Friday, June 24, 2016

Ocean Conservation Through Art – Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs

Editors Note: We are proud to have partnered over the years with the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs to support young people interested in using art as a tool to communicate ocean conservation through our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program. In this guest blog, Alyssa Irizarry shares her personal journey to her role as program manager with Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, and highlights outstanding student created art pieces submitted through their annual Ocean Awareness Student Contest.

When I was a senior in high school, two classmates and I painted a mural on the door of our marine biology classroom. The mural depicted a cross section of a rocky seamount and incorporated the many topics we had covered thus far in the semester.

The mural was not for extra credit, nor did we paint it, necessarily, for fun. As advanced studio art students, we were given the option of painting the mural instead of writing a paper, which provided us with a different opportunity to reflect on our lessons in marine ecology.

At first glance, it may seem like the three of us certainly lucked out; however, the project was not as simple as grabbing a few brushes and tubes of primary colors. We had to petition the principal for permission to paint on the door, and we had to create budgets for materials and for time. We had to develop the mural’s design and in planning, we had to do research on the ecosystem in order to accurately illustrate it. The assignment reinforced our skills in teamwork, time management, and research.

Most importantly, the project showed me that I didn’t need to have an interest in art or in science. The two – together – are a very powerful tool. As an undergrad, I became very interested in the ways that the arts can be used, specifically, to communicate environmental conservation. Art can – and should – be harnessed to inspire a greater appreciation for and a more nuanced understanding of the natural world – and the many serious issues facing it.

My lifelong interest in the ocean and the arts has taken me from Mexico (conducting research on sea turtle murals) to The Bahamas (teaching environmental art)… and to Massachusetts, where I am now the Program Manager at Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, a Boston-based nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower the next generation of ocean caretakers through art, science, and advocacy. 

 “Title,” by Jonathan Barrera, 2015 Silver Award (High School) Winner in Art

Each year Bow Seat hosts the Ocean Awareness Student Contest, which challenges middle and high school students around the world to communicate the science of pressing ocean issues through art, poetry, prose, or film. The theme of this year’s Contest is “Making Meaning of Ocean Pollution,” and we want students to use their problem-solving skills, creativity, and communication skills to raise awareness about ocean pollution and to call the world to action.

I recently attended a lecture on the impact of shipping and seismic exploration noise on marine wildlife, whales in particular. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on ocean issues, but I was blown away at the extent to which we’re polluting our oceans with noise. You can learn more about noise pollution at

Last year, the Contest received over 1,100 amazing submissions from 43 U.S. states and 34 countries. Bow Seat awarded hundreds of prizes to students and their schools and teachers – more than $80,000 in total! But we don’t just want the Contest to end at the prize. We also help find exhibition and publishing opportunities for the winners throughout the year to help them jumpstart a career in “ARTivism.”

We want students to understand art’s potential to motivate action.

The mechanical pencil
I scratch this poem out with
Is plastic
The material of infinite human uses
Destroying our world’s first gift

The keys I will use to tap out
The sad song my pen sings
Are plastic Used to create a portal of knowledge
But will poison and choke Earth’s greatest miracle

An unsuspecting marlin
Will swallow a splinter of my pencil
Poked through the stomach
Wasting away in the deep

A careless pelican
Will ingest the keys
That once typed this poem
A nefarious alphabet soup

Excerpt from “Indispensable Devices, Trashed Every Day,” by Connor Webb, 2015 Gold Award (Middle School) in Poetry

Through reflections and evaluations, we have found that students who participate in our Contest are often learning about threats to ocean ecosystems for the first time. The creative outlet for processing new knowledge makes that information stick, often resulting in meaningful and long-lasting behavior change within students. In their own words:

“Whenever I go to the lake or ocean and see trash, rather than just leaving it, I now pick it up. I used to think it wasn't my responsibility.”

“I'm far more conscious of my plastics usage. I make more responsible choices now. And I advocate more for the oceans and water systems more than ever.”

