Read Our Welcome Letter
Welcome! We are glad you are here!
I have been coming to the keys for over 50 years diving and fishing and enjoying the amazing resources
we have here in south Florida. I, like many of you have seen the tremendous change in our fragile coral
reef. I have been involved in many conservation initiatives over the years but this one is VERY near and
dear to my heart. We believe that with a lot of hard work and generous donations we cannot only
protect these fragile waters and fish and coral that live within them but see them return to their former
I’m pleased to share our background with you. While our organization is new, the leadership working
within is not. Our Board of Directors has already been serving together prior to the formation of our
new non-profit. We have already worked anywhere from over a year to over 10 years together,
focusing on exactly what the Marine Preservation Society of the Florida Keys does today.
You will see on our directors’ page the enormous depth of experience working in the nearshore and
offshore waters surrounding the Florida Keys. Our directors are world class in what they do and in what
they have already done for our waters, our keys community, and the Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary. We are ready.
Every director is dedicated to the protection, preservation, and restoration of our sanctuary. Amazingly,
when you add up the number of hours of volunteer dedication and non-profit management, we have
over 500 years of experience volunteering, working specifically in the Florida Keys marine industry, and
importantly, the founding and operation of other non-profits. We bring enormous talent and passion to
the table, and we are doing it another way.
While we are the same individuals who have been on the ground for a very long time, we choose to
approach the needs of our ecosystem and sanctuary differently.
What is different? Our approach.
We are independent. We live here and we give here. We work directly with the Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary. We are deeply connected in the community and collaborate with all individuals and
organizations. We make common sense decisions right here.
As an example, earlier this year, a large commercial net was discovered abandoned less than 100 yards
from Eastern Dry Rocks, the site of multiple coral nurseries under the auspices of the sanctuary’s
Mission: Iconic Reefs coral restoration initiative. It needed to be recovered immediately. When other
agencies couldn’t assist, or needed time for protocols, the Marine Preservation Society Directors quickly
approved funding within the hour, and within 24 hours, resources were deployed and the net was
recovered, mitigating a dangerous situation to restoration work.
The decision to keep our fund use and efforts local was not a hard decision to make.
The decision to offer a pathway for our supporters to realize 100% of their donations staying here is one
we are very proud of.
The decision to work real-time, hyper-local, and with laser focus just makes sense, not just for us, but for
those who want to see the greatest impact from their time and their financial support.
Please get to know us if you don’t already! We are here to serve you, our sanctuary, and the pristine, yet
fragile waters of the Florida Keys.
We hope you will consider supporting this very important cause. You have my pledge that your funds
will be spent in a prudent manner. I am not only the Chairman, but a significant donor as well.
Tom Davidson, Jr
Rob Bleser was born and raised in Miami and lived in Gainesville for four years while attending the University of Florida.
Bleser is the founder and owner of the dive charter business, Quiescence, in Key Largo since 1977. Quiescence has continued for over 44 years, as one of the most respected operators in the Florida Keys.
Bleser founded Breathing Air Concepts, a high-pressure breathing air compressor division, in 1989.
Additionally, Bleser has served as Fire Chief and Ambulance chief of the Tavernier Volunteer Fire Department, Captain of the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department Water Emergencies Team, Co-owner of Fire-Tech Repair Service, Inc., and Reserve Deputy, Aviation – Monroe Co. Sheriff’s Office.
Bleser also had the pleasure of being the Manager of the Spiegel Grove Reefing project.
Bleser’s credentials include USCG Master’s License, 500 Ton, Certified SSI Scuba instructor, DAN 02 Instructor, Professional Scuba Inspector Instructor, Certified State of Florida Emergency Medical Technician, multiple other Fire and EMS certifications, and is a Certified high Pressure Breathing Airs Systems technician.
Bleser has served on the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, as well as served as a board member for the Marine and Port Advisory Committee for Monroe County, Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, and both the Key Largo and Tavernier Volunteer Fire Departments.
Bleser is also a Private Rotorcraft pilot.
Les Burke is the Secretary of the Marine Preservation Society and has been diving since 1980. Les was the eighth African American to complete the Navy’s school for Deep Sea Diving and Salvage in Little Creek, VA. Famed US Navy Master Diver Carl Brashear mentored Les in the early years. As one of the Navy’s elite Salvage divers, Les spent 33 years in the Navy. As a Navy Diver, he took part in several high-profile salvage operations. In addition to submerged aircraft, sunken ships, and personnel recovery, Les was involved in the Space Shuttle Columbia salvage.
In the twilight of his career, he was asked to go to Iraq. He spent 18 months with the U.S. Army Special Forces, including a 50-week tour in Iraq.
