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Heal the Bay's longtime chief going to UCLA

Long the public face of Heal the Bay, Mark Gold will become associate director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

January 11, 2012|By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times
  • Mark Gold has been with Heal the Bay for a quarter of a century. He will remain a member of its board of directors.
Mark Gold has been with Heal the Bay for a quarter of a century. He will remain… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The long-time public face of Heal the Bay, one of California's leading and most influential environmental advocacy groups, is stepping down after nearly a quarter of a century with the Santa Monica-based nonprofit.

Mark Gold, president of the environmental group focused on the health of Santa Monica Bay and waters up and down the West Coast, is leaving to accept a position as associate director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where he has taught as an adjunct professor and serves on its board.

Heal the Bay is best known for its Beach Report Card that gives letter grades to hundreds of beaches in California, Oregon and Washington based on water quality. The group also advocates against water pollution and marine debris, for environmental education and marine habitat conservation, and it operates the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

Gold, 48, joined Heal the Bay as a volunteer in 1986 and was hired as its first employee, staff scientist, in 1988. He went on to become its executive director in 1994, was named president in 2006 and has been the face of the group, an outspoken environmental watchdog who often appears at public hearings and pushes for state and local coastal protection laws.

Gold has spent his entire adult life building the group into what it is today and said its hard work has helped make a huge difference in quality of life for Southern Californians and aquatic creatures alike.

"Think about where Santa Monica Bay is today versus where we were when I first started," he said. "We don't have a dead zone in the bay, we don't have fish with tumors ... the beaches are so much cleaner. We don't have these sewage spills that were commonplace in the 1980s. We have marine protected areas."

An announcement by UCLA said Gold will lead efforts to build the institute's education, research and public outreach program, spend half his time working for UCLA's development arm to attract donations to the institute and continue working as an adjunct professor.

"Mark has a genius for translating science so that it can be useful to local and state government agencies," Glen MacDonald, director of the institute, said in the announcement. "He also knows virtually everyone in the environmental community. The nexus that he can create between UCLA's strengths and the environmental community will be a tremendous benefit, not just to the university but the whole region."

Heal the Bay said that Gold's departure has been in the works for some time and that he will remain on its board of directors.

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