Volunteers are the heart and soul of the national marine sanctuaries. They represent the best of America.

Every day, passionate citizens make contributions to protect and conserve what they love — our national marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries.

From rescuing endangered whales to cleaning up beaches to inspiring the next generation of citizens, national marine and Great Lakes sanctuaries offer unique hands-on volunteer and citizen science opportunities for all ages to make a difference for our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.

Sanctuary Volunteer Programs are nationally recognized and awarded for their work increasing awareness, engaging the community, promoting stewardship, and providing critical information and support for science, research, education, and management. In 2011, the Channel Islands Naturalist Corps received the Take Pride in America Outstanding Federal Volunteer Program Award. And, in 2012, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary’s Ocean Count Program received the Take Pride in America Award.

What starts as one passionate citizen becomes an empowered community.

Our volunteers are citizen scientists, interpreters, and educators. They support heritage and cultural preservation and restoration activities, family learning programs, public outreach and much more!  And, they are ambassadors to their friends and family, colleagues, and an entire community. Time and again, a single volunteer’s infectious spirit has a ripple effect throughout the larger community.

Across the system, thousands of volunteers devote their time, effort, and dedication every year to protect national marine sanctuaries for future generations.  In 2016, national marine sanctuary volunteers contributed over 137,000 hours to the system.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities and how you can get involved with national marine sanctuaries here.

Learn More about Volunteer Opportunities at a Sanctuary Near You:


Every year, NMSF presents its Volunteer of the Year Award to honor an exceptional National Marine Sanctuary System volunteer who has made outstanding contributions to their local national marine sanctuary. The recipient is chosen from the top honorees recognized each year by their individual sanctuaries across the entire National Marine Sanctuary System.