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This winter, Dr. Sarah Hameed, Blue Parks Director for Marine Conservation Institute, brought home a bright orange crocheted dumbo octopus for her daughter Zoë. The little stuffed octopus could fit scooped in Zoë’s outstretched hands, but for something so small, it inspired an enormous journey.

Zoë wanted to find the right name for her new companion, and so Dr. Hameed took a “deep dive” into the history of pioneering women in ocean science with her two daughters. They visited the local library in Petaluma, CA to gather research materials. They leafed through books, imagining deep-sea expeditions and the thrill of new discoveries. Together, they read about Marie Tharpe, an ocean cartographer who discovered the mid-Atlantic ridge. And they learned about Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover, the first and only woman pilot of the ALVIN submersible. Dr. Van Dover discovered the largest known deep-sea hydro-thermal vent and many deep-sea animals new to science—including strange and fascinating species of mussels, shrimp, tube worms, and bacteria.

Zoë was hooked by Dr. Van Dover’s story in particular—so much so that she christened her new octopus “Cindy Lee!”

Dr. Sarah Hameed’s daughters Zoe and Ananda show off their new stuffed octopus, named after famed ocean explorer Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover

While our organization takes great pride in our 25-year history of protecting vital and vulnerable ocean places, growing the next generation of ocean advocates —from daughters to interns—is among our most gratifying experiences.

Marine Conservation Institute is lucky to be directed by extraordinary women at all levels of our organization, from the scientists and communicators on our staff to our diverse Blue Parks Science Council, which guides the final decisions regarding which marine protected areas will become Blue Parks (scroll through Our People page to explore the stories of the women who help steer our organization, from board members to ambassadors!) Many of today’s female champions in conservation had historical heroes or modern-day mentors to help show them what was possible. Women upholding women, and women guiding girls, are the torchbearers for a future where strong, bright female leaders can steer the choices being made for this blue planet.

Hey, and if you’re looking for a marine creature to inspire young marine conservationists in your life, Happy Little Whales—run by another powerful female ocean-lover, Stacie Vaughn!—can be found on Etsy. Ten percent of sales go to support Marine Conservation Institute!

Marine Conservation Institute’s Blue Parks Director Dr. Sarah Hameed with her daughter Zoe and the crocheted octopus, Cindy Lee, that inspired a journey into the history of female pioneers in ocean science