Guest post by the UGA Marine Extension Education Fellows
We had such a great time virtually hosting the 7th annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit! Each year the Marine Education Fellows and volunteers work hard to plan and put on this event, and with this year’s YOCS being virtual, it presented some unique challenges. During the event, our 43 participants were able to hear and learn from our awesome speakers, including Dr. Dove from the Georgia Aquarium! We also had incredible speakers from Savannah State, Georgia Southern, and the University of Georgia. We’d like to take this time to thank our engaging speakers and also our fabulous volunteers for a job well done, and we already can’t wait for next year!
Learn more about the Savannah Youth Ocean Conservation Summit!
2020 was a tumultuous year, to say the least. However, despite the chaos and uncertainty of a global pandemic, our youth grant recipients forged ahead and doubled down on their commitments to protect our blue planet. From planning the opening of eco-friendly online stores to organizing COVID-safe clean-up flotillas, YOCS grant recipients are staying busy and vigilant. That's why we're incredibly humbled and excited to highlight the faces and projects of our 2020-2021 youth grant recipients. Read about their upcoming work and their passions below.
Alexandra Adamo is using her grant to launch Eco-SHOP, an organization dedicated to providing resources and information regarding sustainable shopping. Eco-SHOP is using its YOCS funding to buy materials to create reusable totes. Along with selling tote bags on their website and Instagram (@ecoshop_usa), eco-SHOP will use its digital platform as a tool to educate followers about sustainable shopping.
Kayla Fowler is using her YOCS grant to begin development on an ocean conservation-themed children's book which will feature characters like Emma the turtle and Wellie the dolphin. Kayla’s book is designed to raise awareness about marine life and conservation. Writing to us about her project, Kayla said: "The goal for me is to raise awareness in young kids of the need for ocean conservation, but in a way that is both fun and engaging." Keep an eye out for her book later this year.
Next up is Anya Gupta and her project: Pennies for Penguins. Her goal is to help move penguins off of the endangered species list. To do this, her work addresses the ways Climate Change, habitat destruction, and plastic waste affect the health of penguin populations. Through her website, vlogs, and social platforms, she works to educate families on the necessity of reusable goods, on the harms of single-use plastics, and on a myriad of other ways they can help preserve the planet.
The next grant recipient, Nate Harrison, is a ten-year-old conservationist and ocean health/marine life activist. His latest project, a beautifully illustrated children’s book titled, “One Reef”, focuses on the importance of coral reefs and the impact of human (in)action. He hopes that his book will help educate and inspire the next generation of young environmentalists.
lana Szarf and her South Broward High School club, Plastic-Free Mermaids, will use their YOCS grant to tackle the local plastic pollution crisis. Ilana and the club hold virtual meetings twice a month and discuss different ways to approach the plastic pollution crisis amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The club regularly interacts with their Florida state legislators to urge them to pass laws that ban single-use plastics. Likewise, they also strive to protect the beauty of their shores in real-time by holding socially distant beach clean-ups.
Julia Aveline-Rabenjoro is a 13-year-old French national who lives in Sabah, Borneo. Her project, Seed of Hope, works to raise money for marine conservation organizations in Borneo. As a diver, she's been witness to countless examples of pollution, ghost netting, reef destruction, and marine biodiversity loss. Her goals are to help reduce single-use plastic in Borneo and to raise as much awareness as possible via interviews on her Facebook page and through her ebooks - which she plans to release later this year.
Through their Protect our Prehistoric Pals project, students at River Valley Charter School will use their YOCS grant funding to organize marsh cleanups to help ensure horseshoe crab habitat is free of debris. Additionally, they will lead efforts to educate visitors at the Parker River National Wildlife River, as well as their peers, about the importance of horseshoe crabs.
Owen Studdiford is using his YOCS grant to clean up the trash and old fishing equipment that gets stuck in Charlotte Harbor's mangrove forests. After fishing with his dad and being dismayed by the sight of trash choking up his favorite fishing spots, Owen decided to take action. To protect his fishing grounds and the wildlife that lives there, he plans to dedicate a set number of days to clean up Charlotte Harbor.
Marie Nancy Chimanuka is also one of our international grant recipients. She plans to use her YOCS grant to recover the recyclable waste that collects on Lake Kivu's shores. She and her allies chose to tackle this issue because the water at Lake Kivu is crucial to the health, economy, and diets of the Lake Kivu community and the surrounding river delta. Stay tuned for more updates on the Lake Kivu cleanup.
In a futuristic and inspiring use of his YOCS grant, Artash Nath is using his funding to build a low-cost robotic vehicle. The bot will take water quality measurements and photographs of Lake Ontario. This vehicle will be powered by open-source electronics such as Arduino. Additionally, some of the instruments on the bot are going to be designed at home using everyday materials. The instructions on how to build the vehicle, the software code used, and the data obtained from the vehicle will be posted online - so that the project can be replicated by anyone who is interested in water quality data collection.
