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.
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!