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Gray's Reef Volunteer of the Year
June 7, 2011

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Honors
Gray's Reef Team Ocean Volunteer Diver
Randy Rudd

Jason Patlis (l), President and CEO of the NMSF, and Dan Basta (r) Director of the ONMS; present Volunteer of the Year award to Randy Rudd (c)

Jason Patlis (l), President and CEO of the NMSF, and Dan Basta (r) Director of the ONMS; present Volunteer of the Year award to Randy Rudd (c).
Photo: Jaime Windon, Blonde Photography)

Randy Rudd, a volunteer diver at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS), was named Volunteer of the Year by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) at its annual Leadership Awards Dinner on June 7, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

The event was part of Capitol Hill Oceans Week (CHOW), an oceans-focused annual conference held in conjunction with World Oceans Day. Both CHOW and the awards dinner are hosted and coordinated by the NMSF, a private non-profit organization supporting NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS)and its network of 14 federal marine protected areas within the United States.

Connie and Randy Rudd attending the NMSF Awards Dinner

Connie and Randy Rudd attending the NMSF Awards Dinner.
(Photo: George Sedbarry, GRNMS)

Rudd, who is retired from a career on land as a school social worker from 1978-2003 in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System; spends much of his free time around the water - boating and diving with his wife, Connie.

In 2010, Rudd joined the Gray's Reef Team Ocean Volunteer Scientific Diving Program which was established in October 2008 to allow citizen scientists to participate in science-related work at the sanctuary and to engage the public in the protection of sanctuary resources. Rudd serves as a scientific diver and assists with data collection for various projects.



Randy Rudd preparing for a dive

Randy Rudd preparing for a dive
(Photo: Katalin Zakar, ONMS)

"We can say without hesitation that the sanctuary has safely completed significant research and monitoring operations that would have been impossible without his participation. Randy possesses an interminable volunteer ethic, is completely dedicated to the helping the site achieve its goals and embodies the very spirit of volunteerism at its best."
 - George Sedberry, Gray's Reef Superintendent.

"Randy recognizes the importance and value of protecting the ocean for current and future generations. Without his commitment to the sanctuary's mission, many of our efforts to monitor and protect the sanctuary would not have been possible."
 - Dan Basta, Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

On behalf of the foundation, Basta, presented Rudd with a plaque lauding his outstanding volunteer service to Gray's Reef sanctuary.

Randy using underwater acoustic rangefinder to locate tagged fishes

Randy using underwater acoustic rangefinder to locate tagged fishes
(Photo: Sarah Fangman, ONMS)

Excerpts from:
Volunteer of the Year Nomination

Rudd heard about the sanctuary volunteer dive program in the fall of 2009 and contacted Gray's Reef to learn how he might participate. He paid for his own diving physical and began the many hours of training required to become a NOAA Volunteer Scientific Diver (the classroom training alone takes approximately 40 hours to complete).

Rudd completed the classroom portion, swim test, pool check out dives and the open water check out dives in record time in order to qualify for participation in a research cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster, May 2010. During this eight day Nancy Foster cruise it was apparent that he was going to be a tremendous asset to the site. He jumped right in and began helping a graduate student with the collection of data for her thesis, and without this assistance, her project would not have been completed. He not only assisted with data collection, but contributed valuably to the study design. The student was a relatively new diver, so he used his diving instructor capabilities to help make her a more confident, skilled (and safe) diver.

Randy filling scuba tanks

Randy filling scuba tanks
(Photo: Eric Heupel, UCONN)

At the end of each long day of diving, he took on the additional responsibility of filling the team's empty scuba tanks. His contributions were recognized by visiting media and highlighted in press coverage of the research cruise. All this was accomplished within Randy's first two weeks of qualifying as a Team Ocean volunteer diver!

The pace and quality of Rudd's contributions did not diminish after the research cruise: from the period of June - December 2010, Randy logged over 122 dives (double that of any diver on staff), completed 32 days on the water and has put in more than 296 hours of service to numerous projects conducted within Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Spending considerable time on the water with GRNMS staff allowed Randy to observe that our marine operations were often short-handed, which also resulted in days when the boat could not leave the dock for lack of crew. In response, Randy took the initiative and incurred the personal expense to earn a U.S. Coast Guard license so that he would be qualified to operate the Gray's Reef small boats or to know what to do in case something happened to one of our vessel operators while at sea. He has also begun to work closely with our boat captain to help out with routine maintenance in addition to maintaining a high level of diving support to the site.

Randy preparing a quadrat prior to conducting invertebrate assessments

Randy preparing a quadrat prior to conducting invertebrate assessments
(Photo: Debbie Meeks, GRNMS)

Randy caring for recently caught fish prior to surgery

Randy caring for recently caught fish prior to surgery
(Photo: Mitchell Tartt, ONMS)

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