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