Also gracing the international scene is Dr. Paresh Poriya and the Coastal Clean-Up Campaign. This campaign will be organized on different coasts of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat state. Targeting pilgrimage and tourist areas, bachelor, master students, and Ph.D. research scholars of various institutes will create enticing slogans and posters that raise awareness about plastic pollution in the Eastern state of India.
Kaeleigh Belanger is using her YOCS grant to launch Save Our Planet, Save Our Lives. It's a project that will be designed to remove trash from the Merrimack River. Kaeleigh will organize volunteers to go out in kayaks and small boats to fish trash out of the water before it makes its way to the ocean. Save Our Planet, Save Our Lives will also organize beach clean-ups in trash hotspots along the river basin. Their hope is to reduce the entanglement and ingestion of microplastics by marine life while educating boaters, beachgoers, and their classmates.
Leah Edwards and the Fort Lauderdale High School Surfrider Environmental Club are working to educate and motivate their community on issues of environmental awareness. With the YOCS grant, they plan on purchasing a composting bin and materials to create a school garden that will divert organic waste from landfills and from producing greenhouse gases. This will be a project that furthers their advocacy efforts, in addition to their in-school bottle water bottle refilling stations and bottle cap mural.
Maya Lander and the Lakewood Ranch High School Marine Conservation Club are using their YOCS grant to fund the installation of a water bottle refill station on campus. It will be the first at their school and will act as a revolutionary yet simple way to curb the use of single-use plastics at their school. To learn more about their project, check out their Instagram @lrhs_marine.
This summer, Sierra Pargett and the Cape Ann Boat Landing Clean-Up plan to collect, sort, count, log, and properly dispose of the debris from a different landing each Saturday while adhering to the current COVID guidelines. Sierra and her crew will be qualifying the debris by categories, as described on the Rozalia long sheet. The information will then be input into the Marine Debris Tracker, an international marine database sponsored by National Geographic. To promote public awareness, she will post a picture of the trash at the boat landing with all participants and debris totals on the Cape Ann Boat Landing Clean-up Facebook, seascoutshipno.5, and submit her findings to the local paper.
Camille Rivera plans to use her grant to launch a book reading and storytelling event titled "Ocean Adventures with Cory." Focusing on coral reef awareness, this event will educate young kids on pressing marine conservation issues. As Camille writes: "Storybooks are one way to bring together youth and coastal kids to enhance reading and also ocean literacy in Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental, Philippines! By doing this kind of program, we are not only educating kids, these storybooks will also be printed for the local teachers so they can continue teaching about the importance of coral reefs every year!"
The Nauticus Youth Action Council is also a 2020-2021 YOCS grant recipient. They will be using their funds to host a clean-up day and educate their community about environmental stewardship activities they can take part in locally and at home. This will including setting up virtual events that community members can take part in independently and safely.
Working with the Mass Oyster Project, Nicolette Stamos will collect water samples from the Upweller where the oysters are being raised. She'll document and take pictures of the organic material in the samples and check water quality (Temperature, Salinity, DO). Her work is a part of a baseline collection effort for the waters in the Upweller and Gloucester harbor. With this information, the Mass Oyster Project can compare future Upweller and Harbor water data to the baseline and notice any anomalies that may be concerning.
Last but not least amongst our 2020-2021 grant recipients are Michelle and Jeremy Muchilwa and their campaign: Bring Back Lake Victoria. Bring Back Lake Victoria seeks to restore Lake Victoria to its pristine condition and to eradicate plastic pollution in the lake. Michelle and Jeremy are creating a platform for different people to come together and work towards solving the problem of plastic pollution in the lake. In their words: "Plastic pollution is more than just an environmental problem, it is destroying livelihoods and affecting human health." As such, they have been executing a multi-prong approach to raise awareness, take direct action, and conduct research on this pressing issue.
A special thanks to the Johnson Ohana Foundation, PopSockets, the Captain Planet Foundation, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and our individual donors for their generous support of our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant program and to the team at Mote Marine Laboratory for making this grant program possible!
The 2020 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit celebrated a decade of youth leadership for the ocean! This year’s Summit united over 350 youth and adults from around the world for two days and equipped participants with the tools needed to develop innovative, solutions-oriented ocean conservation projects to implement in their local communities. This 10th anniversary Summit, the largest to date, was hosted virtually in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory. The Summit provided an opportunity for a global audience of young conservation leaders and mentors to connect– creating a unique collaborative learning environment to foster new ideas to fuel a youth movement to protect our blue planet.
