How the Monterey Bay Aquarium
enhanced collaboration while
doubling their education programs 

Watch the Inter­view


Katy Scott

Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Man­ag­er

Soo Dean

Direc­tor of Annu­al Giv­ing

Mon­terey Bay Aquar­i­um — devot­ed to inspir­ing con­ser­va­tion of the ocean
— Pro­grams avail­able for preschool through 12th grade stu­dents and teach­ers
— 25 staff mem­bers

Their story

As edu­ca­tion pro­grams expand­ed, things began to fall through the cracks with team mem­bers jug­gling mul­ti­ple projects.

Today, ocean con­ser­va­tion is a grow­ing top­ic of con­cern around the world. The ocean cre­ates 50% of the oxy­gen we breathe, so pro­tect­ing the health of the ocean is vital to the health of all life on earth. At the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­i­um, edu­ca­tion is a key part of ocean con­ser­va­tion. The orga­ni­za­tion strives to not only raise aware­ness, but edu­cate and inspire the next gen­er­a­tion of ocean stew­ards. They’ve devel­oped three inte­gral edu­ca­tion pro­grams that bring in about 110,000 stu­dents, teach­ers and adult chap­er­ones annu­al­ly: school pro­grams, which sup­port field trips to the aquar­i­um; teen pro­grams like sum­mer camps and vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties; and teacher pro­grams, where the staff work with teach­ers to incor­po­rate sci­ence and ocean con­ser­va­tion edu­ca­tion into their cur­ricu­lum. “I think edu­ca­tion is cru­cial for the future of any­thing,” says Katy Scott, Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Man­ag­er. “But if we want our oceans to be pro­tect­ed, we real­ly need to think about the next gen­er­a­tion of stew­ards who are going to pro­tect the ocean.” Scott is respon­si­ble for inte­grat­ing tech­nol­o­gy into all the edu­ca­tion pro­grams the aquar­i­um offers.

Cur­rent­ly, the aquar­i­um is in the process of dou­bling those pro­grams and build­ing a brand new edu­ca­tion cen­ter to meet increas­ing demand. “We get twice the num­ber of appli­cants we can accept,” says Scott. “So right now, we’re try­ing to dou­ble those so that any­one who wish­es to join a pro­gram, can. But try­ing to adjust to that process requires lots of col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

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“Col­lab­o­ra­tion has improved dra­mat­i­cal­ly, not because the peo­ple have changed — we’ve always want­ed to help, but now we have a tool that allows us to fig­ure out how we can help each oth­er bet­ter.”

Katy Scott

Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Man­ag­er

While the pro­grams are dou­bling in size, the staff is work­ing extra hard to get things done. They jug­gle sev­er­al tasks, while work­ing on dif­fer­ent teams and dif­fer­ent pro­grams — so com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key in every­thing they do. “Our edu­ca­tion pro­grams are some of the best in the coun­try, and our team was doing it with Excel spread­sheets,” says Scott. “But when we real­ized that we’re grow­ing and that balls were get­ting dropped, it was nev­er due to incom­pe­tence, it always came down to com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

“It was hard to stay on track,” says Soo Dean, Direc­tor of Annu­al Giv­ing. “We spent a lot of time updat­ing and track­ing the flow of the projects on the Excel spread­sheets. For instance, when dates get pushed, our staff is spend­ing hours try­ing to update the spread­sheet with the rest of the dates for six months of pro­duc­tion sched­ule. It was exhaust­ing.” The team knew a col­lab­o­ra­tion tool was nec­es­sary to help them orga­nize and del­e­gate jobs, but were strug­gling to find one that was com­plex enough to han­dle all their unique projects. “We tried dif­fer­ent project man­age­ment soft­ware but most of them are made for tech com­pa­nies,” says Scott. “We don’t cre­ate prod­ucts; we cre­ate cur­ricu­lums, build pro­grams, and plan events. And it’s not the same process you would use if you’re cre­at­ing a web­site or sell­ing a prod­uct.”

As man­agers, Wrike allows us to bet­ter sup­port the peo­ple who are work­ing with us. It also allows us to ensure that, if I’m lead­ing a pro­gram, I know that every­one clear­ly under­stands what they’re sup­posed to do.

Katy Scott

Dig­i­tal Learn­ing Man­ag­er

Their victory

By enhanc­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion, the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­i­um is now able to grow their edu­ca­tion pro­grams more effi­cient­ly, so stu­dents and teach­ers can learn how to pro­tect our ocean. 

As pro­grams grew and com­mu­ni­ca­tion became more dif­fi­cult, the team at the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­i­um found the right col­lab­o­ra­tion tool that allows them to com­mu­ni­cate eas­i­ly and aban­don their Excel spread­sheet mad­ness. They were able to keep using the process­es that worked, while tight­en­ing up the ones that caused con­fu­sion and delays. Instead of going back and forth in meet­ings about unclear expec­ta­tions, they can doc­u­ment pri­or­i­ties and expec­ta­tions in Wrike from the start of every project, and team mem­bers can eas­i­ly refer back if need­ed. “Basi­cal­ly what our meet­ings involve is report­ing our data and what we’ve dis­cov­ered, then going out and doing a lot of our own work, then com­ing back with more research,” says Scott. “The clar­i­ty of know­ing what the expec­ta­tion is and then com­ing back is inte­gral in terms of mov­ing for­ward at a steady pace.”

Wrike has also allowed the team to take their focus off of tedious, admin­is­tra­tive tasks that take up so much time, and devote more time to run­ning their ini­tia­tives. Instead of man­u­al­ly edit­ing dates in Excel spread­sheets when plans change, it’s all auto­mat­i­cal­ly updat­ed in Wrike. “When we cre­ate a depen­den­cy for each task with­in Wrike, we can change its dead­line , and it auto­mat­i­cal­ly resched­ules every­thing else that’s depen­dent on that task. That’s been a huge help,” says Dean. 

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Edu­ca­tion pro­grams are avail­able for preschool through 12th grade stu­dents and teach­ers

When staff mem­bers leave or go on vaca­tion, time is no longer wast­ed on play­ing catch-up or look­ing for miss­ing tasks. All tasks are archived in Wrike so they can eas­i­ly see what every­one has on their plate at all times. “We had some­one leave who had been using Wrike, so we were able to just go into their task list and reas­sign every­thing that was assigned to her and it was done,” says Scott. “What used to take 4 hours, now takes 30 sec­onds.” The abil­i­ty to see where oth­ers are over­loaded or strug­gling to com­plete their tasks has allowed the entire team to become more effi­cient and more col­lab­o­ra­tive. With the pro­grams dou­bling in size and the num­ber of projects grow­ing, adopt­ing a tool to pro­vide vis­i­bil­i­ty and easy access to all ongo­ing projects gives team mem­bers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to jump in and help each oth­er out. “Every­body in our depart­ment is a per­fec­tion­ist,” says Scott. “So hav­ing the abil­i­ty to say ‘Hey, I see you’ve got a lot on your plate. I have some time, so let me help you,’ has helped not only reduce stress, but helps us do our jobs bet­ter.”

Please sup­port the new Cen­ter for Ocean Edu­ca­tion and Leadership—the most ambi­tious under­tak­ing since open­ing the Aquar­i­um. The new Cen­ter will allow the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­i­um to engage and inspire California’s stu­dents today, and for gen­er­a­tions to come.

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