Monthly Archives

February 2015

Iain Kerr Attends Dedication of Leonard Aube Way at Port of Los Angeles

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I was recently invited to the dedication of the Leonard Aube Way & AltaSea preview at the Port of Los Angeles, CA. Even though my departure from Boston was a late Sunday night during one of our crazy winter storms, this was an event I could not miss.

I first met Leonard Aube over 17 years ago. At the time, he was the director of the California Science Center where I spoke at the Los Angeles premiere of the IMAX film WHALES. Leonard and I have been friends ever since. For over 20 years, Leonard has been the proverbial Energizer bunny and bright light in the non-profit world. I cannot tell you how many lives Leonard has changed for the positive over the last two decades (it is most likely in the tens of thousands), but I can tell you with great certainty that he changed the future for Ocean Alliance and my life – all for the better. Leonard was the catalyst behind the $2 million donation from the Annenberg Foundation to purchase the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory, with the goal of turning this space into not only Ocean Alliance’s office headquarters, but also an Oceanographic Research Education and Innovation center on the Gloucester waterfront.

It was close to my heart, then, to see Leonard in LA and be introduced to the AltaSea project. If you replace the name AltaSea with Ocean Alliance you would not have to change much more: AltaSea is a ground-breaking public-private partnership bringing together the world’s leading scientists, educators and business innovators at a unique, state-of-the-art ocean-based campus at the Port of Los Angeles. To quote Wallis Annenberg:

AltaSea will be a dynamic and interactive space dedicated to finding solutions to humanity’s great challenges, while creating an environment that will foster a new generation of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs dedicated to securing our future and the health of the ocean.

Annenberg Foundation Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg

Annenberg Foundation Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg


It was very exciting for me to be at this event, and to engage in so many conversations about the value of our oceans and the importance of NGO’s, businesses, educators and innovators all working together for a sustainable future. The principle difference is that the AltaSea project has a 32 acre campus and a $217 million dollar budget, while our Gloucester headquarters is a 1 acre campus and $8 million budget (of which we still have $4 million left to raise). I will admit at one point in time an image of Mike Meyers and Mini Me did cross my mind as I was introduced to this project and thought of our own efforts on the Gloucester waterfront.The day’s agenda included the dedication of a road (Leonard Aube Way) in recognition of all that Leonard has done over the last 20 years and a preview of the vision for AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles.

Leonard Aube – photographing crowd

Leonard Aube – photographing crowd

I’d like to tell you what I think Leonard Aube Way is: not just a road on the AltaSea campus, but it also represents hard work, humanity, compassion, dedication, and the vision, drive and unrelenting determination to make a real difference in this world. There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of the over 500 people who were at the dedication that, this is the Leonard Aube Way and the world is a far far better place for having Leonard in it.

Leonard – we consider ourselves lucky to be one of the many who have been guided and nurtured by you.

OK Gloucester, back to work – we need to raise another $4 million to finish our Oceanographic Research Education and Innovation center on the Gloucester waterfront and show these people on the West Coast that we to can follow the Leonard Aube Way.


 Did I mention that Leonard is also an amazing photographer? Here is a photo he took of me while we were filming the Explore video Wild Dolphins

A still from Humpback Whales, now in IMAX theaters.

Iain Kerr Attends Premier of IMAX Film ‘Humpback Whales’

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Earlier this week, I was invited to the San Diego premiere of the new IMAX film Humpback Whales, hosted at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego. The film is a collaborative project between MacGillivray Freeman Films and Pacific Life. The introduction to the film was made by Ocean Alliance’s founder and president, Roger Payne. Roger and his work was referenced a number of times during the film. Interestingly enough, back in 1989, Roger and Ocean Alliance co-produced, co-wrote, and co-directed the IMAX film WHALES, narrated by our good friend Patrick Stewart.

Right out of the gate, it was great to hook up with old friends like Dr. Fred Sharpe who was featured in WHALES and now Humpback Whales. It was also a delight to meet up with an assortment of scientists who were at the premiere, including Dr. John Hildebrand, who runs the SCRIPPS Whale Acoustic Lab

From Left to Right: Dr. and Mrs. John Hildebrand, Dr. Fred Sharpe, Iain Kerr

From Left to Right: Dr. and Mrs. John Hildebrand, Dr. Fred Sharpe, Iain Kerr


As a small child I lived on Coronado Island, near San Diego, for a few years – so the real treat for me on this evening was that a good friend of the Kerr family for over 50 years, Blossom Sanger, was able to accompany me to the premiere.