The Summit kicked off on Friday, December 4 with the premiere of a new film by Running Wild Media highlighting the impact of the Summit program over the past decade. Special guests, ocean conservationist and marine policy advocate, Wendy Benchley, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader, Chris Fischer, Director of the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Dr. Randy Wells, and renowned marine life artist, Wyland, joined YOCS alumni for an impactful conversation on the need for ocean conservation action in the decade ahead and the critical role youth leadership plays in this work.
Saturday’s Summit kicked off with an inspiring keynote from explorer, filmmaker, and environmental advocate, Philippe Cousteau. Presentations from YOCS alumni, from across the country, provided inspiration and ideas to our global audience of participants as they prepared to tackle the challenges facing our ocean environment. Through our digital action planning session, first time participants brainstormed and developed conservation project plans with support from their peers and mentors. Returning attendees explored the world of ocean conservation careers with an inspiring panel of guests. Throughout the remainder of the day, attendees took part in workshops on topics including filmmaking and communication, project development, storytelling, fundraising, climate change, political advocacy, coral reef restoration, community-based conservation, plastic pollution, leadership development and more! An all-star panel of our former YOCS keynote speakers – including Wendy Benchley, Chris Fischer, Jennifer Gray, Julie Henry, Dr. Ellen Prager, and Julie Scardina connected with participants to brainstorm ideas to take their conservation projects to the next level. Attendees closed out the day by joining a series of networking rooms to build connections with leading ocean conservation organizations and their peers.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, we reflect on the over 3,100 young conservation leaders from around the world who have been equipped with the tools to lead impactful, solutions-oriented ocean conservation projects through 45 Summits in 13 cities - each event driven by teams of youth in partnership with incredible conservation organizations. Through this work, we have built a global community of young leaders, and provided support to bring diverse conservation projects to life through a mini-grant program that has provided 165 grants to directly support young conservation leaders. This impact has been made possible through an incredible network of partner organizations, program sponsors, dedicated volunteer mentors, and youth leaders who understand the critical role young people play in ensuring a sustainable future for our blue planet.
We look forward to the decade ahead and our continued work to empower the next generation of ocean conservationists!
A special thanks to the amazing staff and volunteers at Mote Marine Laboratory for their tireless dedication and support of this event over the past decade!
We’re thrilled to announce our most recent round of Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grants! A key component of our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program, these grants support the innovative, solutions-oriented conservation projects planned by Summit participants as they work to tackle diverse marine conservation challenges in their local communities. We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Johnson Ohana Foundation, The Captain Planet Foundation, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, PopSockets, and all who participated in and donated to our 2019 annual silent auction fundraiser for your support to fund this year’s grantees.
Take a moment to learn about this year’s recipients and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to learn more about their work throughout the year.
Aiden Henson created Nautical Nerds Productions to use digital media to highlight environmental threats, inspiring conservation action in teens and young people. Focusing on sustainability and managing natural resources, Nautical Nerds Productions publishes PSA videos that draw attention to Earth's fragile ecology by exhibiting the negative effects of global pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, unsustainable agriculture, and extreme climate change. Nautical Nerds Productions aims to present the impacts and consequences of these dangers on people, businesses and our future.
Alex Henson’s Project L.E.A.D. works to promote Local Environmental Activist Development; today's children are tomorrow's heroes, and I strive to enlighten our future leaders to take a stand to protect our beautiful blue planet. With Earth's fragile ecosystems in peril, knowledge is essential to the protection of coastal habits and aquatic resources, and by providing a platform, Project L.E.A.D. enables me with a voice to broaden youth conservation awareness. Through Project L.E.A.D., the aim is to educate local youth about conservation needs and awareness, implement beach and community cleanups, provide seminars and infographic programs for conservational understanding, influence, and interest, and provide networking opportunities for developing leaders.
Anya Gupta created Pennies for Penguins, a project to help get penguins off the endangered species list. Anya love penguins and wants to help save them. She recognizes that if we reduce climate change, support penguin habitats, and reduce plastic waste in the oceans, we can help save the penguins. Through her penguin adoption program #AdoptAPenguin and #TheSippyCupRevolution she works to educate, raise awareness, and find solutions to help the penguins. Learn more at www.penniesforpenguins.com.
Audrey Berlie created Mangroves Matter to raise awareness of the critical role one specific plant plays in Florida’s ecosystems. Through interactive and artistic displays, Audrey is hoping to educate the public on the benefits and the unfortunate destruction of mangrove forests. Additionally, she will also be working to involve the community in mangrove restoration to assist in directly influencing environmental change.
The Brevard Zoo Conservation Leaders will plan their annual Youth Environmental Summit. The mission of this program is built on the idea that the youth are the future of our planet; without the youth having a wide scope of knowledge and appreciation for the environment, they might not have nature to explore in the near future. Ultimately, the Conservation Leaders team is on its tenth year creating the Youth Environmental Summit and they strive to provide a safe and fun day for the youth of their community to get hands on experience working with local conservationists and other youth along with learning important information about how to improve and save our planet.
