Skip to main content

We're open!

We are open and safe! Learn more.

Asset 8

Seattle Aquarium Ocean Conservation Honors

Seattle Aquarium Ocean Conservation Honors

Each year since 2004, the Seattle Aquarium has presented two outstanding individuals with our highest honors during a special event celebrating their accomplishments. The annual Ocean Conservation Honors dinner raises the visibility of ocean conservation, highlighting and celebrating the honorees’ aspirations and impact, and sharing the passion for the work and the difference our actions make on behalf of ocean health. 

This year, of course, we can’t host our annual gathering—but we can still heighten awareness around the urgency of marine conservation and work to inspire the next generation of leaders by presenting the 2021 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award and Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal. We sincerely hope to acknowledge 2022’s award recipients in person next year. 

The Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal
This award 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.

2021 Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal winner: Cristina Mittermeier 
A marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography, Cristina is celebrated for her visionary, courageous journalism that beautifully tells the story of our planet and the people dependent on it. She honors our common desire to share stories of hope, stories that inspire people to act on behalf of the ocean, and stories that will persuade the unconvinced. Learn more about her pioneering work in our Q&A blog post.


The Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award honors individuals who are leaders and innovators in conservation research, with a particular focus on climate change, plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries and tourism, marine protected areas and socioeconomics. Special consideration is given for researchers working on projects in the Salish Sea or Coral Triangle, who have a special connection to the Seattle Aquarium, and those with strong educational or science communication elements to their work.

2021 Seattle Aquarium Conservation Award winner: Dr. James Estes 
A world-renowned marine ecologist and professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Cruz (retired in 2018), Dr. Estes is best known for his work on kelp forest ecosystem structure and function—particularly how it relates to sea otters as a keystone species. Hear directly from Dr. Estes and learn how he remains active in his retirement in our Q&A blog post.