In 1975, while working at a natural history museum in San Rafael, California, Lloyd Smalley had a problem: People had nowhere else to bring sick/injured wild sea animals, and the museum’s doorstep was getting pretty crowded. So he did what anyone with a background in zoology would do―he started a grassroots operation to help the wounded and return them to their coastal habitat.
Out of his efforts grew The Marine Mammal Center. Its ongoing rehabilitation, conservation, preservation, and education programs and events now reach more than 100,000 people. The center rescues and rehabilitates 500 to 1,200 animals each year. In the past 24 years, it has helped return more than 12,000 of them―sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters, harbor seals, fur seals, dolphins, porpoises, and more―to the wild. And it conducts some 600 to 700 educational programs annually, all with only 30-plus staff members and almost 800 dedicated volunteers.
Their creative programs target schoolchildren, lower-income students, and the community at large. “Our ultimate goal is to inform each generation about marine mammals and their importance,” says Ann Bauer, the center’s director of education. “We want people to know that marine mammals are indicator species,” adds communications specialist Mieke Eerkens. “They inform us about the health of our oceans. They have a lot to teach us.”
With the completion of a new $32 million facility opening to the public in June, funded through donations and grants and built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification rating standards, The Marine Mammal Center is ensuring we’ll always have a place to learn.
For more information, call 415/289-7355 or visit marinemammalcenter.org.
• Hands-on curriculum in Bay Area schools, courtesy of the interactive Whale Bus
• On-site classroom and internship program to cater to the needs of inner-city students
• Leave Seals Be, a public awareness initiative that cautions beachgoers against disturbing vulnerable seal pups