Caleb Jameson is the founder and creator of the Turtle Safe Toy Box that helps to keep plastic toys from ending up in the ocean and becoming a danger for marine life. The Turtle Safe Toy Box acts as a borrow box on the beach where families are not only encouraged to borrow a toy if they need one, but to always put toys in the toy box rather than leaving them on the beach. Caleb is also a volunteer with Longboat Key Turtle Watch and Mote Marine Laboratory, as well as a trained stranding responder with Mote Marine Laboratory's Stranding Investigations Program.
Cash Daniels is focusing his project on working to reduce trash and litter around his local rivers in Chattanooga, TN as 80% of ocean trash starts in land. The river he lives closest to, the Tennessee River, is the most polluted with microplastics in the world. Cash is meeting with local city officials and community members to encourage community action to prevent plastic pollution.
Claire Haiber’s Revolution Ocean project will focus on designing and creating biodegradable wooden stickers with environmental designs. All of the profits of these stickers will go to charities, especially those focused on habitat restoration. She is kicking off the project by launching an Instagram account to feature ocean activism focused artwork.
Demetri and Ethan Sedita created Green Gasparilla to combat the harmful effects of plastic debris and beads that enter the waterways of Tampa, FL during Gasparilla, an annual mock pirate invasion and festival. They work to accomplish this goal through community education and outreach, diver cleanups to directly remove the beads from local waterways, and by collaborating with city officials to help prevent plastic pollution from the festival.
Emma Kavanaugh and the St. Thomas Aquinas Surfrider Youth Club are working to reduce our school's use of plastic items. They are purchasing reusable water bottles and coffee cups with their YOCS grant funds to sell at our school for one month to discourage staff and students from using single-use plastic.
Joey Goldstein launched Saving Ocean Life (SOL) when she was 10 years old. The organization’s mission is to prevent ocean pollution through beach clean ups and educational programs. SOL plans events several times per year, and collaborates with local environmental groups to host turtle talks; shark tagging excursions, and coral reef presentations. This year Joey is planning to host a pancake breakfast and beach cleanup fundraiser. While many event plans have shifted due to COVID-19, she is utilizing this opportunity to build upcoming event plans and maintain relationships with past program participants.
Lauren Pellegrino created Saving Oceans Through Actions Students a homeschool marine biology club. The project’s mission is to preserve our oceans through education, action and conservation. Club members achieve this through monthly beach clean ups and student led meetings. The program is currently located at two schools with plans to engage two more schools this year.
Marley Hoffman’s Small Changes, BIG Impact project has been shaped throughout her entire life. Growing up visiting the Jersey shore has shown her how beautiful our oceans truly are, however over the years most of the beaches are now cluttered with trash. Being SCUBA certified Marley has also been blessed to see the ocean from another view, but this too showed her how much trash was being dumped into our oceans. From volunteering with Clean Ocean Action and ReClam the Bay Marley has gained deeper knowledge about the ocean and how single-use plastics are having a negative impact. When she started her Girl Scout Gold Award there was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to choose a topic relating to our oceans. Single-Use plastics have been a major topic around the world and on the news, and she knew she wanted to have a direct impact on her community rethinking single-use plastics. The first steps of Marley’s project included founding an Ocean Conservation Club at Union Township School, and North Hunterdon High School. Through these two clubs, she has been able to educate the voices of tomorrow, on how even small changes can have a BIG Impact. The second initiative she started is with businesses and restaurants, with hopes that by educating owners on the negative impacts of single-use plastics they too can educate the public.
Maxwell DeBrino’s Trout in the Classroom project will focus on engaging high school students in restoring the Brook Trout population in local streams of Long Island, NY by raising Brook Trout in the classroom, with support from Trout Unlimited, and reintroducing them into the local waterways. Students will create an educational video documenting the project to educate their community on actions they can take to conserve these important species.
Participants in Mote Marine Laboratory’s Homeschool Advanced program will collaborate to lead a diverse set of educational community outreach initiatives focused on topics ranging from shark and sea turtle conservation to plastic pollution prevention and reef safe sunscreen education.
Paige Essue and the Free Our Seas Youth Council will launch the Fast Fashion and Mass Consumerism Awareness Initiative to educate their community on the effects that their clothes have on the environment and on workers in developing countries. As part of their work, Council members will organize a screening of the film The True Cost along side a community clothing swap event to encourage reusing clothing items.
Sadie Chawkins’ Stop Toxic Ocean Pollution project is dedicated to educating community members on the everlasting affects that plastics and carbon emissions have on our environment. Some ways in which she accomplishes this are by organizing beach cleanups, speaking with local and federal government officials, working with restaurants to reduce both their plastic and carbon footprints, and organizing global climate strikes.
