Showing posts tagged as "Children's Education Fund"

Living the Dream: Cancer Survivor to Teen Conservation Leader

By Tessa Terrill, Public Relations Intern

How often in life do things come full circle?

Seamus Morrison experienced a full-circle moment this summer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

He first came to the Aquarium in 2010 through the Make-A-Wish Foundation as an 11-year old with a life-threatening brain cancer – and a dream of becoming a marine biologist.  He went behind the scenes to feed the cuttlefishes, spent a morning talking to scientists with our partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and an afternoon with dolphins and seals at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz. He even took two scuba dives in our Great Tide Pool.

“It was really fun at the time, and I loved the experience,” he says.” But now it’s just so much more. I look back on it and I just think it was one of the best experiences of my life.” 

Cancer-free and riding the wave

Four years later, cancer-free and still riding the marine biology wave, he and his parents, James and Riad Morrison, packed their bags and made the trip from Ojai in southern California to spend the summer in Monterey so Seamus could follow his dream – as a Teen Conservation Leader (TCL) at the Aquarium.

George Matsumoto, Senior Research and Education Specialist at MBARI and his MBARI guide four years ago, is overjoyed that Seamus came back as a teen leader, and said Seamus told him how much he was growing through his participation in the program. 

When he was 10, Seamus was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called medulloblastoma. That didn’t dim his passion for diving headfirst into marine biology, a passion that was present since he was very young.

Ocean-ified Halloween

Seamus’s dad James, who has a successful career as an actor with roles in shows like “24” and “Revenge”, said that Seamus’s Halloween costumes have always been ocean-ified. 

One year, he was a scuba diver and even had a tank made of a cereal box that he would open with the pull of a cord to collect trick-or-treat candy!

For six weeks this summer, now 15-year-old Seamus took his passion and spread it among Aquarium guests as he shared stories about the range of sea life exhibited throughout the aquarium – including as a narrator for Kelp Forest feeding shows. 

When Seamus was getting ready to narrate the feeding one day, he was surprised to learn that the diver was the one who took him into the Great Tide Pool through Underwater Explorers four years ago. 

'An amazing journey'

“That (Make-A-Wish) experience and his continued relationship with the Aquarium have further inspired him toward the dream of one day becoming a real marine biologist,” says his mother, Riad. “It’s been and continues to be an amazing journey.” 

Seamus said he loves the Monterey Bay Aquarium because there’s “more stuff” here than at any other aquarium he’s visited.

He’s already taking action to build on his summer experience and help inspire ocean conservation. He’s emailed his teachers about a plan to create a conservation lab when he returns to school. He said his teachers are on board and he’ll talk to them this fall about how to make it a reality.

Learn more about our conservation leadership programs for teens

Help make our teen programs possible with your donation

(Photos by Randy Tunnell)

Jack Johnson Sings Praises of the Aquarium as He Receives Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award

"It’s a full circle. Every time I come to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I’m inspired to write songs." - Jack Johnson

In an evening of words and music, singer-songwriter, philanthropist and ocean advocate Jack Johnson received the Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award at our 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Ocean.

Jack paid tribute both to the Aquarium and to actor Paul Walker, in whose memory the award was created. Paul’s brothers, Cody and Caleb, were in attendance.

Executive Director Julie Packard saluted Jack and Paul for using their voices to encourage others to create a world with healthy oceans.

"Paul was an aspiring marine biologist," Julie said. "He was a friend of the Aquarium, and a lifelong champion of the ocean. And I can think of no one better to receive this award in his name than Jack Johnson."

Making a difference in the world

The ocean, Julie said, “is part of his life, and his music. He and his wife Kim have used that connection to make a difference in the world. They’re leading the music industry in green practices and using their success on behalf of many social and environmental issues.”

Among the initiatives their foundation supports is the Aquarium’s annual Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit that helps teachers find new ways to engage their students around the issue of plastic pollution and ocean health.

"It’s a high-impact experience for the kids and teachers, who take what they’ve learned back to their peers and communities," Julie said. "We’re so grateful for Jack and Kim’s support."

'One of the honors of my life'

For his part, Jack said, “It is one of the honors of my life to be acknowledged by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a very inspirational place. Whenever I bring my kids here, we have the best day, and we go away wanting to learn more about everything we’ve seen that day. 

