2023 Seattle Aquarium Ocean Conservation Honors: Recognizing Leaders Who Protect Our Ocean

Every year since 2004, the Seattle Aquarium has presented awards to extraordinary leaders who are working to protect the health of our marine environment for present and future generations. Our annual Ocean Conservation Honors event celebrates the honorees’ aspirations and impact, raises visibility for their important work, and offers them the opportunity to share their passion for our one ocean and a resilient future for all.

This year, we presented Governor Jay Inslee with the Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal and Dr. Vera Trainer with our Conservation Research Award.

From left to right, Robert (Bob) Davidson, Governor Jay Inslee, Melissa Mager, Dr. Vera Trainer, Dr. Erin Meyer, and Michael Guidon at the Seattle Aquarium's 2023 Ocean Conservation Honors event.
Seattle Aquarium President & CEO Bob Davidson; Seattle Aquarium Immediate Past Board Chair Melissa Mager; Governor Jay Inslee; Dr. Vera L. Trainer; Dr. Erin Meyer, Director of Conservation Programs & Partnerships; and Seattle Aquarium Board Chair Michael Guidon (Photo credit: Curbow Photo).

Our honorees

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee standing behind a podium while speaking at the Seattle Aquarium's 2023 Ocean Conservation Honors event.
Governor Jay Inslee (Photo credit: Curbow Photo).

The Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal honors individuals whose leadership and lifetime accomplishments reflect and advance the mission of the Seattle Aquarium: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. Formerly the Seattle Aquarium Medal, the award was renamed in 2018, after we presented Dr. Sylvia Earle with our first Seattle Aquarium Lifetime Achievement Award.

Under Governor Inslee’s leadership, Washington state is at the forefront of the climate action needed to restore the health of our Salish Sea and one world ocean. 

“The thing that beats despair is action,” Gov. Inslee noted while accepting his award. He vowed that Washington won’t go backward in the fight against climate change. “We should act every single day and do everything we can to save this planet and the living systems in the ocean,” he said. “Our children deserve it, and the Seattle Aquarium is going to help us do it.” 

Among his many accomplishments, Gov. Inslee co-founded the U.S. Climate Alliance and International Ocean Acidification Alliance; helped lead the Under2 Coalition, a global network of subnational governments committed to achieving net-zero emissions; co-wrote Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean-Energy Economy; and established the Orca Task Force for action on behalf of endangered southern resident orcas and salmon.


Dr. Vera Trainer standing behind a podium, smiling for a photo while speaking at the Seattle Aquarium's 2023 Ocean Conservation Honors event.
Dr. Vera L. Trainer (Photo credit: Curbow Photo).

The Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award honors leaders and innovators in marine conservation research, with a particular focus on climate change, plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries and tourism, marine protected areas and socioeconomics. 

Dr. Vera Trainer is a local and international leader in the work to understand harmful algal blooms (HABs): proliferations of algae that cause environmental and economic damage. 

“I believe that this award is not only for what has been accomplished,” Dr. Trainer said as she began her remarks, “but what will be accomplished in the future.”

Following a 30-year career with NOAA, she is the marine program director of the University of Washington’s Olympic Natural Resources Center, co-founder of the Olympic Region HAB program and the founder of SoundToxins, a partnership that monitors HABs in Puget Sound.

This unique community collaboration of management and research agencies, fish and shellfish farmers, Native tribes and community volunteers provides advance warning of HABs that threaten seafood safety as well as ecosystem and human health.

Dr. Trainer explained, “By having trained partners around the Puget Sound who are the ‘eyes on the coast,’ we know when there is something unusual or threatening in our environment.” 

Congratulations to the 2023 Ocean Conservation Honors award recipients! It’s a pleasure and privilege to celebrate your accomplishments.

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