We at Bow Seat believe that changing our world for the better starts by inspiring youth to vividly imagine a better future and empowering them to create it themselves. We invite you to learn more about the Ocean Awareness Student Contest and consider submitting your own entry for next year's contest! 

Connect with Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Friday, February 12, 2016

2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients announced!

Each year, students attending our Youth Ocean Conservation Summits create action plans to tackle marine conservation issues in their local community. Over the past four years, we’ve been honored to support these projects by providing mini-grants to help jump start and sustain these youth-driven ocean conservation campaigns. After our 5th anniversary Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, we’re excited to announce a record number of mini-grants have been awarded to our participants. These Youth Ocean Conservation Team mini-grants were made possible with generous support from the Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Klean Kanteen, From the Bow Seat and funds raised from our 2015 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival. Read on to learn more about the outstanding projects being led by our grant recipients:

Keyla Correia and the Plastic Free Mermaids will expand their plastic pollution efforts by installing a water bottle refill attachment to their school’s water fountain, and educating their student body on the importance of reducing single use plastics.

Landon Petrisko will work with his peers and Florida International University to raise and plant red mangroves to restore coastal habitat in south Florida.

Alex Gregory will launch his S.S. Shrimp project to raise awareness among consumers about the impact of shrimp bycatch, encouraging them to make sustainable seafood purchases.

The National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program will host their third annual satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, training students in Baltimore, MD.

Ethan Mengelt’s roadside cleanup program will engage community members in organized cleanups along roadways in North Port, FL and Wisconsin.

Cameron Rogister’s Wilson & Wake County Recycling Project will engage young people in implementing and leading recycling programs at Forest Hills Middle School in Wilson, NC and the Boys & Girls Club in Raleigh, NC.

Morgan Shirley will launch the River Guardians Afterschool Water Monitoring Project to engage Boys and Girls club members in Greenville, NC in weekly water quality monitoring activities, and educating their community about the importance of clean water.

Through her Sarasota Ocean Preservers program, Brooke Welch will engage students in underwater snorkel cleanups, removing marine debris from underwater environments off the beaches of Sarasota, FL.

Christian Petrisko will launch a program to utilize photography to capture images of endangered marine species and those not frequently photographed. He will use these photos to raise awareness for the conservation of these animals, and sell prints at local events to raise funds for conservation efforts.

Delaney Farrell will expand her outreach efforts through her Finformation program, educating students ages 6-18 about shark conservation through interactive activities and presentations at schools and community events.

Student leaders from the Big Blue and You will launch T4T: Transformation 4 Turtles, will work educate students in south Florida about marine debris prevention, engage young people in beach cleanups, and turn the trash they find into an art sculpture to display in their community.

Jacob Mohen will work to educate members of his community about the impacts of plastic pollution on wildlife, and provide them with alternatives to single use plastic products.

Students in Brevard Zoo’s teen program will coordinate their annual Youth Environmental Summit which gives youth the tools and knowledge to become involved with local conservation projects.

Samantha Andrews will launch her Pop It, Don’t Drop It project, which will utilize a variety of outreach tools to educate community members about the dangers of releasing helium balloons.

Benjamin Sachs will work with his local Boy Scout Troop to engage in ongoing water quality/pH monitoring efforts in Broward County to gain a better understanding of the impact of pollutants on south Florida aquatic ecosystems.

Ryan Moralevitz will work with his classmates on his Fishes Wishes Mangrove Nursery Project, which will engage students in growing mangroves in a vertical garden at their school, and ultimately planting mangroves back in the marine environment.

