Board of Directors
Sam Ridgway, President
Sam Ridgway, DVM, PhD, DACZM is president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. He is one of the founders of the Navy Marine Mammal program staring in 1961 and has 48 years of experience in marine mammal medicine and research. Sam joined the National Marine Mammal Foundation in 2007. Colleagues often call him the “father of marine mammal medicine” because of his development of dolphin anesthesia, medical technology, and discoveries aiding marine mammal care.
Dr. Ridgway has served on the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Marine Mammal Commission, on four different committees of National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, and was elected a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America for his studies on hearing of marine mammals and as a fellow of the American College of Zoological Medicine for his work on marine mammal medicine. His many awards include: the Distinguished Alumnus Award, Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine; the Lifetime and Clinical Medicine Awards from the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine; Lifetime Membership Award, Society for Marine Mammalogy, the Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement award of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, the ZooMarine Award of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals; and, two Navy awards, the Gilbert H. Curl Award, and the Lauritsen Bennett Award.
Dr. Ridgway earned Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees from Texas A&M University. He earned his PhD in neurobiology from the University of Cambridge in England. In the 1960′s, Dr. Ridgway pioneered dolphin anesthesia, medical technology, and methods for studying trained dolphins swimming freely in the open sea (his discoveries have been published in more than 275 papers in leading scientific journals such as Science, Nature, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and Scientific American).
Today, he wants to seize a unique moment in time. Now it is vital to preserve animals with experience in human/computer communication. With many years of human interface and learning, these animals offer a unique opportunity. They offer a great advantage in understanding the large dolphin brain. How this unique “mind” interacts with other animals and the ocean environment is a major challenge of our time.
Chris Ott, Secretary/Treasurer
The Founding director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation in 2007, Chris Ott has managed the business of the Foundation since its inception. During that time the Foundation has steadily grown from a hand full of employees to more than twenty with continued steady growth projected well into the future. He brings his experience as an owner and/or operator of small businesses in San Diego for many years and as a retired Navy Captain.
Dr. Cynthia Smith provides leadership to the NMMF team, oversees nonprofit growth and development, and represents the organization through business, community, and outreach events. Prior to joining the NMMF, Smith provided progressive medical care for the highly acclaimed Navy Marine Mammal Program. She has pioneered research in dolphin renal, reproductive, and pulmonary health using advanced diagnostic imaging techniques and nuclear medicine studies. Smith obtained her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University, during which time she also completed a veterinary thesis through collaboration with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. She completed an internship in aquatic animal medicine at the New England Aquarium, followed by a National Research Council Associateship, and has completed Executive Education coursework in nonprofit management at the Harvard Business School.
Marilee Menard is a consultant with the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, an international organization of parks, aquariums, zoos, research facilities, and professional groups. She retired after 20 years as the organization’s executive director. Alliance members fund and support marine mammal studies and collaborate on research with the National Marine Mammal Foundation. The Alliance is also a supporter of Aquatic Mammals, the oldest international scientific, peer-reviewed marine mammal journal.