Guest Blog by Olivia Schmeits
Holding the crystal blue marble in the palm of my hand, the memories of the three days I spent on a beautiful island came flooding back to me. From kayaking to looking at phytoplankton, the inaugural Youth Ocean Conservation Expedition trip was one of the most fun times I have had all year.
Each year, our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit serves as a hub connecting young conservation leaders from across the country and empowering them to work alongside their peers to protect our planet’s marine ecosystems. We are honored to be able to work with incredible partners to support the conservation initiatives planned by these young people through our mini-grant program, which funds and provides year round support to Summit attendees.
We are excited to announce that this year, we are providing a record 25 mini-grants to conservation projects planned by our 2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit attendees. This funding provides critical support to young conservation leaders working at the front lines of the movement to protect our blue planet – with projects ranging from research studies on threatened marine mammals and restoration of key marine habitats to efforts to prevent plastic pollution at its source and to socially responsible start-up business working to raise funds for wildlife conservation efforts.
This year’s mini-grants are generously supported by the Captain Planet Foundation, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, Jennifer Gray, and our 2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit silent auction donors and participants. A special thanks to these organizations and individuals for their commitment to empowering young conservation leaders!
Let’s meet our mini-grant recipients!
Mairead S.’ Manatees of Boca Grande initiative will allow her to expand her work conducting photo analysis and observational studies on manatees in the Boca Grande Estuary in partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Service.
Trashawn B. and Nora A. will lead the 2017 Baltimore Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, working with their peers in the National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program to train students in their city how to protect marine ecosystems.
Landon P.’s No Mangrove=No Man project will engage young people in raising and planting 3,000 red mangroves on both coasts of Florida to restore critical estuary habitat.
Brooke W. will expand her Sarasota Ocean Preservers program to increase its capacity to engage new students in field excursions to learn about Sarasota’s marine environment and participate in underwater coastal cleanup efforts.
Delaney F. will grow her Finformation program in order to reach new audiences of young people through school presentations, science festivals, and outreach activities to teach them about the important role sharks play in marine ecosystems.
Through Christian’s Photography Project, Christian P. will create a traveling display of his personal photography highlighting marine habitats and life, which will be displayed at local businesses to educate community members about marine conservation topics.
Derek P. will launch his Tagged initiative by training young people and recreational anglers to assist with shark tagging efforts. The data collected through this effort will then be shared with community members through outreach efforts focused on shark conservation.
Lilly T.’s Oyster Dockafeller project will lead to the creation of engineered oyster reefs to help improve water quality and marine habitat on the Florida coast, and in other regions. The program will also provide monthly educational opportunities for the public to learn more about the important role oysters play in coastal environments.
Makenna K. and members of Brevard Zoo’s Teen Volunteer Program will renovate their Paws On Learning Garden area at the zoo with a focus on teaching young students and their families about ocean pollution and the importance of preventing fertilizer runoff.
The Plastic Free Mermaids group in Ft. Lauderdale, FL will launch their One Straw for Life campaign – educating community members about the importance of living a plastic free lifestyle, collecting data on individual’s use of single use plastic items, and providing stainless steel straws to community residents.
Trent T.’s Take 10 for Turtles initiative is a multi-pronged approach to protect sea turtles including outreach to local school students, coastal cleanups, the creation of art and activities for younger students, and volunteering for sea turtle releases.
Riley R.’s Clean Up Oceans! campaign will initiate regular beach cleanups in the Hobe Sound region of the east coast of Florida. Trash collected from these campaigns will be used to make educational art pieces to further highlight the importance of preventing marine debris.
Hannah R. will create educational outreach kits focused on a variety of endangered marine life and invasive species and utilize these to teach younger students about wildlife conservation through schools and 4-H clubs in her community.
The Brevard Zoo Teen Volunteers will host a Youth Environmental Summit to increase awareness of wildlife and habitat conservation issues among students ages 12-18 and connect them to resources to take action in their communities.
Holly H. will host An Evening Under the Sea, transforming the Cape Coral Yacht Club into an undersea environment for an event engaging students and their families in hands on activities, crafts, games, and educational lessons focused on marine conservation with support from more than a dozen local environmental organizations.
Jack K. will launch his Restoring Habitat Value to Coastal Man-Made Canals project, involving youth, anglers, and local residents in collecting baseline water quality data in coastal canals, creating educational outreach initiatives on the importance of man made marine ecosystems, and carrying out initiatives to improve the water quality of these spaces.
Jacqueline J. will launch her Mana’tee campaign, designing logoed t-shirts and merchandise to raise awareness about manatee conservation and funds to support manatee conservation efforts.
