BY THE NUMBERS: 30,000 people schooled in marine-science programs each year; approximately 17,000 marine mammals rescued since its inception
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Executive director Jeffrey R. Boehm, 50, formerly the senior vice president of animal health and conservation science for the Great Lakes Conservation Awareness initiative at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and a onetime veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo
WHAT IT DOES: In 1975, when the Marine Mammal Center (MMC) was founded, this seaside rescue-and-rehab outfit was little more than a first-aid clinic housed in a collection of kiddie pools. Now it’s the largest operation of its kind in the United States, rescuing hundreds of sea mammals each year (from dolphins to newborn seal pups) that are malnourished or have been stranded, beached, shot, struck by boats, bitten by sharks, or tangled in fishing nets. After receiving veterinary care, the creatures are returned to the wild or—if they’re unlikely to survive release—transferred to aquariums or zoos. During the mammals’ captivity, kids from preschool to college age are allowed to come in for a look, and MMC offers educational programs that inspire many of them to consider careers in marine biology. Meanwhile, the group’s 16-person veterinary-science unit has collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and numerous universities on research topics like the effects of toxic-algae poisoning, a natural occurrence exacerbated by agricultural runoff and warming seas.
EXTRA CREDIT: MMC transforms a simple mission into a force for conservation through education and science. It earned top marks from the American Institute of Philanthropy.
LOOKING AHEAD: Marine mammals are bellwethers of environmental changes, not least because they’re at the top of the food chain. MMC’s ongoing research—for example, on the potential link between PCBs and startlingly high rates of reproductive cancer among seals and sea lions—could help shed light on how those changes affect our health.