Meet the people behind Ocean Conservation Society


Dr. Maddalena Bearzi

OCS President and Co-Founder
Research Director
Scientific Supervisor
Author and Photo-Journalist

“Each of us has a say in the future of the dolphins, of whales, of the oceans and of our own species. Exercising that say is our chance for greatness, perhaps the last chance.”


Maddalena Bearzi is President and co-founder of Ocean Conservation Society. She has a Ph.D. in Biology and a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the University of California, Los Angeles. Maddalena has been actively involved in studying the ecology of marine mammals with a strong conservation bias since 1990. Her research work on dolphins, whales, and pinnipeds off Southern California has been ongoing for over twenty-five years, and represents one of the longest studies on these animals worldwide.

She has published many scientific peer-reviewed papers, she is co-author of the book Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins (Harvard University Press, 2008) and author of Dolphin Confidential: Confessions of a Field Biologist (University of Chicago Press, 2012), as well as Stranded: Finding Nature in Uncertain Times (Heyday 2023). Her illustrated children’s book The Secret Life of a Sea Turtle for Roaring Brook Press / MacMillan is forthcoming.

Maddalena has experience as a photo-journalist and television correspondent for Italian TV networks. Her scientific research and books have been covered, among others, by CNN, KPCC, PRI, Take Part Live, the Los Angeles Times, the New Scientist, American Scientist, and The Huffington Post. She has worked as a blogger for the National Geographic, and she continues to write essays and op-eds on current environmental issues and wilderness for different media.

See Maddalena’s Author and Photo-Journalist page to learn more.

Capt. Charles Saylan

OCS Executive Director and Co-Founder
Research Associate
Technical Supervisor
USCG Licensed Master

“Knowing that we may never fully understand what we study of our natural world inspires our wonder and strengthens our respect for what we are privileged to observe.”


As Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ocean Conservation Society, Charles Saylan has worked toward raising public awareness of environmental issues and stimulating action through the creation and implementation of participatory environmental education programs. His award-winning programs emphasize the measurable impact and community involvement. Charlie is also involved in studying the ecology of marine mammals in California with a strong conservation bias.

He is co-author of several peer-reviewed scientific papers on cetacean ecology and conservation, and is active in ongoing field marine mammal research focusing on the effects of pollutants on cetaceans. In April 2012, Charles served as a panelist at the 2012 White House Summit on Environmental Education, discussing ideas and recommendations from the book The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)” that he co-authored with Dr. Dan Blumstein. Charlie has also authored other books and articles and his environmental work and books have received media coverage both in the US and Europe.

Charles holds a U.S.C.G 100 ton Master Captain license and has been responsible for all operation, maintenance of OCS research vessels, and training of volunteers/researchers since the beginning. He also runs the OCS Vessel Donation Program.


Dr. Daniel T. Blumstein

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Institute of the
Environment & Sustainability
University of California Los Angeles

Dr. Craig Stanford

Professor and Chair
Departments of Anthropology
and Biological Sciences
Jane Goodall Research Center
University of Southern California

Dr. William Hamner

Professor Emeritus of Biology
Department of Ecology
and Evolutionary Biology
University of California Los Angeles

Brian Johnson

Director of Sustainability
The Ashkin Group

 Dr. Giovanni Bearzi

Dolphin Biology and Conservation

Dr. Giuseppe
Notarbartolo di Sciara

Founder and Honorary President
Tethys Research Institute 

Fabrizio Borsani

Senior Research Technician
National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA)
Policy Advisor  to the European Union


Under the direction of principal investigator and OCS co-founder Dr. Maddalena Bearzi, we’ve worked with over 65 marine mammal research volunteers during almost 30 years of on-the-water studies. Special thanks to two of our current and long-standing researchers for their dedication:

Shana Rapoport

OCS Researcher
since 2000

 Kira James

OCS Researcher
since 2013


Joanna Arlukiewicz

OCS web designer
and educational collaborator
since 1999



OCS mascot since 2014


“Working as an OCS volunteer helped me to visualize myself as a researcher. At that point in my life, I did not realize that being a researcher was an option. As a Chicano from Long Beach, the careers that I was exposed included becoming a doctor, lawyer, or a businessman. OCS opened my eyes to a new career path and further solidified this possibility by giving me the opportunity to conduct research as a paid job. With this confidence, I was able to begin my path to becoming the professor that I am today.”

Mike Navarro

former OCS researcher, Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Southeast