Students in Mote Marine Laboratory’s Homeschool Advanced Program will receive funding for seven projects focused on topics including raising awareness about sustainable seafood, educating community members on the importance of leaving live animals at the beach, addressing cigarette butt litter and plastic pollution, and protecting endangered marine species.
Olivia S.’s Forest of Change campaign will engage community members in an effort to encourage local stores to switch to biodegradable bags, and raise awareness about the importance of preventing single use plastic waste.
Congratulations to our mini-grant recipients! We’re looking forward to supporting your work and sharing your stories over the coming months!
On November 19, 2016, Coastal Steward, Inc and Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences hosted the second annual Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit – bringing together young leaders from across Long Island and New York to develop plans of action to protect local marine and aquatic ecosystems. We’re excited to support our Long Island summit participants conservation project plans with funding through our mini-grant program. This year’s Long Island mini-grant recipients are:
Congratulations to our Long Island mini-grant recipients! Stay tuned for updates on their conservation work!
You’re invited to be part of the inaugural Youth Ocean Conservation Summit Expedition at Biscayne National Park in south Florida! From March 17-19, 2017, twenty Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni ages 14 and up will camp out on Elliott Key, the largest island in Biscayne National Park. There will be opportunities to explore the island's subtropical hardwood hammock, nearshore seagrass beds and rocky shorelines while learning about the park's challenges from rangers and scientists. You'll also have the opportunity to network with other young people (like you!) who are making, or seek to make, a difference for the world's marine ecosystems in a fun, casual and beautiful setting.
To learn more and apply to be part of our inaugural Expedition click here to complete the brief program application. We look forward to seeing you there and thank Biscayne National Park for their support of this program! Stay tuned as we launch future Expedition programs!
Save the Dates – Youth Ocean Conservation Summits coming to Savannah, GA; St. Louis, MO; and Pine Knoll Shores, NC in 2017!
As we gear up for 2017 we are excited to announce details for our first three satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summits of the year.
Registration is now open for the third annual Savannah Youth Ocean Conservation Summit to be held at the University of Georgia Aquarium, on Skidaway Island, near Savannah, Georgia on January 27, 2017. Participants will learn about ocean conservation topics from presenters and keynote speakers. Teams of students will then brainstorm and develop plans for community projects addressing ocean conservation. Mentors experienced in project development topics such as fundraising, social media initiatives, and leadership will lead skill-building workshops to assist students with their project planning. Attendees will also hear from inspiring keynote speakers Clayton Ferrara from IDEAS for Us and Carter and Olivia Reeves, co-founders of One More Generation. The day will conclude with a free guided salt marsh walk for interested participants. Click here to register by January 25 for this special event.
The first mid-western Youth Ocean Conservation Summit will be hosted by the Saint Louis Zoo on February 10-12, 2017! Participants will hear from keynote speaker, Patrick Chandler, the Education Director of Washed Ashore – an organization that transforms debris from beach cleanups into art. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn about conservation work carried out by their peers, develop action plans for their own ocean conservation projects, and gain skills to implement these projects through exciting workshops. Additionally, this special event will include optional night hikes, an overnight stay at the zoo, and a scavenger hunt! Click here to read more about this special event!
The second annual North Carolina Youth Ocean Conservation Summit hosted by the Science House at North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and Technology will take place at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores on Saturday, February 25. Participants will once again have the opportunity to develop their own ocean conservation project plans, while learning from their peers and mentors, and gain skills to help ensure the success of these initiatives. The event will be keynoted by Sam Athey, President of the first college chapter of Plastic Ocean Project, UNC Wilmington POP and serves as the Plastic Ocean Project’s Director of Chapters. Click here to learn more about this special event and register for the Summit!
Stay tuned for more 2017 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit event announcements in the coming months as we line up the schedule for the year ahead!
As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look back and celebrate our collective efforts to protect and preserve our blue planet! As we prepare for a big year in 2017, we are constantly inspired by and grateful for the work of our youth program participants, team members, volunteers, partners, sponsors, and supporters who came together in 2016 to help continue to build on our work to empower the next generation of ocean conservationists. Take a look at some highlights from this past year…
n Saturday, December 10 we hosted our largest Youth Ocean Conservation Summit event to date at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, FL! This event united over 230 youth and adults from across the country - equipping youth participants with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to successfully implement diverse ocean conservation projects in their communities. Participants were inspired by keynote speaker, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader, Chris Fischer, who worked alongside an incredible lineup of presenters to help youth attendees take on the challenges facing our planet’s marine ecosystems.
In 2016 we also teamed up with teams of youth leaders and partnering conservation minded institutions, to host satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summits in Savannah, GA; Pine Knoll Shores, NC; Corpus Christi, TX; New York City; Baltimore, MD; and Long Island, NY – bringing this program to young people in ten U.S. cities to date since 2014.
