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.
Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival:
Join young ocean conservation leaders, special guests and members of your community on Friday, December 9, to celebrate ocean conservation and 100 years of the National Park Service as we kick off the 2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit weekend! This year’s event will feature a variety of short films highlighting ocean conservation, and a special presentation - Songs and Stories from our National Parks! National Parks are best known for wildlife and scenery, but the reasons our parks matter go far beyond the tangible. From Yellowstone to Hawai’i Volcanoes, Gettysburg to Biscayne - national parks are powerful places that impact people in extraordinary ways. At this year’s event, Biscayne National Park Ranger, Gary Bremen and South Florida troubadour, Grant Livingston will celebrate the National Park Service Centennial by blending music and storytelling to share deeply personal experiences from national parks across the country. This journey winds through a full range of emotions, from laughter to tears, and will leave you uplifted, proud, and anxious to create your own memories in your national parks.
The event will also feature a showcase of student-led ocean conservation projects, ocean conservation films produced by young people, a special screening of the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation Film – Coral Reefs: Trouble in Paradise, and a silent auction/raffle fundraiser with marine themed artwork and other items. Proceeds will support the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program. Admission to this event is free, however due to limited seating an RSVP is required. Attendees can RSVP using the form at www.yocs.org.
The event will take place in Mote Marine Laboratory’s WAVE Center. Doors open at 6:00pm for our silent auction and showcase of student conservation projects.
2016 Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition: Through this competition, students will highlight ocean conservation issues by creating short films to raise awareness of these topics. Winning films will be shown to the public at the community film festival on November 13! This competition is open to all students in grades PreK-College. Submissions are due October 31, 2016. Full contest details and entry information are available at: www.yocs.org.