The Big Idea

The Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 provides an historic opportunity to launch a decadal effort to bring America’s “best idea” to where it is most urgently needed now — our ocean.

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”

The Partnership

The Blue Centennial Initiative will be a complete organization comprised of an executive director, staff to help coordinate science, communications, stakeholders, and protection, and a leadership council of individuals with significant institutional reach to guide the project through development and completion

As an organization Blue Centennial will:

  • Convene leaders;
  • Facilitate goal setting;
  • Develop a plan of action;
  • Ensure high-quality implementation, and create performance indicators to keep the Blue Centennial Initiative accountable for results.

The team contributing to the development of the Blue Centennial Initiative includes top leaders from:
  • The existing Blue Centennial team
  • National Geographic
  • Earth Conservation Corps
  • Civic Enterprises
  • Rolex

Success for the Blue Centennial Initiative will be the achievement of fully and highly protected status for significant ocean areas throughout the United States Exclusive Economic Zone over the next decade, launched during the Centennial Anniversary year of the National Park Service in 2016.

National Geographic

National Geographic is a world leader in exploration, science, mapping, photography, and story-telling. National Geographic is generating a cover story on the Blue Centennial. National Geographic is the key partner in the Blue Centennial documentary, providing expert support for exploration, media assets, and leveraging them to create public support around the “Blue Parks” idea.


Gary Knell is president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, where he oversees the Society’s vast nonprofit activities globally. He also serves as chair of the board of National Geographic Partners, the Society’s for-profit arm that oversees all of National Geographic’s storytelling assets, including television, print and digital, and ancillary operations, which include travel expeditions. A member of the Society’s board of trustees since April 2013, Knell also has served on the board of governors of the National Geographic Education Foundation since November 2003.

Brooke Runnette is the Executive Vice President, Chief Program and Impact Officer for the National Geographic Society. Her work is to make a greater global impact through mission-­driven work to explore and protect the planet by harnessing the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling. An Emmy­- and Peabody Award­-winning producer, Runnette has a long list of successes as creative executive. Runnette was previously president of National Geographic Studios, responsible for all television, film and digital video production for the Society. She rebooted the Explorer series for the National Geographic Channel, which premiered with the multiple ­award-­winning Warlords of Ivory, featuring National Geographic Explorer of the Year Bryan Christy. More than just a TV show, the investigation of illegal poaching across Africa became the centerpiece of a new impact initiative around wildlife trafficking for the Society. Before joining National Geographic, Runnette served for six years on the creative team at Discovery Channel as an executive producer and director of development for special projects. She oversaw cable’s longest-­running event, Shark Week, putting a greater emphasis on natural history while simultaneously increasing ratings.

Alex Moen is vice president of National Geographic Society’s Explorers Program. He leads a team focused on identifying, developing and promoting inspirational scientists, conservationists who are raising awareness around important topics and issues and engaging a broad audience to care and act.


National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle, called "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times, "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, and first "Hero for the Planet" by Time magazine, is one of the world’s leading oceanographers, explorer, author, and lecturer who is leading explorers on expeditions. She has experience as a field research scientist, government official, and director for corporate and nonprofit organizations, including the Kerr McGee Corporation, Dresser Industries, Oryx Energy, the Aspen Institute, the Conservation Fund, American Rivers, Mote Marine Laboratory, Duke University Marine Laboratory, Rutgers Institute for Marine Science, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Ocean Futures. Formerly chief scientist of NOAA, Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc., founder of Mission Blue and SEAlliance, and chair of the Advisory Councils of the Harte Research Institute and the Ocean in Google Earth. Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970; participating in ten saturation dives, most recently in July 2012; and setting a record for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth. Her research concerns marine ecosystems with special reference to exploration, conservation, and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments. Her special focus is on developing a global network of areas on the land and in the ocean to safeguard the living systems that provide the underpinnings of global processes, from maintaining biodiversity and yielding basic life support services to providing stability and resiliency in response to accelerating climate change.

Brian Skerry is a photojournalist who is on the photography and filming team specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contributing photographer for National Geographic magazine, covering a wide range of subjects and stories. An award-winning photographer, Skerry is praised worldwide for his aesthetic sense, as well as for his journalistic drive for relevance. His uniquely creative images tell stories that not only celebrate the mystery and beauty of the sea but also help to bring attention to the large number of issues that endanger our ocean and its inhabitants. His nearly year-round assignment schedule frequently brings him to extremely contrasting environments, from tropical coral reefs to polar ice. While on assignment, he has lived on the bottom of the sea, spent months aboard fishing boats, and traveled in everything from snowmobiles to canoes to the Goodyear Blimp to get the picture. He has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater over the past 30 years. Skerry has covered a wide range of stories for National Geographic, from the harp seal's struggle to survive in frozen waters to the alarming decrease in the world's fisheries, both of which were cover stories. Other features have focused on subjects such as the planet's last remaining pristine coral reefs, the plight of the right whale, bluefin tuna, marine reserves, sea turtles, and squid.

Earth Conservation Corps and True Blue Films

Earth Conservation Corps is a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C. that engages at-risk young adults in conservation projects on the Anacostia River through AmeriCorps. ECC partners include National Fish and Wildlife Association, National Geographic, National Park Service and Smithsonian Institution to name a few. ECC corps members will join expeditions for the Blue Centennial Initiative. True Blue Films is the production company for the Blue Centennial film. Other projects include Gorillas in the Mist and Mission Blue.


Bob Nixon and Sarah Nixon of True Blue Films are Emmy Award winning filmmakers who co-produced the award winning film on Netflix in 46 countries, Mission Blue. John Bridgeland, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, member of the National Park System Advisory Board, and co-chair of the Cabinet-Level Review of Climate Change, has served in the Administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, and has played a leading role in envisioning the Blue Centennial. Bruce Reed, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President William J. Clinton, and former Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, has played a key role in engaging the Obama Administration and envisioning engagement in the next administration.