Les founded Jr Scientists in the Sea – while living in Tallahassee – to provide exposure to any student who wanted to learn about our aquatic world. He brought youth from up north to meet, learn and dive with youth from Florida. After five years in the cold, Les moved back to Florida, where he focused on the Florida Reef Tract and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Les has been honored by the State of Florida for his youth-oriented prevention programming. He was a two-term Chair of the Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Council and was the Jefferson County Teen Summit founder. Also, Les serves on the Board of Directors for the Caribbean Center for Boys & Girls of the Virgin Islands.
Les holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Operations Management and a Juris Doctorate, both from Florida State University. He has completed all coursework for his Master’s in Public Administration.
He is a Department of State ICASS Executive, a certified mediator and curriculum developer, a State Certified Law Enforcement Officer in Florida and a certified Master SCUBA instructor.
Tom Davidson Jr.
Tom Davidson Jr. serves as the Chairman of the Marine Preservation Society of the Florida Keys.
He is currently CEO and majority shareholder of Nisim International a manufacturer of hair and skin care products distributed on a worldwide basis. Tom is also managing partner of Quarry Hill Partners a holding company for a diversified group of manufacturing companies.
Tom has been the principal owner and operator of several other companies including Speedy Printing Centers, Quarry Hill Foundry Supplies, Optiplas films and Eco II plastics, Nutech Precision Metals, and Steelcraft Industries.
Tom has served on several boards including Synergex (member of the audit committee) previously a TSE listed company, TearLab (member audit committee) previously listed on NASDAQ, Brandimensions, Balmshell inc, Steelcraft, Nutech Precision Metals (chairman), YPO Ontario Chapter (chapter chair), Canadian Franchise Association (chairman), Canadian Association of Family Enterprise, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ocean Reef Rod and Gun (chairman), The Goodwood Club, Caledon Mountain Trout Club (chairman), Fishing Forever Foundation, and Angel Hair for Kids (chairman).
Tom is an avid outdoorsman enjoying fishing and wingshooting.
Tom has a BS from Michigan State University in Geological Engineering.
Nick Davies is an Operating Partner for the insurance vertical at Agman, an investment management firm with interests in a wide variety of assets and thousands of employees. He serves as CEO of Aurenity, a specialty managing general agent, Chairman of Virtus, a brokerage and consulting business and a board member of Omaha National, a leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance.
Nick was formerly President of Brit Global Specialty Americas and Chairman of Brit USA, Brit Bermuda and Commonwealth Insurance. He began his career at Lloyd’s of London and is ACII (Chartered Insurance) qualified. Nick is a graduate of King’s College London and holds dual UK/US nationality.
He serves on the board of City of Hope’s National Insurance Council and Co-Chair of their Midwest Committee, supporting cancer and diabetes research and treatment. He is a former Treasurer of the Auxiliary Board of the Chicago Botanic Garden and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization.
Nick is a Director of the Marine Preservation Society of the Florida Keys and serves as Treasurer. Passionate about ocean conversation, he is a certified Divemaster and volunteer diver for Coral Restoration Foundation and Dive Against Debris.
Stephen Frink is among the world’s most frequently published underwater photographers, with a career spanning four decades. He arrived in Key Largo in 1978 to open a small studio dedicated to underwater photo services, primarily renting cameras and processing E-6 slide film, and soon began to receive assignments to photograph and write articles for consumer dive publications.
He worked as a photojournalist for Skin Diver magazine for 17-years, covering much of the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida Keys for the publication. Subsequently, he worked as the Director of Photography for Scuba Diving magazine.
For the past 12 years, Stephen has been the publisher of Alert Diver Magazine, a beautiful coffee-table collectible magazine for the members of the Divers Alert Network.
Stephen teaches Masters-level courses at Stephen Frink School of Underwater Digital Imaging in his home waters of Key Largo, Florida. Clients over the past 40 years have included Scubapro, Victoria’s Secret, Aqualung, Oceanic, Canon, Nikon, Subgear, Mercury Marine, Jantzen, Alcan Aluminum, R.J. Reynolds, Seaquest, Henderson Aquatics, American Express, Hanes, Club Med; as well as scores of resorts and live-aboard dive boats throughout the world. Rolex Watch Company has also engaged Frink for both endorsement campaign and product photography.
He sits on the Coral Restoration Foundation board, as well as the Florida Keys chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and is active with various ocean conservation initiatives.
