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!
We at YOCS are so pleased to announce our 2018 Baltimore and North Carolina Youth Ocean Conservation Summit grant recipients. These young conservationists are executing amazing work with their grants and we couldn't be more happy to tell their stories.
Cape Fear Academy student, Amanda Edwards, from North Carolina was awarded one of our YOCS grants. She plans to use the YOCS grant to educate her classmates about climate change’s negative effect on coral by installing a coral aquarium in her school and holding lessons, guest speaker series, and other educational experiences for elementary school students.
North Carolina has also brought us the grant recipient Sarah Windsor. Sarah used her grant to improve the water quality of her school’s wetland by purchasing and planting native plant species in the area. Sarah’s project will help prevent erosion, restore the natural habitat of the wetland, and contain runoff.
Maria Windsor, too, is working on restoring the habitat of the Millennium Charter Academy wetlands with her grant. However, she differs from Sarah’s conservation work by instead focusing on aiding the waterfowl and other aviary animals as a means to improve overall water quality. The nesting boxes Maria established with her grant will encourage native waterfowl to populate the school’s wetland area. The waterfowls’ presence will improve water quality, strengthen the wetlands’ banks, help to spread aquatic plants, fish, amphibians, and eggs, and minimize the growth of invasive plant species.
Ben Regester from Greensboro, North Carolina has already made great use of his YOCS grant by organizing an educational conservation event on behalf of World Ocean Day. His overall goal was to persuade to public to reconsider their role in plastic pollution and to “skip the straw” next time they have a drink. Ben executed his goal by hosting a movie screening at the Greensboro Science Center where he showed the movie “Straws” and handed out reusable metal straws at the end of the night.
To combat marine pollution, Elena Blackwelder from Kure Beach, NC plans to educate her local Pleasure Beach community about the negative environmental consequences associated with single use plastics. To execute this plan Elena has reached out to local businesses along Carolina Beach Boardwalk to persuade them to limit their single-use plastic consumption and to encourage their customers to forgo single use plastics as well. Following that outreach, Elena helped host the Turn the Tide festival (a festival centralized around making sustainable choices for the ocean) and organized a beach cleanup with her community members and business owners to keep plastic out Pleasure Beach waters.
Madeline Jaffe from the Baltimore Technical Institute launched the Global Gardens project with her YOCS grant. Her project addresses climate change and decreasing water quality by mitigating atmospheric and groundwater pollution through education and action. Madeline plans to reach out to children and teenagers who attend local schools and recreation centers in order to help them start their own garden whilst educating them about climate change. The trees and plants not only serve as carbon sinks and natural water filtration systems, but as excellent learning tools as well.
Congratulations to our 2018 YOCS North Carolina and Baltimore mini-grant recipients and a special thank you to our partners and donors for their support of these conservation projects!
Guest Post by: Leslie Smith, NC YOCS Director
North Carolina State University's Science House at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST) hosted the 3rd annual North Carolina Youth Ocean Conservation Summit (NC YOCS) on Saturday, February 24! Since the day before, February 23, was National Skip the Straw day, Skip The Straw was the theme for the 2018 NC YOCS! 70 students from across the state of North Carolina gathered in Beaufort, North Carolina at the Duke University Marine Lab to skip the straw with STRAWS filmmaker, Linda Booker, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Following Linda's presentation, NC YOCS participants viewed the short documentary, STRAWS, and had the unique opportunity to ask Linda questions about the film and how she became interested in plastic pollution. Linda spoke with many passionate students wanting to take action against straws and single-use plastics in their communities.
Guest Post by: Mandy Castro, Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education Intern
The University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant held its fourth annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit on January 27th, 2018 on Skidaway Island in Savannah, GA. Thirty eight students between the ages of 11 and 17 joined together to hear from our keynote speaker, participate in skill-building workshops, and create action plans to take on conservation projects for their local communities.
Amanda Wrona Meadows and LA Allen from The Nature Conservancy set a precedent about collaboration and communication when it comes to environmental conservation. From there, participants expanded their conservation repertoire through skill building workshops held by Kelly Patton from One Hundred Miles, Maia McGuire from Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension, Jason Bedgood from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at the University of Georgia, and our very own Anne Lindsay, representing UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Dr. McGuire informed and inspired with her keynote speech about microplastics. Additionally, the students were exposed to a variety of marine conservation careers by panelists Julia Diaz, an assistant professor, Mandi Moroz, a law clerk, Mike Robinson, a research professional, and Lisa D. Watson, an up-cycle artist.
The culmination of the summit’s events was the poster session that not only provided the students the opportunities to showcase their action plans but, more importantly, converse in greater detail on conservation with their peers and mentors. The YOCS Organizing Team at University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant look forward to seeing what the participants of the Summit do next as they continue making waves in conservation!
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 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 22 mini-grant recipients. These young leaders are driving community change to protect our blue planet and we are looking forward to seeing the impact they’ll make in the year ahead.