In an effort to reduce the amount of single-use plastics on campus, Sarasota Military Academy students are using the YOCS grant to install a water bottle refill station on their high school campus. Once installed, students will track the number of single-use water bottles saved through the use of the refill station and create educational campaigns designed to raise awareness for students to reduce their use of plastics.
South Broward High School’s C.O.R.A.L. Club and UFI along with 1000 Mermaids are growing and nurturing baby corals in tanks which are located in South Broward High School. Club members would meet once a week to check on the corals and water quality of the surrounding areas. Once the corals have grown to an appropriate size, club members plan to out-plant them into an artificial reef in hopes of restoring the exponential decline of coral reefs in Florida.
The Teen Aquarium Advisory Group (TAAG), is a group of teenagers varying in ages, that have come together to help plan, organize, and make a new aquarium. The aquarium is being built under the Brevard Zoo. The TAAG works to educate people about why an aquarium in the local region is so Important and why the community should help us make it happen, either by donations or even just spreading the word to other people.
The 9th annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit united an inspiring group of over 230 youth and adults from across the country at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL to tackle the pressing challenges facing our blue planet. The #YOCS19 weekend kicked off with our annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, bringing together a community audience to Mote to celebrate the important role of youth leadership in protecting the ocean. YOCS alumni highlighted their conservation projects through interactive displays while a silent auction fundraiser helped raise funds to support the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant program, that directly supports the work of Summit attendees. Film Festival participants dove deeper into ocean conservation issues and solutions with a series of short films created by YOCS participants. Our feature film, The Smog of the Sea, artfully introduced audience members to the challenges of plastic pollution and the importance of addressing this critical issue.
Saturday’s Summit kicked off with an impactful keynote address from Julie Henry, who highlighted key leadership lessons and action steps to help YOCS participants identify their goals and unlock their potential to change the world. Following Julie’s presentation, YOCS alumni shared the ocean conservation work they’ve led in their communities over the past year, and highlighted key lessons learned from their experiences. A critical component of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit is the process of creating an action plan to tackle an ocean conservation challenge. First year YOCS participants had the opportunity to work alongside their peers and mentors to identify an issue to address with a conservation campaign and develop a plan to take on this issue in their communities. Returning participants explored career opportunities in the ocean conservation field though an engaging panel discussion.
The remainder of the Summit engaged participants in a variety of skill building workshops focused on topics including filmmaking, fundraising, working with government officials, using art to communicate conservation messages, plastic pollution prevention, interpretation and more. These sessions were designed to equip students with the skills to bring their projects to life back in their local communities.
An important message at the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit is that the event itself is just the beginning. Throughout the year, participants are supported as they enact change in their communities, through direct funding to implement their conservation projects provided by our mini-grant program, and through the ability to amplify the stories from their work through our networks. We look forward to seeing the impact of our 2019 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants and are grateful for their dedication to protecting our blue planet!
A special thanks to Mote Marine Laboratory and our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit speakers, volunteers, and mentors for their support of our Summit participants. This event is made possible by an incredible community of sponsors and partners and we’d like to thank the following organizations for helping us bring this program to life: the Johnson Ohana Foundation, Captain Planet Foundation, PopSockets, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Sobel Designs, Rogue Wave, Sarasota Bay Watch, Keep Florida Beautiful, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Fin Pin, Cape Clasp, EarthEcho International, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, The Fishes Wishes, Sharks4Kids, Ocean Needs Everyone, Sebago Watersports, Carly Mejeur, Kelly of the Wild, The Field School, Youth Making Ripples, Classic Harbor Line, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, and Hooked On SUP.
Each year, we’re proud to support the work of outstanding young conservation leaders who attend our annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at Mote Marine Laboratory, and satellite summits across the country, by directly funding their newly planned or expanding ocean conservation initiatives through our mini-grant program.
This year, we’re excited to announce another outstanding class of Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients. This funding provides critical support to young conservation leaders who are on a mission to protect our blue planet for future generations through diverse, solutions-oriented conservation initiatives.
We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Youth Making Ripples, Jennifer Gray, and all who participated in and donated to our 2018 annual silent auction fundraiser for your support to fund this year’s grantees. This year, in addition to our traditional grant program, we are awarding three Klean It Up mini-grant recipients, in partnership with Klean Kanteen, to young leaders addressing plastic pollution issues in their community, three Guy Harvey Fisheries Grants, in partnership with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, to YOCS participants leading projects to enhance marine habitats and fisheries and a Youth Making Ripples – Students Making an Impact through Film Grant in partnership with Youth Making Ripples to a young leader utilizing film to help communicate a conservation message. Thank you for your commitment to empowering the next generation of ocean conservationists!
