Ocean Heroes

Who is an Ocean Hero?

Our Ocean Heroes are extraordinary leaders who are part of The Ocean Foundation family, and who demonstrate leadership in marine conservation, consistently provide a voice for critical ocean issues, and have an exemplary body of work in the marine conservation field.


Dr. Michael Lang

Dr. Michael A. Lang, called “Master of the Deep” by SMITHSONIAN, currently serves as President of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences and director of the Divers Alert Network. His career has emphasized the importance of placing the trained scientific eye under water to record and interpret the marine environment and enhancing the safety and effectiveness of scuba diving. Lang’s research projects have effectively bridged the international diving and marine science communities with impact on decompression sickness risk management through the use of advanced technology and procedures, marine natural history education through Smithsonian Journeys expeditions, scientific and popular articles, and providing training courses and facilitating work in extreme polar (Antarctica and Svalbard) and remote tropical environments (Clipperton, Palmyra, Eastern Tropical Pacific and South Pacific Islands) in the study of global change and marine biodiversity. His most recent books include Smithsonian at the Poles: Contributions to IPY Science; Smithsonian Marine Science; The Future of Diving: 100 Years of Haldane and Beyond; Science Diplomacy: Antarctica, Science and the Governance of International Spaces; and, Research and Discoveries: The Revolution of Science through Scuba.



Senator Kevin Ranker

Senator Kevin Ranker concurrently serves as a Washington State Senator, Principal at Coast Consulting and a strategic advisor in his role as a Senior Fellow at The Ocean Foundation.  He possesses nearly two decades professional experience developing and advancing ocean and energy policy, political strategies, and conservation initiatives.  He has brought his experience and passion to his work in the Washington State Legislature. In the Washington State Senate he serves as Majority Assistant Whip and Chair of the Energy, Natural Resources & Marine Waters Committee. Previous to the Senate, he served as a San Juan County Commissioner, was a CEO and director for non-governmental organizations and was a panel member on the Washington State Shoreline Hearing Board - the appellate body for appeals and shoreline penalties under the jurisdiction of the Washington Shoreline Management Act.In February 2011, he received a White House appointment to serve as an Advisor to President Obama’s National Ocean Council.  In the private sector, Ranker serves as Principal at Coast Consulting where he advises private and public entities regarding the conceptualization and advancement of ocean and energy policy, organizational development and political strategy.



Richard Charter

Specialist in advocacy on ocean protection issues, including marine spatial planning, media techniques to secure conservation outcomes, and preventing and mitigating industrial impacts on ocean ecosystems.  Richard works with local communities and regional and national NGO interests to advance sustainable wildlife and fisheries management, marine and estuarine resource restoration, and protection of public health in the context of offshore oil and gas drilling issues. As Co-Chair of the National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Coalition, Richard was involved in initiating and maintaining the twenty-seven-year congressional moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing which prevented new drilling along the U.S. West Coast, the Atlantic Coast, and Florida’s Gulf Coast, as well as in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.  Richard also coordinated the local government support that helped to bring about the creation of the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, Channel Islands, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.  Richard serves on the Department of Energy’s Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee and is now in his second term as Chair of the Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary Advisory Council.  Richard lives with his wife Marilyn Castellblanch on California’s Sonoma Coast, but maintains a regular presence in Washington, DC.



Alexandra Cousteau

Alexandra Cousteau is one of National Geographic’s “Emerging Explorers” and founder and President of Blue Legacy International, a fiscal sponsorship project at The Ocean Foundation. Alexandra’s global initiatives, such as Expedition Blue Planet, seek to inspire and empower individuals to take ownership of their freshwater resources and realize their implications for human and aquatic communities, including marine habitats. Alexandra served as the Global Water Advisor and spokesperson for the global Live Earth 2010 Run for Water and currently sits on the Board of the Global Water Challenge, Mother Nature Network, and EarthEcho International, as well as on the steering committee of The Shark Alliance.

In 2009, she co-hosted Discovery’s “Blue August” and served as their Chief Correspondent on Water Issues for “Planet Green.” By combining traditional media tours and film with social media platforms, Alexandra has helped NGO, governmental and corporate-led water programs to engage record audiences for action. She released her first book, This Blue Planet, in 2011.



Sonja Fordham

Sonja Fordham currently serves as Deputy Chair for the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and as Chair of the American Elasmobranch Society Conservation Committee, the world’s foremost association of shark scientists. Sonja Fordham directed shark conservation projects at Ocean Conservancy from 1991- 2009, and starting in 2006 served as policy director for the Shark Alliance, working to improve European shark policies. Sonja continues her work with the Shark Alliance coalition to build support for amending the EU shark finning regulations. She founded Shark Advocates International as a project of The Ocean Foundation in May 2010. Sonja’s advocacy work through Shark Advocates International includes identifying priority shark conservation needs, building informal coalitions of conservationists and scientists to unite around a common stand, and making timely written and in-person appeals to governments on behalf of those interests.




David Guggenheim

Dr. David E. Guggenheim is president of Ocean Doctor in Washington, DC, a project of The Ocean Foundation. He is a marine scientist, conservation policy expert, ocean explorer, educator and filmmaker. He is now in his 13th year leading marine research and conservation in Cuba. An Explorers Club National Fellow, Guggenheim piloted the first manned submersible dive into the world’s largest underwater canyons in the Bering Sea. His documentary, Disaster at Nightingale, details the South Atlantic oil spill that killed thousands of penguins. He is a leading advocate for sustainable aquaculture. His 50 States Expedition brings ocean programs to schools, encouraging careers in science. Guggenheim is an acclaimed speaker and has been featured on 60 MINUTES, Good Morning America, CNN, NPR.  Previously, he was VP, Ocean Conservancy; President/CEO, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida; Co-Chair, Everglades Coalition.

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