We are all about collaborative conservation. The Ocean Project intentionally does not try to brand itself, but is wholly dedicated to supporting our partner network of approximately 2,000 organizations to advance action for our ocean. Small by design, to be as efficient and effective as possible, we are a data-driven and solutions-focused organization that punches far above its weight. Special thanks to amazing young leaders worldwide and seasoned professionals who serve on our Advisory Councils.
Laura Johnson, Youth Initiative Coordinator
Laura Johnson is a life-long environmental advocate, ocean enthusiast, and social justice activist specializing in mental health & disability awareness, and LGBTQ+ & women's rights issues. Laura began their work as the Youth Representative on the Board of Directors at the nonprofit Big Blue and You, where they eventually also became Youth Programs Manager and Social Media Coordinator. This led to Laura's participation as a Student Delegate in the inaugural class of Sea Youth Rise Up in 2016, a program to which they returned as a peer mentor in 2018. Laura graduated with their Associate's Degree from Florida Atlantic University, where they worked as a data analyst for the Harbor Branch Dolphin Lab, as an environmental educator at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and shortly as an intern at the University of Miami's RSMAS Shark Tagging team. After earning two certificates in Environmental Education & Climate Science Communication from Cornell University, Laura moved from South Florida to Long Beach, California, where they became a certified Climate Reality Leader, and began working as a canvasser for Greenpeace. Once their feet got tired from all that walking, Laura became a marine science educator at the Aquarium of the Pacific. When the pandemic began, Laura began working with The Ocean Project as an assistant coordinator and cohost for Youthathon 2020.
Laura is an avid diver, artist, hiker, photographer, and nature lover, and lives with their partner, two cats, a gecko, eight snakes, and over 150 plants.
Baylee Ritter, Strategic Advisor, Youth Initiative
Baylee Ritter is a conservation communicator and environmental educator who believes in the power of community engagement and youth empowerment. She has been part of The Ocean Project team since 2018. As one of the founders of the “Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal Program” (P2D2), she has worked around the world to properly dispose of unwanted or unused prescription medication to prevent it from entering the environment and harming human and animal health. The program is currently in 28 states and 6 countries and has disposed of over 4.5 million pounds of medication. In 2011, she wrote a piece of legislation that has generated over $250,000 to install medication disposal boxes in communities around the U.S. Baylee is also a former member of the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council and spoke on the Council's behalf on the harm of single-use plastics at a 2017 United Nations General Assembly special session on the ocean. Baylee is also a former Sea Youth Rise Up delegate and has helped mentor each delegation class since 2016.
Baylee is a recent DePaul graduate and received her B.A. in Public Relations & Advertising and Environmental Communication. Although she is from a farming community in Illinois, she loves (and always encourages others) to find their connection to the ocean!
Emma Shahabi, World Ocean Day Coordinator
Emma Shahabi graduated in 2020 from UCLA with degrees in marine biology and political science. In her senior year she conducted a month of research at the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory, where she designed her own research project focusing on the effects of rising ocean temperatures on the aerobic abilities of intertidal fish. In her free time, Emma is also a certified scuba diver and just earned her rescue diver certification in San Diego last summer. For her political science classes she pursued an international relations concentration and spent her final senior seminar writing about the impact of the latest UN Climate Summit in 2019. Emma believes in an interdisciplinary approach to finding solutions for climate change and hopes to work in the intersection of marine sciences and policy.
She is currently taking a gap year while applying to law schools and in the meantime is incredibly excited to work with The Ocean Project and make a difference in the world of marine conservation.
Douglas Meyer, Strategic Advisor for Public Engagement
Kate Sutter, Social Media Coordinator
Kate Sutter is a big ocean fan. Alongside doing social media for The Ocean Project she is an Associate Program Officer for LabX at the National Academy of Sciences. She has previously worked at The American Museum of Natural History in Exhibitions, Communications, and Conservation. Her experience there sparked a new inspiration: to create new ways to engage the public with science. Before joining LabX she was at The Ocean Agency where she managed projects alongside the team who produced Google Underwater Street View and the Netflix Documentary, Chasing Coral. She is a member of the Explorers Club and won the Adventure Canada Young Explorer Scholarship which allowed her to study citizen science in the Arctic. An avid scuba dive instructor, she has also been featured on Disney as a ‘shipwreck expert.'
Kate has a B.A. from Fordham University, where she focused on Environmental Studies, Urban Studies, and Bioethics.
Bill Mott, Director
For 30+ years, Bill Mott has focused on building networks and coalitions to promote more collaborative and strategic ways to bring about a better future. Bill has directed The Ocean Project since 1997, growing it from the founding five partner North American organizations into 2,000+ partner organizations in 150 countries. Bill helped launch and lead global efforts, starting in 2002, to coordinate and collaboratively grow the reach and impact of World Ocean Day as a rallying point for the ocean every 8 June, with continued year-round engagement and action.
Bill began his professional career at the Center for Environmental Education (now Ocean Conservancy) in 1988, where he supported marine protected area initiatives nationally and internationally; he coordinated the Coral Reef Coalition, whose efforts led to the establishment of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in 1990. Following graduate school, Bill served as director of the recently-created Marine Fish Conservation Network, grew it into a diverse coalition with more than 100 conservation, scientific, and fishing organizations, and led an innovative national media and grassroots lobbying campaign that led to the first comprehensive conservation overhaul of the United States' principal fisheries law, through the 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Bill then spent seven years with SeaWeb, where he advocated for sustainable aquaculture and supported the launch of the sustainable seafood movement. During that time, he split his time to help develop The Ocean Project and has focused full time on continually evolving The Ocean Project since 2005.
Bill received an M.E.S. from the Yale University School of the Environment in 1993 and a B.S. in Natural Resources with a minor in International Agriculture from Cornell University in 1987. Bill lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife, Stephanie, two teens, Sophia and Nicholas, dog, Joey, and numerous fish, geckos, and composting worms. He is involved with several community education and sustainability efforts.
Kira Kawano is a junior attending UC San Diego, majoring in marine biology with a focus on biodiversity conservation. In the past few years, she started to divert my efforts towards climate change and ocean conservation and currently works at the Scripps Jensen Lab studying how microbes and bacteria impact our ocean. Kira believes it is important to bridge the gap between the public and scientists, especially for research involving conservation. As a volunteer at the Ocean Institute, she spent much of her time educating visitors on the local marine life and human impact on the coast.
In between studying and volunteering, Kira is an artist. In 2018, she co-founded “Draw me a Change”, a platform where artists can sell their work, and the buyers donate proceeds towards a cause of their choice. In the future, she hopes to continue to merge her passion for the ocean and art to create designs that raise awareness and leave an impact to further conservation efforts. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to work as part of the team at The Ocean Project and collaborate with others who share the same passion to work toward the common goal of saving our ocean.
Rebecca Ward-Diorio is a sophomore at Brown University, originally from Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. She is planning to major in Biology, focusing on Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is also involved in Witman Lab on campus, an ecologically and marine organism-based lab.
Becca is excited to have the opportunity to make a difference in the ocean's health, as she has been interested in the ocean since she was a baby, and has cared for its health since before middle school. She hopes to continue working to help the ocean in the future, with plans to become a marine biologist after completing her schooling.