Take a moment to learn about this year’s recipients…
Abigail Steinwachs’s "Don’t Be Trashy" project is designed to decrease the amount of trash entering the ocean by reducing waste left behind at local waterfront parks and beaches and increase awareness of the importance of clean oceans. To achieve this goal, doggie bag - like stations will be placed in these areas with compostable trash bags that visitors can take along with them during their visit to the beach or park. Then, they can properly dispose of their trash in this bag from the day.
Operation Oats, led by co-founders Alex Cheek and Jessie Dalheim, is focused on conserving the ever-eroding sand dunes of Florida and the animals and plants that inhabit them. By the summer they plan to expand their program to grow sea oats at home, the Brevard Zoo, Viera High School Marine Biology program, and assist with sea oat restoration initiatives.
Alex Henson’s Project L.E.A.D. endorses green thinking and mobilizes volunteers to work together towards overcoming local ecological threats. Project L.E.A.D. promotes Local Environmental Activist Development through eco-friendly networking, beautification campaigns, and coastline cleanups; L.E.A.D. teaches others about the challenges faced by our oceans, and how we can all work together to implement change. Follow Project L.E.A.D. on Instagram @project_lead_.
Byrne Markham and the team at Project TAC (Tourist Awareness Commission) are leading efforts to educate beachgoers about ecotourism! They have led outreach initiatives educating their community on responsible tourism at Mote Marine Laboratory and look forward to leading additional events throughout the year.
Sea Turtles and other marine life are impacted by discarded plastic toys left on the beach, that often get washed into water and subsequently begin to degrade and break into smaller pieces of plastic. Longboat Key Turtle Watch volunteer, Caleb Jameson, designed the Turtle Safe Toy Box as a “borrow box" to help keep toys from washing into the ocean and endangering sea life. This year he plans to expand his initial pilot by installing additional Turtle Safe Toy Boxes. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/turtlesafetoybox and www.turtlesafetoybox.org.
Demetri and Ethan Sedita lead Green Gasparilla, an environmental cleanup initiative with the goal of educating the public about the harmful effects that Gasparilla Parade-related debris have on the environment. Gasparilla is an annual mock pirate invasion in Tampa, Florida that currently involves the throwing of plastic beads onto streets and into the local waterways. The project’s goal is to educate the public about why this practice needs to end, remove existing debris from local waterways, and find an alternative, biodegradable throwable to be used in the parade.
Isabella Rasner’s Ocean Devotion project will work to install beach clean-up stations on Southwest Florida beaches and beyond. The project will provide an opportunity for everyday to be a beach clean-up day.
Joey Goldstein created Saving Ocean Life (SOL) in 2015 when she was just 10 years old. SOL’s mission is to keep our beaches clean and educate the public about the issues facing our oceans and marine life through events which include a beach cleanup in addition to an educational component. This spring Joey’s events have focused on topics including fishing line recycling and manatee conservation.
As the co-founder of The Plastic Free Mermaids, Kimberly Correia spreads awareness about plastic pollution, locally and globally, through education, outreach, cleanups, and political and art advocacy. Building on a successful installation of a water bottle refill station at South Broward High School, that has reduced over 67,000 single use plastic bottles, the Plastic Free Mermaids team is planning to install an additional school water bottle refill station to broaden the impact of their efforts to reduce plastic pollution at its source and educate their student body and faculty about the importance of this issue.
Lauren Pellegrino launched the Learning and Families high school marine biology club, S.O.T.A.S. (Saving Oceans Through Action Students). S.O.T.A.S.’ mission is ocean conservation through education and action. The team participates in regular beach cleanups, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Run for the Turtles, and educational field programs, with the long term goal of having reusable bags printed and filled with ocean conservation educational materials to distribute to grocery shoppers.
After attending her first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in 2016, Morgan Ferguson was inspired to launch her ocean conservation project 78 Blackfish. Through this initiative, Morgan works to bring awareness to the endangered Southern Resident killer whales and the importance of sustainable salmon through public outreach.
Molly Newlin and the teen leaders from Brevard Zoo will host the annual Youth Environmental Summit (YES). Through this event youth participants ages 12-18 are given the opportunity get involved with local conservation projects. Attendees have the chance to create their own environmental projects, as well as participate in exciting workshops with leading conservationists. Specifically, this grant supports the Summit’s ocean conservation initiative to provide participants with the knowledge of how to effectively recycle and reduce their plastic consumption and also supports plans for a plastic-free lunch at the event.
Nicole Kappaz and the Newsome High School Surfrider Club will continue their #UndoingthedamagebeginswithU Project focused on reducing single use plastics. This year, the team plans to install a refillable water bottle station at their school to reduce the amount of single use plastic water bottles used by their peers while educating their school community on this issue.