Adam Sachs, Katelyn Higgins, and Elinor Rienzo will also receive grants of materials for Stow It-Don’t Throw It personal-sized fishing line recycling bins to engage anglers and boaters in their community in protecting marine wildlife from fishing line entanglement.
In addition to the students receiving grants after participating in our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Sarasota, FL on November 14 in Sarasota, FL we’re also excited to award 3 grants to students who attended our first satellite Youth Ocean Conservation Summit in Long Island, NY on November 21 hosted by Coastal Steward Inc. and New York Sea Grant:

Students at LeRoy Jr/Sr High School in LeRoy, NY will launch their Safe Disposal Program to help their local government implement a safe pharmaceutical collection program. They will also provide information to the public about the correct disposal of pharmaceuticals by creating an interactive model and brochures.

Sarah Whelan will launch YOU: Youth and Oysters United to educate young people in her community about water quality and engage them in oyster restoration projects.

The Environmental Outreach Club at Mount Sanai High School will educate the student body about the importance of reducing plastics, and implement efforts to encourage the use of reusable water bottles, while working to install water bottle refill stations on campus.

Congratulations to these young people, and all of our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants for their outstanding ocean conservation work. Stay tuned for more updates on these projects!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 Years of Empowering the Next Generation of Ocean Conservationists!

Five years. Six cities. Hundreds of young people leading initiatives to protect our blue planet. The Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program marked its 5th anniversary on November 13 and 14 at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida where once again the emphasis was on the important role young people play as leaders in the field of ocean conservation. The event began Friday evening with the Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival – a celebration of youth initiatives featuring a showcase of student-led ocean conservation projects, a silent auction and raffle fundraiser benefiting the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program and an exciting line-up of films including winners of the 2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition, a tribute to Mote Marine Laboratory Founding Director, Dr. Eugenie Clark, a look back at five years of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program, and Shark Girl, the story of 21 year old Madison Stewart and her work to save the world’s sharks.

Saturday’s Summit brought together over 200 youth and adults from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, and Washington State. Video messages by Dr. Guy Harvey and Wendy Benchley, as well as a keynote presentation from renowned marine scientist and author Dr. Ellen Prager, kicked off the event – inspiring participants into action to protect our ocean. Youth Ocean Conservation Summit alumni took the stage next to share their outstanding ocean conservation work – initiatives ranging from plastic pollution prevention campaigns and habitat restoration efforts to the creation of wildlife conservation calendars and a vertical school garden to raise awareness for water conservation. First time Summit attendees had the opportunity to work alongside expert mentors from local and national conservation organizations to plan out their own ocean conservation projects to protect marine environments in their local communities, while returning participants took part in the Careers in Ocean Conservation session – learning how to turn their passion for conservation into a lifelong career.

The remainder of the event allowed Summit attendees to take part in exciting workshops and sessions designed to equip them with the skills and resources needed to successfully carry out and expand their ocean conservation projects. These workshops focused on citizen science and water quality monitoring, public speaking, filmmaking, oyster reef creation and habitat restoration, using art to communicate conservation messages, fundraising, ocean acidification and working with government officials, organizing public science events, the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, and Mote Marine Laboratory’s spotted eagle ray research and conservation work! Participants also had a chance to experience the WaterVentures Mobile Learning Lab which was on display for the 5th anniversary of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit.

Throughout the weekend, youth participants also had a chance to network with peers and adult mentors who share a passion for protecting marine ecosystems. The event wrapped up with an inspiring call to action video message from Stephanie Arne, host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom! Immediately following the Summit, participants were invited to join Mote Marine Laboratory’s High School Interns for a special Youth Ocean Conservation Summit edition of Florida Teen Science CafĂ©. This evening event, Trash Talk, connected teen participants from across Florida and the country with Mote Marine Laboratory Senior Biologist, Kim Bassos-Hull, Stranding Investigations Program Manager Gretchen Lovewell, Staff Scientist, Dr. Katie McHugh, and Sarasota Bay Watch Program Director, Ronda Ryan, for an engaging and informative evening focused on marine debris, its impacts, and strategies for prevention.

A special thanks to the incredible participants, presenters, volunteers, sponsors, and Summit planning team members for their support of this event over the past five years and their dedication to ocean conservation!