We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Fishes Wishes, and all who participated in our 2017 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 and three Guy Harvey Fisheries Grants, in partnership with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, to YOCS participants leading projects to enhance marine habitats and fisheries. Thank you for your commitment to empowering the next generation of ocean conservationists!
Take a moment to learn about this year’s recipients…
Alexandria Henson’s “Project L.E.A.D." promoting Local Environmental Activist Development will provide a platform for young leaders in southwest Florida to take action around critical environmental issues, and give them firsthand experience leading mangrove restoration projects and community cleanups.
Molly Newlin and the Brevard Zoo Teen volunteers will host their annual Youth Environmental Summit designed to educate, engage and inspire young people ages 12-18 to take action to protect their local environment.
Danielle Daly will work to engage her peers in the EarthEcho Water Challenge, providing tools and resources for young people to test and analyze water quality to better understand the health of local marine environments.
Joey Goldstein’s Saving Ocean Life (SOL) organization will focus on continuing to grow their efforts to engage local youth in taking action to protect the ocean by leading regular coastal cleanups and educational activities including turtle talks, shark tagging excursions, and coral reef presentations.
Jacquelyn Noval and the C.O.R.A.L. Club will grow aquaculture coral in fish tanks to use as educational material for events and schools visits designed to educate the community on the depleting coral reef populations and ways the public can take action to protect coral reefs. The group’s long-term goal is to build and maintain an offshore artificial reef, as they already hold a permit to a plot of sea floor off Dania Beach, FL.
Emma Gould’s Blue Future Beach Cleanups initiative will rally local community members, along the coast of Maine, to clean up their coastline and educate the public on preventing plastic pollution.
Nicole Kappaz and the Newsome High School Surfider club will launch “Undoing the Damage Begins with U”, an initiative that will mobilize local high school students to carry out regular beach cleanups and educational campaigns on marine debris. The team will collect data on the trash collected to help gauge the impact of their educational outreach efforts.
Caleb Jameson will launch his Turtle Friendly Toy Box project to help beach guests clean up abandoned plastic toys, provide a place for other kids to use these recycled toys, and educate beachgoers on the importance of preventing plastic pollution.
Ana Brown and the National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels Program will lead the 2018 Baltimore Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, working to provide young people, in the city of Baltimore and surrounding areas, with the tools and knowledge needed to take action to protect marine ecosystems.
Derek Petrisko will continue to build on his “No Mangrove=No Man” initiative by raising and replanting thousands of red mangroves in south Florida. This year, he will be working to restore mangroves in the Florida Keys to assist with post hurricane habitat recovery.
Kimberly Correia and the Plastic Free Mermaids are collaborating with Surfider Foundation to establish an Ocean Friendly Restaurants program encouraging restaurants to go plastic free. They will also host an Environmental Art Festival in Hollywood, FL highlighting art and solutions to plastic pollution.
Liv Schmeits' Forests of Change initiative will utilize technology, through the creation of engaging, high impact educational videos, to reach young people with critical messages about marine conservation topics.
Andrea Castillo’s “Go Mangrove” Project, will engage multiple student organizations at Spanish River High School in raising mangroves on their school’s campus and ultimately in planting these mangroves to restore local marine habitats.
Students in Mote Marine Laboratory’s Homeschool Advanced Program will receive funding for nine projects focused on topics including plastic pollution issues and encouraging people to live a plastic free lifestyle, educating tourists about protecting local marine environments, raising awareness about sustainable seafood, ways to address cigarette butt litter, and protecting endangered marine species.
Stay tuned for updates on the work of our grantees as they take action to protect our blue planet!
Uniting over 220 youth and adults from across the country and empowering the next generation of conservation leaders to take action to protect our blue planet, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was held at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL December 8th-10th. This year’s event kicked off with our annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival on December 9th – celebrating the power of youth leadership in the field of ocean conservation and the importance of sharing ocean conservation stories through film and media. 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, and a screening of the award winning film, Chasing Coral, leaving the audience motivated to take action to help protect our blue planet. 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 kicked off their day by learning key lessons for taking action to protect our blue planet shared by keynote speaker, Youth Ocean Conservation Summit founder, Sean Russell. Attendees then had the chance to hear from outstanding Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni, highlighting their diverse conservation initiatives ranging from manatee research projects to a youth-led summer camp focused on marine conservation.
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 photography and film making to citizen science and habitat restoration in an effort to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully carry out their projects.
The weekend wrapped up on Sunday 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 were 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, Klean Kanteen, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Wyland Galleries, Mote Scientific Foundation, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Fishes Wishes, EarthEcho International, Sobel Designs, Planet Love Life, Marine Exploration Center, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Lion Country Safari, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, SCUBAnauts International, Sarasota Bay Watch, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Sharks4Kids, Carly Mejeur, the International Game Fish Association, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Sebago Watersports, Zemil Jewelers, Balance Health and Fitness, The Inner Circle Spa, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, Mike Bacon Photography, Sarasota Book Goddesses, and Dry Dock Waterfront Grill.
To all our participants, we look forward to following along and supporting your conservation work in the year ahead!
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.