"So, keep up all of the great work."

Of Paul Walker, he said, “I loved that guy. It’s an honor to be getting an award in his name.”

The celebration included some of Jack’s songs, a reception featuring Hawaiian music and dance, and dishes created in the aloha spirit by Seafood Watch Chef Ambassador Ed Kenney, a friend of Jack’s from Oahu.

All proceeds from the evening benefit our Children’s Education Fund.

We are so grateful to Jack and Kim Johnson for all that they do, and to the Paul Walker family for partnering with us to recognize individuals who — like Paul — are using their public stature in support of ocean issues.

Learn how you can support our Children’s Education Fund

Marisa Miller, Jack Johnson to Receive Inaugural Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award

The public knew Paul Walker best for his roles as an actor. We knew him as an aspiring marine biologist and a lifelong friend of the ocean

In collaboration with his family, we’ll honor his memory and continue his legacy through the Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award – recognizing individuals who are using their public stature to advance ocean causes and support philanthropic ventures.

Our first recipients – actress and supermodel Marisa Miller, and singer Jack Johnson – will receive their awards in June.

Marisa Miller will be honored in a public presentation on Saturday, June 7 during our World Oceans Day weekend celebration. Jack Johnson will receive his award on Saturday, June 14 during a special 30th anniversary event supporting our Children’s Education Fund. 

Paul Walker’s daughter and brothers will participate in the presentations.

Both events are open to the public: World Oceans Day to all Aquarium visitors; the 30th anniversary evening event to ticket-holders.

Two ocean advocates

“The ocean plays a central role in the lives of both Marisa Miller and Jack Johnson – as it did for Paul Walker,” Executive Director Julie Packard said. “Like Paul, they recognize how important it is to work for a future with healthy oceans, and to inspire others to do their part. We’re proud to honor them in this way.”

Walker helped us celebrate World Oceans Day in 2005, and told visitors that day about about his personal commitment to ocean conservation – urging them to step up their own involvement.

“I was fortunate to have visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my father on several occasions,” said his daughter, Meadow Walker. “It held a special place in his heart, as it now does in mine. I am proud of him, and this award that honors his commitment to ocean conservation.”

Marisa Miller: actress, supermodel, surfer and mom

Marisa Miller is an actress, supermodel, a surfer and Monterey Bay area resident who has been inspired by the Aquarium’s work since she was a schoolgirl. Today, as a young mother, she actively promotes an ocean-friendly lifestyle – one that eliminates single-use plastic water bottles, and incorporates sustainable seafood choices, as well as organic foods and natural personal care products that keep pollutants out of the ocean. In addition to her philanthropic work with the American Cancer Society and the USO, she has been associated with Surfrider Foundation, which works on behalf of healthy oceans.

“I’m honored to be receiving the Paul Walker Ocean Leadership Award,” Marisa said. “The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been a part of my life since I was six years old. Its programs for education and ocean awareness are still impacting me today. I look forward to celebrating World Oceans Day with the communities that support all the work that the Monterey Bay Aquarium does.”

Jack Johnson: Singer-songwriter and philanthropist

Jack Johnson is an acclaimed singer-songwriter, surfer and filmmaker. The Hawaii native and his wife, Kim, have been effecting change worldwide by leading the music industry in greening practices and using their success to support many social and environmental issues. Their Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation supports environmental initiatives, art and music education worldwide – including the Aquarium’s Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit, where teachers find new ways to engage their students around the issue of plastics and ocean health. A graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Johnson has released multiple platinum-selling albums on Brushfire Records, including Brushfire Fairytales, Sleep Through the Static and To the Sea.

“The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a special place for our family,” Jack said. “I appreciate the energy they put into educating the public on sustainable seafood, marine debris, and the overall health of our oceans. I’m honored to be working with them and to be receiving the Paul Walker Award.”

Youth award recipient

At the World Oceans Day celebration, we’ll also present a youth award to 17-year-old high school student Ailis Dooner of Carmel, who took second in the world at the International Science Fair for researching a way to prevent lung cancer using substances found in sea anemones and seaweed. Ailis is one of our Teen Conservation Leaders.

Photos: Marisa Miller by David Gruber. Jack Johnson by Emmett Malloy. Paul Walker by Randy Wilder.

About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.