Other Frink enterprises include a dive travel company specializing in underwater photo expeditions, Waterhouse Tours
Stephen divides his time between Key Largo and his country home in Rougemont, NC. (www.stephenfrink.com)
Ian Koblick pioneered undersea living in the 1970s as an Aquanaut in the Tektite I undersea living project in the Virgin Islands. At the conclusion of Tektite I, Ian became a project manager of Tektite II, while serving as a special Assistant to the Governor of the VI. In that role he helped manage the science missions.
Buoyed by the success of Tektite, Ian established the Marine Resources Development Foundation (MRDF) in 1970 and was invited by the governor of Puerto Rico to create an undersea living program dubbed PRINUL (Puerto Rico International Undersea Laboratory). Ian designed the sophisticated undersea lab of PRINUL, called La Chalupa, and managed the program from 1971 to 1976.
In 1976, Ian moved MRDF to Broward County, Florida and began working with the US Department of Commerce on the creation of a national ocean program. He was the consulting editor of the NOAA Diving Manual. He also provided environmental consultation for the Port Everglades Authority in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and served on the NOVA University Ocean Science Center advisory board. In 1981, MRDF acquired The Golden Venture, a 147-foot research vessel equipped for undersea exploration and used it to locate and uncover artifacts from the sunken Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha.
In 1984 Ian collaborated with Jim Miller to publish the definitive book, “Living and Working in the Sea.” Ian and his partner Dr. Neil Monney found and re-acquired the La Chalupa habitat used in PRINUL and converted it into the world’s first undersea hotel, Jules Undersea Lodge. Since its opening in 1986 Jules has hosted over 10,000 guests including astronauts, marine scientists, celebrities and heads of state. Ian and Neil donated the habitat back to MRDF, and Jules served as a research platform for a NASA sponsored mission in 1992, “La Chalupa-30.” In 1996, Ian joined up with his old friend and Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter and they developed the “Scott Carpenter Man In The Sea Program,” which ran until 1999. Ian served on the US/Japan committee for natural resources from 1972-1985 and currently serves on the selection committee for the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Russell Post owns Ocean Sotheby’s International Realty with offices in Islamorada, Marathon and Key West.
Russ came to Ocean Reef in 1973 and served as director and president of the Ocean Reef Community Association from 1977-1985 and president and director of the Ocean Reef Club from 1980-1992. A year later, Russ established his own brokerage firm to assist the Ocean Reef community with all its real estate needs. Since then, Russ’s firm has accounted for more than 50 percent of all real estate sales at Ocean Reef.
Today, Russ and his family reside at Ocean Reef.
As an active civic leader and member of the Angel group of donors at Ocean Reef, Russ is proud to support a number of community causes, including the Medical Center at Ocean Reef, Ocean Reef Community Foundation, Ocean Reef Cultural Center, the Academy at Ocean Reef, Art League, ORCAT, Ocean Reef Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Reef Historical Society. He is also president of the board of trustees at the Academy at Ocean Reef, where all three of his children attended school.
Russ went to college at the University of Evansville in Indiana, served in the U.S. Army, and is a Vietnam Veteran. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, boating, and trying to improve his golf game.
Steven Smith worked with his family business, Smith Oil Company. He assumed ownership of the company in 1981 and executed its sale in 1999. From that point until present day, Mr. Smith has been very active as a commercial developer, including multiple self-storage facilities.
Through the years, Mr. Smith has served on numerous community boards, including twenty years on a hospital board and thirty years with a community college foundation board where he still serves as its Chairman since 1998.
Mr. Smith also was a founding director of a bank and continues over twenty-three years of service on the Board of Directors to this institution.
Mr. Smith was Chairman of the Shell Oil Company National Jobbers Council, representing 40% of Shell’s Domestic Gasoline Volume.
Mr. Smith has resided in Ocean Reef as a property owner and member of Ocean Reef Club since 1997, and tremendously enjoys boating and fishing in the surrounding waters.
Admiral Kurt Tidd, Retired USN. Vice Chairman of the Marine Preservation Society of the Florida Keys retired after a forty-year Navy career, settling in the Florida Keys and is pursuing new interests and adventures. During his military career, he proudly served with the talented and professional women and men of all branches of the Armed Forces, the Foreign Service, Federal Law Enforcement officers, and the Intelligence Community.
Currently Admiral Tidd supports a variety of benevolent organizations and interests. He is the Chairman of the Board at the Olmsted Foundation, a private non-profit organization that provides two years of postgraduate studies at foreign universities in a foreign language for a select number of future military leaders. He is also a Senior Fellow at National Defense University’s CAPSTONE/KEYSTONE/PINNACLE program, mentoring Flag and General Officers and Senior Enlisted Leaders. He belongs to the Advisory Board of the Spirit of America Foundation. Admiral Tidd volunteers his time to support a number of worthwhile causes, including the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Islamorada Conservation and Restoration Education (I.CARE) foundation engaged in coral reef preservation and restoration, and Key Dives of Islamorada, Florida’s Reef Clean Up activities. Since retirement he was certified as a Dive Master by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. He preserves adequate time to indulge passions including scuba diving, road cycling, and saltwater fishing.
