Plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide including sea turtles, whales, dolphins, marine birds, and now Mermaids!

Our Mission

The Mermaids act as ambassadors to the sea by educating our community about human-sourced ocean pollution and advocating for behaviors that benefit the ocean environment. 


Our History


We had the vision to Save the Mermaids in January of 2009 with intent to engage the Santa Barbara community in the movement away from disposable plastics and educate our youth through exciting and fun learning opportunities. Our group of incredibly creative and ocean-oriented girlfriends were quick to get involved, volunteering for beach cleanups, school presentations, and taking on leadership roles to host community events. The founding board included Lillie Stanton, China Jones, Kate Nelson, Kaia Stachel-Zambryski, and Jordan Lerum, who still are on the board today. In 2013 Kaia Stachel-Zambryski took over as Executive Director and brought Save the Mermaids into establishment as a 501 (3) nonprofit. She also developed our school education programs such as The Mermaid Challenge as well as after school programs and camps, Ocean Explorers. 

Since establishment, the Mermaids have continued to share their message locally as well as throughout Central and South America, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The Mermaids are creative, fun, magical women who represent the beauty and mystery of the ocean environment while enticing our community to join us in it’s preservation. We hold weekly beach cleanups, school presentations, awareness events, workshops, and are deeply involved with the Ban the Bag movement in the Santa Barbara County! Save the Mermaids have partnered with many local groups in town to help bring students out onto the ocean or into the ocean education environments. 

Through “hands-on” experiences we strive to educate and excite students about our coastal waters and make them feel responsible to create the change that will directly affect the oceans health. Throughout the years our Education Programs have expanded from single-use plastic to include marine wildlife, marine ecology, ocean health, beach erosion, water quality, watersheds, sustainable farming, all natural eco friendly home & body products and more! Educating youth and adults in a way that is creative, hands-on, experiential, and meaningful encourages participants to become more confident in their understanding and appreciation of our marine environment. As Mermaids we remain committed to our mission as Ambassadors of the sea and leaders and role models in our communities. We invite you to be the change we wish to see in this big, blue world! Let’s bring the ocean to your flippers!

Mer Team

Executive Director: Kaia Stachel-Zambryski 

To quote David Mitchell, "What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?" A common illustration found is that each of us singularly are drops of water, while the whole is the ocean. One in quality while different in quantity. In the great scheme of things water connects us all, we are the ocean together. As the passionate Executive Director of Save the Mermaids Kaia lives and spreads her love for the magical, deep, vast, blue. She developed the Mermaids Education Curriculum throughout our history and truly makes splashes when working with children. A natural leader, she effectively ignites their curiosity to be the change in our world. She loves taking youth who have completed the Education Program to the Channel Islands and witnessing their joy firsthand. She invites you, all drops of water, to share in the magic of the sea and join the Mermaids in making the whole, together, stronger. 

Bonnie Kwon

director of outreach and education:

Bonnie Kwon

Bonnie has always had a passion for philanthropy. She grew up in Pacific Grove, California next to the most beautiful coastline of Big Sur and always loved exploring the wonders of nature. She came to Santa Barbara to attend college at UCSB and then discovered her ability to make her passion of giving back a hobby. She volunteered and led numerous fundraisers for different non-profits and after graduating, went to help develop and teach for a friend's non-profit in Cambodia. There she saw the devastation of plastic waste harming the beaches and ocean life and immediately wanted to advocate for the beautiful blue sea. She has been active in fundraising for environmental education and has connected local Santa Barbara non-profits serving low income areas, to Save the Mermaids to gain experiences in the ocean they would not normally get. She believes to change the future of our planet, we must start with awareness then the action will follow. Bonnie received her MEd from Antioch University in 2014 and has been dedicated to teaching students about sustainability and promoting a healthy ocean through experiential learning and changing our everyday actions. As Bob Hunter said, “Ecology is flow. You and I are most definitely part of the flow. Everything we do affects the flow. And everything the flow does effects us. If we leave the meek to inherent the Earth, there won’t be anything left to inherent.”

Creative Director: Rene Tonalli Livingston

Rene Tonalli Livingston was born and raised on the Santa Barbara coast. She remembers taking trips out to the Channel Islands as a child and always holding a deep sense of respect for the sea. She has worked out in Mexico protecting the Mesoamerican Reef and leading SCUBA dives as a Divemaster. She believes that we, as humans, must learn to live with greater intimacy with the planet. When not living in the Amazon of Ecuador or the beaches of Costa Rica, she resides at home teaching others about sustainability and overall wellbeing by being more tuned in to your environment. Along with STM education programs, Rene helps with the creative side of Save the Mermaids and works side by side with Kaia to bring more magic into the company. Follow Rene's Mermaid adventures on her Instagram.

Board Members

Kaia Stachel-Zambryski: Board Chair

China Jones: Secretary

Lillie Stanton Donner: Board Member

Kate Nelson: Board Member

Jordan Nelson: Board Member


Fraser Kersey: CFO