and the formulation of
new ideas. CHOW provides, free of charge, networking and educational opportunities to students and young professionals, and through a live digital feed, shares the conversation globally.

Population(s) Served

Consumer plastics, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing our ocean. Lost gear damages critical habitats such as reefs and seagrass beds and can entangle and harm corals, sponges, dolphins, whales, manatees, sea turtles, and more. The Foundation works with local partners and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to remove harmful debris from delicate sanctuary ecosystems.

Population(s) Served

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.

Total pounds of debris collected

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

Adults, Children and youth

Related Program

Marine Debris Removal

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Debris collected through the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys program.

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.

The Foundation strives to be a leading voice for U.S. protected waters by working with communities to inspire conservation and expansion of these special places for a healthy ocean. We seek to conserve species and the places they call home, and preserve America’s maritime and cultural resources. The Foundation's goals include;

• Increase long-term private and public investment in U.S. protected waters.
• Champion and build awareness of U.S. protected waters, especially national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.
• Advance stewardship of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes through partnership development and public engagement in conservation, science, and education programs.

Whether it's saving whales, cleaning up marine debris, supporting communities' advocacy or inspiring the next generation of ocean stewards, our work starts with great ideas and affects change.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the only national non-profit that directly works with the National Marine Sanctuary System as a whole, and its individual sanctuaries and monuments, to ensure a healthy and thriving future for the ocean and Great Lakes. Our work focuses on on-the-ground conservation results through: (1) species and habitat protection; (2) sound science for management; (3) community stewardship and engagement; and, (4) public education. The Foundation is a nonpartisan credible voice for marine and Great Lakes protected areas at the national level with the ability to deliver on-the-water conservation results through local chapters and by engaging citizens, non-profits, and businesses in stewardship to support conservation work in sanctuaries. We use science, legal and policy expertise to inform our programs. We foster innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable, and transferable beyond an individual sanctuary’s boundaries, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats.

The Foundation hosts Capitol Hill Ocean Week to bring together a wide range of voices on the most important policy issues, and to build a constituency for our ocean and Great Lakes. Through partnerships and sponsorships, we are able to offer “open source” programming that brings together hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds to engage in the discussion and formulation of new ideas.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation supports critical research efforts to expand our understanding of ocean and Great Lakes ecosystems – and the threats affecting them. Science and exploration expeditions uncover shipwrecks and characterize biological resources, and monitoring cruises assess the health of marine and Great Lakes resources and ecosystems. The Foundation sponsors restoration efforts to repair and protect vulnerable marine species and habitats, include delicate coral reefs and iconic whale species.

The Foundation works to connect communities with the sanctuaries in which we live, work, and play. To increase public awareness and to promote natural and cultural resource protection and stewardship, the Foundation sponsors outreach, education, and citizen science activities that directly involve communities in marine conservation efforts.

The Foundation manages over 50 programs in 13 sanctuaries and 2 marine monuments focused on:
o Wildlife Conservation, Habitat Protection, and Maritime Heritage
o Science, Technology, and Exploration
o Community Stewardship and Engagement
o Education

The Foundation is also the host of nationally recognized Capitol Hill Ocean Week, a unique open-access conference that brings together thousands of participants in the creation and discussion of ocean, coastal, and watershed policies.

The U.S. National Marine Sanctuary System spans more than 620,000 square miles and touches every corner of U.S. waters–from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, our work is expansive and growing. In 2020/2021 two new sites were given sanctuary status and a number of new sites are being considered for designation.

Through the Goal: Clean Seas initiative in 2020, the Foundation funded eight different Blue Star Dive Operators to conduct debris removal dives in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Over 28 dives, volunteers collected 4,642 pounds of debris and 9,339 feet of rope and fishing line. Dive shops reported having to go to deeper reefs to locate marine debris at sites, an indicator of the program’s success after three years of work. In 2021, the Foundation will add new dive operators to the program thanks to a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The Foundation expanded the Goal: Clean Seas program to Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, working with local spiny lobster fishermen and tourism operators to remove debris from remote beaches on Santa Cruz Island. Over the course of three collection events, 34 volunteer participants spent 350 hours clearing 8,360 pounds of debris from the shoreline, benefiting the marine wildlife and ecosystems of the Channel Islands.

Overall, in 2020 the Foundation supported the removal of 13,002 pounds of debris from 12,000 square meters of underwater area and 2.5 miles of shoreline in national marine sanctuaries through the Goal: Clean Seas program. In both the Florida Keys and the Channel Islands, support from the Goal: Clean Seas program served as a financial support by replacing a portion of lost tourist income for tourism industry operators that have seen their businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 2019-20 school year, Ocean Guardian school programs reached 10,733 students and 382 teachers in 55 schools across the country, including 31 schools designated as Title 1. These programs teach compassion for living organisms, important scientific concepts, appreciation of team work and civic engagement, and inspire ocean stewardship.

The Foundation will continue to build on these efforts and others, including partnering with dozens of partners to restore the iconic coral reefs of the Florida Keys; working with the State of CA and the fishing community to test new types of gear in order to prevent whales and other wildlife from being entangled in fishing line; and supporting conservation, outreach, research, and scientific activities that will address the issues of climate change and environmental justice.

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 shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • 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

  • 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 ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, 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

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback



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


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • 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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Board of directors
as of 08/24/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. James Hnat

Justin Dunnivant

James Hnat

Julian Myers-Benton

Lynn Scarlett

Dawn Rodney

Mark McDade

Susanna Kondracki

Jose Astorqui

Dane Nichols

Martin Peters

Ilarion Merculieff

Heather Ludemann

Barbara Birdsey

Gary Demasi

John Rudolf

Andy Winer

Laura Zagar

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? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 7/24/2021

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
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 07/24/2021

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 employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
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.
  • 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.