Thus far in 2016, we have provided 18 mini-grants to fund student led ocean conservation projects emerging from our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit events! To date, fifty-six grants, totaling over $11,600, have been distributed to Summit alumni across the nation. Grant recipients led diverse conservation initiatives including reducing the use of plastic water bottles on school campuses, developing educational outreach activities on shark conservation, restoring critical mangrove habitats and teaching community members about water quality.
In an effort to elevate the voices of young ocean conservation leaders, we partnered with The Ocean Project and the Big Blue & You to launch Sea Youth Rise Up – a first of its kind campaign which brought seven young conservationists, including four Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni, from the U.S., Canada, and the Bahamas, to New York City and Washington D.C. for World Oceans Day. Participants shared their passion for ocean conservation through a live, World Oceans Day global broadcast from the New York Aquarium, met with world leaders and conservationists at the United Nations and Capitol Hill Oceans Week, and advocated for the protection of the Atlantic Coral Canyons - subsequently named the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic by President Obama in September, during a meeting at the White House. The journey of these young people was shared through social media and a mini-documentary which debuted this fall.
In 2016 we finalized and announced plans to launch the first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit Field Expeditions – an exciting program to connect Summit alumni and allow them to collaborate with our partner organizations on real world marine conservation and research work. We are honored to be partnering with Biscayne National Park which will host the first of these expeditions - a camping expedition on Elliott Key March 17-19, 2016.
This year the newly re-designed yocs.org site was launched to highlight the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program, to serve as a resource hub of opportunities for Summit alumni, to provide an outlet to share inspiring stories of youth-driven ocean conservation work, and to highlight the expansion of this program across the nation.
In 2016 we announced the first mid-western Youth Ocean Conservation Summit coming to St. Louis, MO and the St. Louis Zoo on February 10-12, 2017! This event will emphasize the important connections between inland regions and the ocean while focusing on the important role we all share in protecting our blue planet.
These are just a few of the successes of the past year that have set the stage for exciting things to come in 2017. A special thanks to all of you for building this community over the years – let’s redouble our efforts to protecting our planet’s marine ecosystems for the year ahead. Happy New Year!
Uniting over 230 youth and adults from across the country and empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to take action to protect our blue planet, the 2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit brought our largest audience to date to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL on December 9-11. This year’s event kicked off with our annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival on December 9 – celebrating the power of youth leadership in the field of ocean conservation and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The evening featured a showcase of youth-driven ocean conservation projects led by Summit alumni, a screening of the winning films from our Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition, as well as special showings of the Sea Youth Rise Up documentary and Coral Reefs: Trouble in Paradise from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation.
The evening’s featured presentation – Songs and Stories from our National Parks, united Biscayne National Park Ranger, Gary Bremen and South Florida troubadour, Grant Livingston, for a powerful and inspiring presentation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. A special thanks to our donors and supporters who participated in our silent auction fundraiser at this event to support mini-grants youth-driven ocean conservation projects and the continued expansion of this program.
At the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, held on Saturday, attendees were inspired by the work and lessons shared by keynote speaker, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader, Chris Fischer whose impactful stories and groundbreaking research work, through OCEARCH, set the stage for the event with a theme that “nothing is impossible”. Attendees then had the chance to hear from outstanding Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni, highlighting their diverse conservation initiatives ranging from plastic pollution prevention programs to habitat restoration efforts. While returning attendees connected and learned from our Careers in Ocean Conservation panel speaker, first time participants worked with their peers and mentors to identify an ocean conservation issue of interest and developed action plans to address these challenges.
Throughout the day, attendees took part in diverse workshops on topics ranging from storytelling and filmmaking to fundraising and public speaking in an effort to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully carry out their projects. This year’s Summit also brought the Creative Animal Foundation’s U.S. Tour to Mote. In an effort to highlight the importance of sustainable living, the tour team brought their mobile tiny house to the event to help inspire our participants to take actions to protect the planet in their daily lives. The weekend wrapped up with an exploration of Sarasota Bay by kayak and an investigation of the marine species living in the mangrove and seagrass habitats of Sarasota.
We are continually inspired by our growing community of Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants and this year’s attendees are no exception. Always willing to step up to the challenge facing our blue planet with a solutions based approach, we are honored to help support their work. A special thanks to all participants, volunteers, speakers, partners, and sponsors – the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, the Captain Planet Foundation, Klean Kanteen, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Nature Conservancy, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, the Florida Aquarium, EarthEcho International, Biscayne National Park, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Blue Frontier Campaign, Sobel Designs, Planet Love Life, Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, Marine Discovery Center, Sarasota Bay Watch, Conservation Ocean, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Gloria Clifford Island Designs, Sharks4Kids, Carly Mejeur, the International Game Fish Association, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Sebago Watersports, Ray Rolston – Key West Artist, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, the Creative Animal Foundation, the Key West Aquarium, Lost Reef Adventures, Classic Harbor Line, and the Fishes Wishes!
