2019 Volunteer of the Year

Jake being interviewed in front of a large aquarium for a video about sanctuary expansion

Jake Emmert
Galveston, TX

Jake Emmert has supported Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) since his college days. He first volunteered in 2011, as a member of Texas A&M University’s student diving program, by assisting with the Baseline Assessment of Fish and Benthic Communities of FGBNMS. Since then, he has participated in numerous multi-day research expeditions and arranged for other volunteer divers on many more.

Dive volunteer Jake Emmert inflates a lift bag to raise a water quality instrument off the sea floor, then begins the process of swimming it back to the surface. Along the way he makes sure his inflater hose is tucked safely away and he releases excess air from the lift bag so that it stays neutrally buoyant. He ends with a thumbs up hand signal to the camera, letting his dive buddy know he is ready to ascend. (Video: FGBNMS/Hickerson)

Jake also served as divemaster for two different sanctuary outreach programs for several years--the annual Down Under, Out Yonder (DUOY) expedition for educators and the annual Industry Cruise for oil and gas interests to learn about the sanctuary. Both of these audiences have been critically important to the sanctuary’s success.

Jake writing down information in a dive log during a teacher expedition
Jake served as a divemaster for many DUOY teacher expeditions over the years. (Image: FGBNMS/Drinnen)

Jake has traveled a path of growing understanding as he's advanced from student volunteer to sanctuary advocate. In 2016, he was selected to fill one of the Conservation seats on the Sanctuary Advisory Council, where he has been active in discussions about sanctuary expansion, research, and conservation. He has also been instrumental in coordinating collaborative events between FGBNMS and Moody Gardens.

In 2018, Jake participated in the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Sanctuary Fly In. As part of this effort, he spoke with Congressmen, staffers and various committee members about the value of America’s sanctuaries. He especially enjoyed communicating the value of the Sanctuary Advisory Council and how it works with sanctuary staff to address important issues.

Jake posing with Emma Hickerson and two models wearing colorful dresses representing conservation movies.
Jake (second from left) coordinated a collaborative showing of the conservation documentary Chasing Coral at Moody Gardens, which included FGBNMS staff answering audience questions, and models posing in dresses representing this and another ocean conservation film. (Image: FGBNMS/Drinnen)

For the past several years, Jake has advocated for zoo and aquarium divers to support field conservation and science efforts. At national conferences, he has been the speaker/moderator of sessions such as Dive programs supporting conservation and science and Benefits of supporting conservation and research initiatives.

Jake is currently the Dive Safety Officer for Moody Gardens, a local non-profit facility, where he oversees more than 2,000 dives annually, for both in-house animal husbandry operations and scientific field work. Outside of work, Jake enjoys Bar-B-Q (in the traditional Texas sense!) and tennis. He loves to travel and experience the world, exchanging ideas wherever he goes.

Jake helping two other men pull a piece of heavy equipment back onto the boat
Jake (on the right) helping sanctuary staff retrieve a water sampling device called a CTD. (Image: FGBNMS/Hickerson)