Building on his ongoing ocean conservation efforts, Ryan Moralevitz launched The Fishes Wishes Marine Debris Sculpture. This ocean themed sculpture was made out of single use plastic and trash collected by Ryan and his friends and family from local beaches. A local restaurant in Dunedin, FL, The Honu, has teamed up with Ryan to display his sculpture and helped contribute 10% of their business to support ocean conservation efforts during the sculpture unveil on March 30.
Sadie Chawkins created Project DIP (Drowning in Plastic) to educate her community on the everlasting impact that plastic has on marine ecosystems while working to eliminate single use plastics. She is working in her community to encourage restaurants to reduce their use of single use plastics, is organizing beach cleanups and educational outreach programs, and speaking with local government leaders about this issue. Follow Project DIP on Instagram at @projectdip_srq.
Sophia Riesen launched The Shark Mates to create a group dedicated to educating the public on the threats sharks are facing, and how we can help these misunderstood creatures survive in a world of fear. She is working to raise awareness of the importance of protecting sharks through online resources, public outreach, and educational initiatives. To learn more, join, or become part of The Shark Mates Outreach team visit: thesharkmates.weebly.com
We are also excited to share our 2018 Long Island and 2019 Savannah Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients:
Snigdha Roy and Clare Dana have teamed up to create the “Make the “most-able” of compostables” Project. This initiative is focused on replacing the plastic trash bags on their schools recycling cans, with biodegradable bags to help reduce the amount of single use plastic consumed by their school. Snigdha is also launching a pilot project to create coin boxes for local businesses to encourage them to collect the 5 cents per plastic bag retailers charge consumers and donate it to local environmental conservation organizations in the region.
Vidal and Coral Macchia created the “Kids Who Care: Our Thoughts on Environmental Issues” initiative. This project will involve students from preschool through high school to create a series of posters reflecting on environmental issues impacting our oceans. The posters will be displayed and used as an educational tool and to recruit volunteers for a coastal resiliency project to restore coastal wetlands by planting over 5,000 spartina plants.
Through the Conservation of the Harmless and Helpful Horseshoe Crab project, Zariel Macchia will create an educational horseshoe crab model, and use it as a tool during educational presentations focused on teaching community members about horseshoe crabs, their importance, and how to protect them.
Billy Graham and Camden County 4-H will lead the Fishing Line Recycling Project. This initiative encourages anglers to recycle their used fishing line rather than throwing it in garbage or worse, leaving it behind in the environment. Permanent recycling stations are strategically placed in locations often used for fishing and monitored by local volunteers. Personal containers (made from used tennis ball containers) are collected and assembled by volunteers. Then passed out at local festivals and events, as a more immediate and convenient collection method. Informational flyers tell the importance of recycling the line and where to deposit your collection of used line in the permanently installed stations.
Sade Wilson’s Keep DeRenne Beautiful Project will focus on cleanups and a school recycling program. She plans to engage her science class in leading a cleanup of the neighborhood surrounding her school and to start a recycling program at the school, with each class having a recycling container to take part in the program. She also plans to team up with teachers and create educational posters to help promote the initiative.
The 2018 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit united over 220 youth and adults from across the country at More Maine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, empowering attendees with the knowledge and resources needed to launch solutions-based ocean conservation projects addressing diverse marine conservation challenges in their local community. The 8th annual YOCS weekend kicked off with the Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, bringing together attendees to celebrate the important role that young people play in the field of ocean conservation. Attendees had the chance to learn about the work of Summit participants through an interactive showcase of youth-driven conservation projects and participated in a silent auction fundraiser to support the Summit program. The evening featured a screening of winning films from the Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition, the premiere of the 2018 Sea Youth Rise Up Film and a special screening of Sea of Hope.
Saturday’s Summit kicked off with a keynote address by CNN Meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, who highlighted her own work in the ocean conservation field and the power young people have to address critical issues including plastic pollution. Summit alumni and grant recipients returned to share highlights from their work, and inspire first time participants, who had the opportunity to plan their own ocean conservation projects with support from mentors representing diverse conservation organizations and fields of work. Summit attendees had the opportunity to take part in workshops and trainings focused on topics including storytelling, political advocacy, fundraising, working with businesses, coral restoration, marine research, using art to communicate conservation messages and more, including a new session allowing participants to hone their communication skills through a pitch competition to help fund their projects. The Summit weekend wrapped up with a field sampling program on Sarasota Bay. Throughout the year, Summit attendees will receive ongoing support and funding for their conservation projects.