To all our participants, we look forward to following along and supporting your conservation work in the year ahead!
Check out a few more of our favorite photos from this year's Summit!
Submitted by: Morgan Shirley and Rebecca Weidner-Wright
The River Guardians Water Testing Project was funded by a Youth Ocean Conservation Team mini-grant awarded after Morgan's participation in the 2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Sarasota, FL.
Through this project students were taught to use scientific water testing equipment, collect data, and understand the importance of preserving fresh water and the impact they have on their land to sea connection. Our Turtle Team provided weekly interaction, instruction and mentorship with a group of Boys & Girls Club members from late winter through spring at their club. We continued our efforts through the summer to engage even more Boys & Girls Club members along with other underserved youth organizations.
Love A Sea Turtle’s science and nature camp has been a life changing experience. The camp is focused on raising awareness about ecological and ocean conservation as well as increasing the summer science and nutrition education of underprivileged youth. Lessons were designed to give the students a unique, hands-on experience with science and help increase their awareness of environmental and ecological impacts of pollution and wastewater. We gave each child the opportunity to test water quality and catch organisms, just as conservation scientists and other professionals do, to keep track of the health of the planet. By teaching in this way, we raised awareness of the upstream pollution that will affect the ocean if left unchecked while also making it fun and engaging for students of all ages. These camps made a difference for the better in thousands of children’s’ lives this summer because this generation will be the ocean conservation leaders of the future. Every child deserves to have an education about science and ecology so they can be the leaders of the future!
The afterschool water testing program and summer camps touched the lives and minds of thousands of children, which will in turn help drive a movement in the future to protect our environment and especially our water systems. Our River Guardians program continues to expand throughout the state in schools, afterschool clubs and science and nature centers.
On November 19, the second annual Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was held at Stony Brook University on Long Island, NY. Organized by the Coastal Steward and Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, this event engaged 60 participants from across Long Island and New York State. Participants were inspired by opening remarks from author and aquanaut Ellen Prager who spoke of her adventures in ocean conservation. Everyone then got a free copy of her book Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime! Participants also heard a panel discussion highlighting marine conservation issues in the coastal ecosystems of New York and New Jersey. This featured lively discussion between Mel Morris from the Open Space Stewardship Program, Mae Henry from Clean Ocean Action, and Sherryl Jones from NYSDEC Division of Marine Resources. Afterwards, they heard from guest speakers Laura Kasa and Ben May. Laura Kasa, the former director for Save Our Shores spoke of her key role in the movement to ban plastic grocery bags in California. Ben May, one of last year’s Sea Youth Rise Up (SYRUp) Delegation and a past Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini grant recipient, spoke about SYRUp and how to have an effective mini grant project.
Youth attendees then had the opportunity to team up with mentors from a variety of local conservation organizations to develop action plans for their ocean conservation projects. During this time, participants created project plans including efforts to implement a reusable bottle system at their schools, an educational program for Elementary school students, an effort to press the New York Senate to not preempt Suffolk County’s plastic grocery bag ban, and create items to promote environmentalism. After sharing their projects with the group, participants wrapped up their day with a viewing the Sea Youth Rise Up Campaign’s documentary.
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!
Guest Blog by Ryan Moralevitz
I was inspired to start this project because I really love the ocean and at my favorite beach this past year they lost a ton of their sand and they did a beach nourishment. It made me want to help. So when I found out about the grant opportunity, I knew I wanted to build a mangrove garden!
First, I collected donated mangrove seedlings from the Florida Aquarium, which I put in buckets with mud and ocean water. Then my dad built a wooden structure to hold the buckets. Next, he carved out a wooden crab from a drawing I made and I took it to school. At school the kids had already donated used plastic bottle caps and toys and together we made a recycled, crab piece of art to hang. It makes the garden look really cool!
Because we were allowed to set the garden up at my school a lot of kids have been asking questions and have wanted to help with the project which is really neat.
I am currently helping to plan a field trip to plant the mangroves this year locally since our beach can use them. This project has taught me that it feels good to give back to the community and get other people involved.
The Fishes Wishes Mangrove Garden was funded by a Youth Ocean Conservation Team mini-grant awarded after Ryan’s participation in the 2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Sarasota, FL. Thanks to our partners at the Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico program for their support of this effort.