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The Critters Scholars Program

In Honor of Captain Roger Thomas - Providing life-changing first-hand experiences with ocean wildlife for underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The Critters Scholars Program aims to give life-changing ocean experiences for underserved students and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through such experiences, the CSP contributes to Oceanic Society's larger efforts to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature to address the root cause of its decline—human behavior.

Since 1972, Oceanic Society has led hundreds of thousands of whale watchers on educational cruises, mostly aboard the Salty Lady owned by iconic Bay Area fisherman and wildlife conservationist, Captain Roger Thomas. In December 2017, Roger passed away after his long battle with cancer. The CSP was established in his honor, and applies one of his famous catch phrases, 'critters', which he used to describe all the fantastic ocean wildlife we would see on our trips. One of Roger's wishes for the program was that we would provide trips for those who 'otherwise might not have the opportunity to do so.' We couldn't agree more.


Due to the high costs of maintaining a saltwater vessel or participating in eco-tourism trips, only a privileged swathe of society gets regular access to the SF Bay and surrounding ocean. As long as there’s not common access to the ocean environment for most of the 7+ million people in the SF Bay Area, the health and future of these environments will always be threatened. Without a personal connection to a marine mammal or habitat, it’s natural to not think of such things but the ocean needs our attention now.

How We Are Helping

The CSP addresses this disparity of access by creating new opportunities for underserved communities to experience the magic of being in the presence of marine mammals. We accomplish this by tearing down financial barriers and providing free of charge boat trips to student groups who otherwise would not have had the means to participate in such an activity. We also produce educational videos from these experiences that seamlessly integrate with educators' curricula in new and engaging ways. Please contact us to learn more!


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