Nancy was honored in February 2022 by receiving the 2021 Environmental  Enrichment from NAUI. 
Said Nancy: "Thank you to all my volunteers over the last 20 years for making this possible! I appreciate you for believing in me and giving so much."

Nancy Caruso

by Anabelle Vo from USA

Nancy Caruso (Photo by Anabelle Vo, MY HERO staff)
Nancy Caruso (Photo by Anabelle Vo, MY HERO staff)

Nancy Caruso is a marine biologist leading the charge in restoring life to the Southern California coast, and she's been quite successful in getting local communities to join her. Nancy's dedication and ingenuity has earned her the respect of many supporters and volunteers.

Kelp Fest
Kelp Fest

Over the last ten years, Nancy and several volunteers oversaw the kelp forest restoration efforts in Orange County. Local classrooms helped grow the kelp spores until they were ready to be planted in the ocean. From that point on, Nancy and her volunteers went on long, arduous dives to carefully place the young kelp underwater as well as maintain the local ecology to ensure their survival. With the help of Laguna Beach citizens, Nancy also founded the Kelp Fest in 2009 in order to help local communities better understand and appreciate the kelp forest. The festivities aim to use art, music, and other creative activities to display the beauty and importance of kelp.

Nancy Caruso (Photo by Anabelle Vo, MY HERO staff)
Nancy Caruso (Photo by Anabelle Vo, MY HERO staff)

As the founder of Get Inspired!, a nonprofit organization based out of Orange County, she wanted to imbue young people with a love for science by incorporating creative projects and learning experiences. Get Inspired! has partnered with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute on several projects that allow students to participate in large conservation efforts, from elementary to high school-aged kids. Two species that benefited from Nancy's projects native to the Southern California coastline were the green abalone and the white sea bass, both of which were suffering from over-consumption by humans and by other environmental factors.

Green Abalone (
Green Abalone (

Nancy worked directly within classrooms with students to tend to young abalone and white sea bass until they were ready to be released. Nancy has also taken groups of students on diving trips to release the bass so that the kids can experience it firsthand. This willingness to share knowledge and engage young people is what makes Nancy Caruso such an extraordinary scientist and conservationist--she understands that people become invested in a cause if they are involved in it personally.

Steve Robbins, a Laguna Beach resident, first mentioned Nancy's work to the MY HERO Project, and she was subsequently honored at the Seventh Annual Laguna HERO FEST with a Special Hero Award. The short film The Kelp Lady features Nancy and highlights her previous and current efforts to protect the ocean.

In March 2023, Nancy was named Sea Hero of the Month by Scuba Diving magazine for her work in ocean restoration. After the successful restoration of Orange County's kelp forests between 2002 and 2012, Caruso has applied the same model to other species; she continues to restore green abalone and white sea bass, and has also begun work on Pimso clams. On her goal to release 10,000 green abalones by 2024, Caruso told

"Over the last seven years, we have successfully spawned and grown 5,000 abalone and hope to start releasing them this year. We grew abalone in cohorts from 2016 to 2021. The 7-year-olds are 10 centimeters in length and ready to be outplanted. That’s a good size since there are not many predators that eat abalone that size. The youngest abalone are about 2.5 centimeters in length and should be ready for outplanting in a few more years. My biggest obstacle will be getting permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife."

She also went on to explain that a shift in perspective is what is really needed to save the ocean. 

"Our greatest challenges involve changing our paradigms around the idea that the ocean is only for extraction. In California, our laws and rules are created for the purpose of taking things out of the ocean, not for restoring things in the ocean. [...] Simply put, not many people do species restoration because it’s very hard to get permits. If we want our young people and their children to love and protect the ocean, then the ocean can’t be just for extraction and there must be a pathway for us to do the restoration. Please tell your legislators!"

Hear from Nancy, the Kelp Lady, in this short film here: Watch the MY HERO film, Laguna Beach Eco Heroes: Nancy Caruso:

Page created on 5/12/2014 10:29:48 PM

Last edited 7/10/2023 9:25:50 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Get Inspired! - Nancy Caruso's nonprofit organization
The Kelp Lady - A film about Nancy by the MY HERO Project
White seabass - California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute - Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute is a public, non-profit charity dedicated to providing effective solutions to conflicts that arise between human activity and the natural world.
Kelpfest 2014 - KelpFest was created to celebrate the return of the kelp forests and to honor the thousands of people who helped to restore them.