“Otter Rock Marine Reserve had no better friend than Karen Driscoll”, said Jesse Jones CoastWatch Coordinator for Oregon Shores in a long email thread of nearly a hundred conservation partners yesterday afternoon in memory of Karen. Karen was a key volunteer with Surfrider Foundation’s Newport Chapter, and just about every other coastal conservation or community science group she could be a part of. On Monday afternoon, Karen passed peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by family following a long battle with cancer. Karen had a relentless spirit to protect and monitor the Otter Rock Marine Reserve and the many creatures, but especially the oystercatchers, that lived there. It was Karen and her family’s wish that memorials be sent to support the Friends of Otter Rock Marine Reserve, which you can learn more about at the bottom of this post. Karen and her inspiration for ocean conservation will be sorely missed – our hearts go out to her family and the many individuals that knew and loved her.

Karen Driscoll laughs during a video shoot at Surfrider’s Depoe Bay Blue Water Task Force lab located at Neighbors for Kids

Five years ago to this day I met Karen in Depoe Bay, following a presentation I had given at the local community center. She was excited about the talk that I had just given about Surfrider Foundation, Otter Rock Marine Reserve and our Blue Water Task Force Program and asked for my email to follow up. Before I even got home I had an enthusiastic email from her: “I have just retired from my OHSU/Pathology/Transfusion Service position and am indulging this opportunity to follow my fondness of the ocean. From your perspective, what are the volunteer opportunities available within your organization ? I’m interested and teachable”. Over the next 5 years Karen established herself as the foundation and glue of the Otter Rock Marine Reserve community. Karen started immediately volunteering with our Blue Water Task Force Program, supporting water quality monitoring at Otter Rock. She loved working with the children at Neighbors for Kids, engaging them in the water quality monitoring, teaching them cool ocean conservation lessons and generally doing neat stuff like articulating a seal skeleton found on the beach! Karen gained national recognition from Surfrider Foundation in the spring of 2019 for all of her amazing work with the kids and water quality – check out her activist spotlight here. And then again earlier this year as part of our national Blue Water Task Force Program video series, Karen was featured in the water quality lab in Depoe Bay with the kids:

Karen appears a few times in this national video on our BWTF program.

Karen demonstrates proper mixing and measuring techniques in the water quality lab with a Neighbors for Kids after-school participant

But Surfrider Foundation and the Neighbors for Kids was really just the beginning of Karen’s commitment to protecting the Otter Rock Marine Reserve and being a coastal defender. She volunteered with the CoastWatch program of Oregon Shores to monitor sea stars as part of a monitoring effort on sea star wasting disease and recovery. She was a seabird and oystercatcher monitoring volunteer with Portland Audubon and worked with the local Audubon Chapter and US Fish and Wildlife Service on education and bird disturbance issues during nesting season. Karen would even contract fishing vessels on her own dime to take her out to monitor the seabirds on the rocks offshore along the boundary of the marine reserve. She worked with the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey team to monitor beached and dead birds. Karen was a fierce advocate attending and testifying at Ocean Policy Advisory Council meetings and was always ready to speak out for her conservation values and threats to Otter Rock – especially the tidepools and oystercatchers. In five short years, she went from learning about the Otter Rock Marine Reserve, to being the key volunteer leader of all community science activities Otter Rock.

Celebrating Karen Driscoll

In lieu of flowers, the family and Karen have asked for individuals to make a donation in support of the Friends of Otter Rock Marine Reserve. Surfrider Foundation has set up a memorial fund in Karen’s name that will direct 100% of donations in her name to the Friends of Otter Rock Marine Reserve. Individuals can click on the link below and in “Karen Driscoll” in the memorial field. If you would like for the family to be notified of your contribution, please include the following information for the notification field: Erin Wisner, 349 NW 14th St., Newport OR 97365. A memorial service in celebration of Karen is scheduled for next March 12th on the beach, in time when family travel and large gatherings is favorable.


The above button/link will direct you to a Surfrider memorial page. 100% of the donations contributed in Karen Driscoll’s name will go to the Friends of Otter Rock Marine Reserve.