5th Annual Savannah Youth Ocean Conservation Summit hosted by the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant
On January 27, University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant hosted the 5th annual Savannah Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, uniting young conservation leaders from coastal Georgia and equipping them with the tools needed to launch their own ocean conservation projects. Throughout the day, middle and high school students worked with their peers to develop community conservation projects and participate in sessions that focus on enhancing leadership skills, removing invasive species, and increasing community engagement through citizen science. Workshops included Sustainable Development, Marine Debris, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation, and Invasive Species. A career fair provided an opportunity for youth participants to network with professionals and explore different career paths. Participants then had the opportunity to develop and present action plans for conservation initiatives to lead in their local communities. Following the event, attendees had the opportunity to apply for grants to help support their newly planned conservation initiatives.
Photo Credits: University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant
The Puget Sound Youth Ocean Conservation Summit is a place where people from all around Washington can come together and share their passion for the ocean. 2018 was no different. We started the morning with inspirational speeches by Jim Wharton and several youth speakers. At this point, everyone felt motivated to go about the day learning how they could make an impact on the world's oceans. As we went about the sessions you could see everyone's passion to learn about how they could make a difference increase. By the end of the day, everyone was excited to start working on their project.
As a student, it can be difficult to find people who share your interests, YOCS does just that. It allows students to explore these complicated topics with their peers while learning from experts. Students from 6th-12th grade got to spend the day sharing ideas and keeping the conversation about ocean conservation going. Not only was the event inspiring for those that attended but also those who helped plan the event. Our goal throughout the planning process was to encourage as many students as possible to further their passion and interest in the oceans. We did just that many students told members of the planning committee that the event helped them to feel confident in going forward with their projects. In a society where many adults think youth are not capable of making a change, YOCS gives youth tools and resources in order to prove those adults wrong. The youth of today are our future and we need to encourage them to pursue their interests and encourage them to follow their dreams.
- Naia Kennedy, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium Teen Volunteer
YOCS Puget Sound Planning Team
A few weeks ago, I, along with a handful of teens from the Seattle Aquarium and Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, planned and facilitated this year’s Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. At the summit, teens learn about conservation and community outreach from the experts--scientists, organizers, and other motivated youth--and design their own conservation projects to take into the world. Planning the event itself was a lesson in outreach. Our planning team contacted experts and environmental organizations throughout the Sound. (We even contacted Ellen DeGeneres, but, as expected, we did not get a response.) In the end, we were able to recruit a wide range of speakers whose talks ranged from plankton to contacting government officials to animal memes.
Aside from the speakers, we wouldn’t have been able to pull this event off without this year’s engaged audience. I and other planning team members had conversations with youth ranging from age 13 to age 18, all of whom were passionate about their projects. Four participants wanted to start a YouTube channel together. Another girl wanted to host a dance fundraiser. One boy wanted to completely eliminate plastic utensils from his school cafeteria. As the talks progressed, the questions from participants got more and more specific and targeted--one teen even asked about US fisheries legislation. Overall, it’s fair to say that the day was a success. Our audience entered with high hopes, and left equipped with knowledge and vision (and, of course, reusable utensils). The Puget Sound #YOCS lives on.
- Isha Sangani, Seattle Aquarium Teen Volunteer
YOCS Puget Sound Planning Team
Coastal Steward and Wertheim Wildlife Refuge Host 4th Annual Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit
On November 10, the fourth annual Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was held at Stony Brook University. Organized by the Coastal Steward and Wertheim Wildlife Refuge, this event engaged students from across Long Island and New York State. The 50 individuals in attendance began the day with a presentation by Mr. Bill Kirell, a local leader supporting the Wertheim Wildlife Refuge, and Ms. Caitlin Manley, one of the key coordinators of the LI YOCS on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Following a presentation of the end goals of the summit, they heard about Clare Dana’s Crafts for Critters project, and Zariel Macchia’s smART Gallery project – both past YOCS mini-grant recipients!
Next, the attendees heard from Ben May on past YOCS mini-grant projects, best practices, and opportunities to become involved in his organization ThinkOcean. Presenters also heard from Jake Chammas on key topics in sustainable development; water quality expert Maureen Dunn on her oyster shell sustainability initiative; policy advocate John Turner on his experience with creating legislative change; science expert Terra Willi on wetland restoration projects; and Coastal Steward Youth Volunteer of the Year Ethan Nichols on his work.
Youth attendees then had the opportunity take part in an interactive art workshop by Ján C. Porinchak to brainstorm project ideas and learn how take a creative approach when presenting conservation projects. Afterwards, participants were led through a formal brainstorming session to solidify their ideas and received mentorship from an array of conservation leaders. They created project plans which included installing solar panels as their school’s energy source and painting UV reflective paint onto school windows to prevent bird collisions. They concluded the day by sharing their projects with the group.
A special thanks to all of the event presenters, organizers, and volunteers who made this event possible, as well as all of our youth participants – welcome to the Youth Ocean Conservation Team!