Paddling for the Ocean (and the Earth): Margo Pelligrino and Her Work with ASC

Paddler Margo Pelligrino humbly under-sells herself as a “stay at home mom who paddles for the ocean”. Beneath her laid back personality Margo hides a dedicated ocean activist who undertakes enormous challenges to raise awareness for important ocean issues. Margo has paddled her outrigger canoe along the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico and is now preparing for an epic journey from Hudson Bay through the Great Lakes. Beyond her ocean activism Margo also works with ASC on our roadkill, banded gull and marine microplastic studies. ASC recently sat down with Margo to talk about her love of the ocean and her love of protecting nature.

ASC: Tell us a little about yourself, who you are and the nature of your adventures. 

MP: I am an ocean advocate and mother of two who came to be an ocean activist out of concern for my children’s future. My father’s sudden death provided the “kick in the pants” I needed to throw myself into a life of activism. You only get one shot at this life, so you have to make it count. I love adventure and I love the outdoors, so I figured I’d “paddle for the ocean.” What’s kind of funny is that I thought Miami2Maine would be the only adventure I’d have. But it turns out that that was not the case! I mean, you can’t start something and not complete it, right? So I guess I’m in this until the country as a whole wakes up and gets behind ocean conservation. After all, our kids’ futures (as well as ours) depend on it, right?


ASC: What inspired you to undertake these paddling expeditions? 

MP: My children provided the biggest impetus, and my dad’s death motivated me to do something now rather than wait. We never really get a say in when our time is up. I want my children to have the same relatively healthy natural resources as I did. Right now we are looking at the very distinct possibility that that will not be the case–especially with regard to fish in the sea, pollution levels, water quality, and air quality. What is nuts is that by not taking care of our resources we could be negatively impacting the future health of our children. Cancer is the leading cause of death in children aged 14 and younger. This could be because of things like seat-belts and other legislation to promote safety, but with childhood cancer rates increasing as well, one has to think about the role the environment plays in our children’s health – and ours.


ASC: How did you get connected with ASC? 

MP: I first heard about ASC at the awesome Colorado Coalition Event in the fall of 2012. From there I contacted you guys and the rest is history…

ASC: What projects are you working on through ASC and how do they fit with your expeditions? 

MP: I’ve been a little lame on holding up my end of the bargain! The nature of my adventures require a lot of training. When I’m biking I do the road kill survey. It’s very interesting – what ends up dead on the roads is really seasonal. I’m also checking for Banded Herring and Black-backed Gulls. So far, I have not found any on Brigantine Island, Absecon Island, or Ocean City. Nor have I seen any on the marshes behind these islands or on the Great Egg Harbor. Right now I’ve been spending more time on the water, but in fall and into winter, I’ll be biking more again!


ASC: How has working with ASC enriched your adventures? 

MP: These projects make me observe things in greater detail and wonder more about our impact on the world around us. I had never really paid attention to all of the dead snakes and turtles on the roads by me, or even the dead toads on our quiet road. Cars are responsible for the deaths of a lot of species — birds, bugs, reptiles, amphibians —  not just the mammals we generally think of like deer, possums, and squirrels. To slow down and pay attention has really enriched my every day life — from training to paddling.

ASC: What advice would you give other adventurers (paddlers or otherwise) on making a difference with their recreation? 

MP: I would definitely suggest that they get dialed in to what ASC does. The road kill survey is incredibly cool, even if it does get you some funny looks when you stop to take a photo of the latest road kill you’ve found!

ASC: What’s next on the horizon for you and will ASC be a part of those plans? 

MP: If I can secure funding, I will be paddling up the Hudson and into the Great Lakes on a two-summer journey — heck, it could be for three summers depending on the route — on a project of the Blue Frontier Campaign.  Whatever I can do to help ASC with any of their research goals, I’d be totally game for it!

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