About Us

The Ocean River Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and grassroots groups make a difference where they live and work through environmental stewardship, education, and citizen science.
The Ocean River Institute is first to practice environmental subsidiarity in collaboration with others, to assist groups closest to wildlife and natural areas, to educate more widely, and to advance ecosystem-based adaptive management with greater public participation.

Rob Moir
Standing Behind Subsidiarity, Ready to Assist

Our Mission

The Ocean River Institute’s mission is to foster greater personal involvement in conservation, environmental monitoring, and protecting ecosystems by facilitating the grassroots efforts of groups working at local and regional levels.

Our Philosophy

The Ocean River Institute operates based on the belief that many environmental issues can be addressed best by people taking action in their own communities and regions, not by national or international entities. In this respect, ORI’s work is grounded in the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is “an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”[1] ORI supports the efforts of localized and small-scale environmental organizations by providing expertise, services, resources, and information that are needed by those organizations, but which are not available at the small or local scale. We call this approach environmental subsidiarity.

Our Name

“Ocean river” is a term used by Homer and Rachel Carson, among others, to describe the connectedness of the natural world. It symbolizes the folly in attempting to separate ocean, river and watershed, which truly are linked as one. We believe in a more inclusive and holistic perspective in environmental conservation. To draw boundaries among ecosystems is not the way of the salmon, the eel, otter or osprey. Instead, we all must recognize the permeability of natural boundaries, as Carson did. ORI believes that we must follow Carson’s lead to understand the complex relationships among oceans, shores, rivers and watersheds, and make environmental decisions based on this greater understanding.

What Do We Do?

ORI conducts activities in four thematic areas:

  1. Ecosystem-based ocean management
  2. River science
  3. Environmental justice
  4. Alaska

For organizations: Environmental groups that are small, local, and/or newly formed often find that they could benefit from outside help to achieve their goals. That’s where the Ocean River Institute comes in. We maintain a network of ORI Partners, connecting these organizations with resources and services to help them maximize their impact, expand their capacity, and weather unanticipated setbacks. Here are examples of support provided by ORI:

  • ORI acted the fiscal agent for the newly formed Virgin Islands Environmental Council. In addition, ORI helped them engage thousands of people from around the world in efforts to protect the islands’ fragile ecosystem.
  • Working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Conservation Law Foundation, and Ocean Conservancy, ORI raised public awareness (click here for example) of the need for comprehensive ocean management in Massachusetts, leading to passage of the Massachusetts Ocean Act.
  • In 2007, ORI assisted Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) youth organizers in Boston with planning and carrying out their Diesel DeTox campaign for cleaner air in their neighborhoods.
  • For several small organizations that lack their own websites, we have created pages on the ORI website to disseminate information about their activities and events.

For individuals: We provide people around the world with a catalog of specific opportunities to make a difference in environmental education, science, and conservation. Many people want to lend a hand to small environmental organizations, but it can be difficult for them to know how they can help. The Ocean River Institute serves as a link between these individuals and organizations that need their help. By subscribing to our newsletter, signing up as an ORI Steward, or visiting our website, individuals can stay abreast of Actions and Events of diverse organizations. As examples, ORI has enabled people to

Beef Island looking out to BVI
Mangrove shore of Beef Island was threatened by megayacht marina and golf course without buffer areas. Roseated flamingoes and, less often, West Indian Whistling Ducks feed here. This is home for the elusive white-cheeked pigeon.

Where Do We Work?

In its first year of operation, the Ocean River Institute has become Partners with organizations from Alaska to Massachusetts to the Caribbean. We seek opportunities to work with organizations around the world.

ORI History and Organization

The Ocean River Institute was founded in 2007. ORI President and Executive Director Rob Moir, Ph.D., formerly was Curator of Natural History at the Peabody Essex Museum, Curator of Education at the New England Aquarium, Founder of Salem Sound Harbor Monitors/Salem Sound Coastwatch, and President of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay. The ORI Board of Directors provides guidance and support for the organization.

All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream of the river Oceanus.

--Hephaistos creating Achilles' shield in Homer's the Iliad Book XVIII

All at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

--Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us



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