Blossom Sanger and Iain Kerr

Blossom Sanger and Iain Kerr


I take my hat off to MacGillivray Freeman Films and Pacific Life for taking on the challenge of making this remarkable film. If you have ever tried to shoot a photo of a whale with a regular camera, you can only imagine how hard it is to use a camera the size of a small suitcase. Two minutes of 70mm film run through the IMAX film camera at a cost of over $2,000 per roll of film – so as soon as you start shooting you are majorly impacting the film budget and running out of film. With an IMAX film, the camera also can’t pan and zoom as you might with a normal camera – or you will have the misfortune of making the audience feel sick.

Humpback Whales was a spectacular film, must-see for all whale lovers. With shoots in locations like the Kingdom of Tonga, Alaska and Hawaii, the movie is a tour de force of humpback whale habitats, lifestyles and threats. I was most impressed by the breathtaking underwater footage, shot principally by Howard Hall – absolutely stunning.

The problem that all of us have in the whale and ocean conservation movement from time to time is getting across the immense size of these magnificent animals. No matter how big your TV screen is, it is hard to understand the perspective of an animal that is at least 48 to 62 feet long, sometimes even more, and weighs over 40 tons. This is where the IMAX film format excels – as you sit in your chair watching Humpback Whales, you are literally swimming with whales – without getting wet.  The film opens nationwide today (Friday 13th) including at the Museum of Science and the Boston Aquarium.  Don’t Miss it.


– Iain Kerr, CEO.

The video below is the trailer for the IMAX film WHALES, from 1989, featuring Roger Payne.

A Big Thank You To Amy Kerr

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Nonprofits are built on the backs of the staff, volunteers, interns and board members, people who give it their all with far less recognition or compensation than they deserve.

Moving from the woods of Lincoln, MA to the Gloucester waterfront was a big change for Ocean Alliance. We had been in our Lincoln offices for over 35 years, so the move to Gloucester was overwhelming on many levels – to this day we are still unpacking boxes.

I like to say that we are a 43 year old start up, since the move to Gloucester for us was not just a move in location, but a move in a new direction for the organization. One thing we knew almost nothing about – and did nothing with prior to our move – was social media, yet clearly we needed a way to let both our new community and old friends know what was going on with the organization. As we settled into our new home in Gloucester we did not have a social media plan or budget – so it was going nowhere. 

When you have lived with someone for over 20 years, you think that you know them. I will admit that my wife Amy surprised me one day almost 2 years ago when she said, “You have to get going with Social Media. I’m willing to pick up the reins.” Amy is not a technology-focused person or a whale person, she is an artist. Those of you that know her know that she is deeply committed to the environment. For example, Amy started her own group, Clean Gloucester, that meets every weekend spring, summer, and fall to collect litter around the city.

Amy has supported me and guided me through thick and thin over the last 20-plus years. That said, taking over the social media aspect of Ocean Alliance was not a role that she had trained for, or (dare I say) dreamed of. The rest of this story is easy for me to tell, as our social media pages speak for themselves. Amy did not do a good job – she did a great job. She excelled in this role. Starting at roughly 500 followers when she picked up the reins, we now have almost 10,000 followers from around the globe on our Facebook page alone, and many thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram as well.

Amy gave far more than the 10 hours a week that she planned on. More important to the organization and to myself, however, was the leadership role she played with the staff and volunteers and the style she gave our social media presence. There’s an old saying that good interviews come not from the interviewee, but from the interviewers who ask the right questions and know how to get the story out of people.  Amy knew how to get the story out of people, whether it be hard science or trivia. She gave our Social Media great balance and perspective. Hers was not a voice of despair as to the plight of our oceans, but a voice of concern, reason and hope. Instead of pessimism towards the ecological damage done to the oceans, she instead provided suggestions for making a difference to our followers.

Clearly I married this woman because I think that she is remarkable. While Friday the 30th of January was her last day as Ocean Alliance’s Social Media Manager, she has proved to me once again how remarkable she is, and how we can all swim into deeper waters that we might be comfortable with and in doing so, affect real and positive change. Thank you, Amy, for giving Ocean Alliance a powerful platform to speak from and for giving voice to the animals who cannot speak in their own defense.

We are grateful beyond measure. 

– Iain Kerr, CEO, Ocean Alliance