Getting the message out to know, appreciate and value marine life is her calling. – Dr. Jeanette Wyneken

Congratulations go to our Executive Director, Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza, on receiving the Blue Friend of the Year Award! She received the incredible honor at the GoBlue Awards Gala held in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on October 27th.

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza with the Blue Friend of the Year Award.

This was Loggerhead Marine Life Center’s Ninth Annual Go Blue Awards Luncheon, featuring Brian Skerry as special guest keynote speaker, and recognized businesses, nonprofits, and individuals who have promoted, implemented, or contributed to a “Blue” lifestyle of marine conservation. Awards were given to those who are leading the way in raising awareness and have made significant contributions to improve and protect our oceans, beaches, and wildlife. The recipient of the Blue Friend of the Year Award exemplifies significant contributions in marine conservation through work-related activities.

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza and guest keynote speaker, Brian Skerry. Photo credit: Jim Ries, OMG.

Dr. Mikki was nominated for the award because of her commitment to spreading the value of science and conservation to young people. Her nomination by Dr. Jeanette Wyneken reads:

It is with great pleasure that I nominate my friend and colleague Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza for the Blue Friend of the Year Award. I have known Mikki for almost a decade. I first met her when she was a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University. On any given day Mikki might be giving a university lecture or talking to youngsters at an elementary school. Her passion for ocean science and communicating wonders of marine life conservation became very clear from the start. She has a long-standing zeal to share her science and the importance of conservation with wide ranging audiences. Getting the message out to know, appreciate and value marine life is her calling. 

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza using laser photogrammetry for shark measurements. Photo credit: OFI.

During her Ph.D. training, Mikki worked tirelessly in the field studying sharks and highlighting incredible stories of their biology, but also their plights and the risks they face from people. She completed her Ph.D. on shark sensory biology and followed up with postdoctoral training at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, yet throughout found time to talks with students, professionals and the general public about marine conservation. It was Mikki’s effectiveness and her scholarship that convinced me to bring her to the LMC as a volunteer on the research committee, then for a short time she served on the board of directors. Yet, her time with the LMC was short as she and her family (a family of wildlife scientists) moved to Boulder, Colorado.

Ocean First Institute Youth Research Expedition with Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza and her students. Photo credit: OFI.

In Boulder, she helped start a nonprofit organization, Ocean First Institute. The mission of the Institute is ocean conservation through research and education. To date, her team has traveled over a million virtual miles to reach over 100,000 students in 35 countries through their virtual outreach program, sharing “The Truth About Sharks,” effectively turning fear into fascination. The Institute team has also reached nearly 3,000 local students in Colorado with their marine science in-school programming. They teach students how to protect the ocean and their own local environment by living more sustainably. Dr. Mikki and her organization teach that the littlest actions can add up. This positive message resonates well and engages people to make a difference. Mikki also takes the most ambitious students with her on research expeditions to provide hands on experience and training. She has mentored over 200 middle and high school students in sea turtle tagging, shark laser measuring, reef fish identification and and underwater photography (these accomplishments are not easy or minor). Mikki’s energy and commitment seem limitless. The Institute has also developed numerous summer camps and recently found great joy in recently running a “Girls in Ocean Science” camp. It was sold out and was an incredible opportunity to empower young girls to embrace science.

Dr. Mikki teaching students about sharks and lasers at an Ocean First Institute Summer Camp. Photo credit: OFI.

Together lines of evidence make Mikki worthy of this award. While she is a shark researcher at heart, her passion extends to the conservation of many kinds of marine organisms through engagement of kids (including adult kids) and their curiosity. Her goal is help others find their passion and their own personal strength that will contribute to making the world a better place.

Learn more about the award nominees and incredible work being done by the GoBlue Awards finalists here.

The Go Blue Awards program was created to recognize individuals and businesses that directly or indirectly support the Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s mission to promote conservation of ocean ecosystems with a special focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. Previous Go Blue Award recipients include Dr. Guy Harvey, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation; Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue; Hardy Jones – Executive Director,; Nathaniel Reed, Everglades Foundation; Dr. Edith Widder, Ocean Research & Conservation Association; Florida Power & Light Company; Gary Adkison, U.S. Shark Foundation; International Game Fish Association; and Coral Restoration Foundation.