His final active-duty assignment was to command U.S. Southern Command, headquartered in Doral, Florida. It is responsible for all Department of Defense operations in the 45 nations and territories of Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea, an area of 16 million square miles.
Before that, Admiral Tidd was the 35th Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. In this capacity, he was the Chairman’s direct representative to the Secretary of State. Prior to that, he was the Director for Operations (J3), Joint Staff, responsible for coordinating all military operations around the globe.
At sea, Tidd commanded U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet. He also commanded Carrier Strike Group 8 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), during a combat deployment supporting coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. From 2004 to 2005, Tidd commanded Persian Gulf maritime operations as Commander, Middle East Force and Commander Task Force 55. Previous sea duty assignments include; Commander, Destroyer Squadron 50; and Commanding Officer, USS Arthur W. Radford (DD 968).
Assignments ashore included three years on the National Security Council Staff as Director for Strategic Capabilities Policy, and as a Director for Combating Terrorism. He was the founding Deputy for Operations on the Chief of Naval Operations’ War on Terrorism Operations Planning Group “Deep Blue” established following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Tidd was serving in the Pentagon during the 9/11 attack. He was also serving at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium from 1989 to 1991 when the Berlin Wall fell, and the Cold War ended.
In addition to various campaign and service medals, Admiral Tidd has received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (3 awards), the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (4 awards), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), and the Navy Commendation Medal (4 awards).
Tidd has been awarded the Legion of Honor (grade of Chevalier) and the Order of Maritime Merit (grade of Officer) by the government of France; the Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit, the Air Force Cross, and the Grand Cross of the Order of Naval Merit by the government of Colombia; the Distinguished Service Order by the government of Argentina, and the Order of Naval Merit by the government of Brazil. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and was a Federal Executive Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Jodi Zifferer is a longtime advocate for eco-friendly marine and boating practices. Having spent her whole life around the water, she is an avid angler, boater, and diver.
A Wisconsin native, she and her husband fled the cold waters of Lake Michigan and moved to the Florida Keys in 1996 to raise their family. Jodi and her family feel grateful to call the beautiful waters of the Florida Keys their backyard.
Members of the Ocean Reef Angels and Founders Society of the Ocean Reef Medical Center. A long-time supporter of the Coral Reef Restoration Project and disaster services volunteer with the Red Cross.
Past activities include being The Academy at Ocean Reef board member and chairperson for multiple Academy auctions & golf tournaments.
Currently, Jodi serves on the board of the Bonefish Bonnies, a group of 200 women that promote interest and participation in the sport of fishing while educating respectful fishing, boating, and marine habits. She chairs the tournament committee, which hosts three annual tournaments.
When Jodi’s not on the water, she enjoys traveling, off-roading & gardening.
As superintendent of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Sarah Fangman is responsible for leadership, vision, and strategic direction, overseeing a staff of more than 30 employees and affiliates.
Fangman came to the Florida Keys in 2017 with 19 years of experience working for the National Marine Sanctuary System, most recently as superintendent of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary from 2014-2017. She was the Southeast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Region program coordinator from 2005-2014 and served as the research coordinator for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary from 1998-2005.
Through her work with the sanctuary system, Fangman has conducted more than 600 scuba dives in the Florida Keys, obtained a USCG 100 Ton Master’s Captain’s license, and became a certified submersible pilot.
Fangman first came to NOAA in 1996 as a Presidential Management Fellow, where she was the special assistant to the deputy director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
She holds a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington.
Sara Rankin, volunteer director, brings a wealth of experience with over 25 years in nonprofit management and development in Florida and nation-wide, including leadership roles as Executive Director and Regional Director with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, National Development Director for Autism Speaks, President and CEO with United Way of both Manatee County, Florida and Fayette County, Ohio, and Regional Director of the West, Mountain West, Southwest, and Midwest with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
She was chosen from over 1000 other staff members as “Staff Person of the Year” with JDRF in 2008.
Through her national roles, Sara developed sensitivities of local markets, and helped committed boards and volunteers achieve goals and objectives that aligned with their resources. In a development capacity, Sara believes in a donor-first philosophy, and maintains deep interpersonal relationships with donors, helping them achieve their objectives.
Sara leads efforts in the Keys, Florida, and beyond to expand private support for the protection and restoration of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and conduct education and outreach programs that promote stewardship of our ocean and strengthen conservation.