Thank you to our 2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit partners and sponsors: The Nature Conservancy Gulf of Mexico Program, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, the Wyland Foundation and Wyland Galleries, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Klean Kanteen, EarthEcho International, Mote Scientific Foundation, Wild Studies, the Florida Aquarium, Sarasota Bay Watch, ROI Media, WaterVentures – Florida’s Learning Lab, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, Sebago Watersports Key West, Lost Reef Adventures, Schooner America, Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe, artist Carly Mejeur, Gloria Clifford Tropical Island Art, Sobel Designs, the Key West Aquarium, Mission Blue, Blue Frontier Campaign, and the Fishes Wishes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Announcing the 2015 Youth Ocean Conservation Film Festival Winners!

The annual Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition engages young people from across the country in sharing ocean conservation messages through film. Each year, students use this competition as an opportunity to highlight important conservation issues and emphasize the importance of taking action to protect marine environments and their inhabitants.

This year, we received many great entries and our excited to announce the winners of the 2015 competition: 

Elementary School:
“Sea Kids Make a Difference” – by Ryan M.
“Take 10 for Turtles” – by Landon P., Trent T., and Stephen S.

Middle School:
“Oysters – Canaries in the Coal Mine” – by Isabella G. and Lauren E.
“The Real Shark Attack” – by Derek P., Brian W., and Taylor B.

High School:
“The Jetty: A Documentary” – by Brooke W.
“Man and Manatee” – by Christian P., Lilly T., and Molly P.

Our 2015 winning films will be screened to the public during our Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival on Friday, November 13 at 6:30pm at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL. This event is free but seating is limited so be sure to RSVP at:

We would also like to recognize the following Honorable Mentions from this year’s competition:
“Better Days” – by Leah F.
“From Oceans to Beaches” – by Katherine C.

A big thanks to all of our Youth Ocean Conservation Film Competition participants for their dedication and commitment to protecting marine ecosystems!

Monday, March 9, 2015

2014 Seattle Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients announced!

On December 6, teens from the Seattle Aquarium brought the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit program to the west coast of the U.S. for the first time! Through this event, over 100 attendees worked to plan a variety of ocean conservation projects. Thanks to support from Disney and the Seattle Aquarium, we were able to offer mini-grants to support the student-driven ocean conservation projects planned by summit participants. This year’s grant recipients are:

- Through his initiative “The Plastic Project”, Eli Fonseca will educate his classmates and community members on the impacts of marine debris and plastic pollution, and organize local coastal cleanups in the Seattle region.

- Through Sustainable Salmon Solutions, Blake Toney will monitor water quality in the streams around Gig Harbor and use the data collected to educate the public on the human impacts on salmon populations, and other wildlife in this region.

- Jolie Elliott will work on coral restoration efforts in the Riviera Maya Mexico area and will carry out an independent research project on these reefs.

- Abigail Welter will work with local Girl Scouts on a battery recycling campaign, first educating members of her community about the importance of proper battery disposal to prevent chemicals from entering the environment, and then providing bags to aid in battery disposal.

- Matthew Benedict’s Environmental Change Creators project will work to teach middle school students about conservation and environmental stewardship through an after school nature club. Activities the club carries out will include nature hikes, litter cleanups, and wilderness survival training with the goal of connecting students to the natural world.

Congratulations to all of our grant recipients! We’re looking forward to seeing the results of your work! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2014 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit mini-grant recipients announced!

Each year we are honored to be able to support innovative youth-driven ocean conservation projects emerging from our Youth Ocean Conservation Summit event with mini-grants to help fund these initiatives! This year, thanks to support from Disney, the Johnson-Ohana Charitable Foundation, and funds raised from our 2014 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, we were able to fund twelve projects planned by students attending our Summit on November 8, 2014. This year’s grant recipients are:

Delaney Farrell will continue to teach students in elementary through high school about shark conservation through interactive outreach presentations as part of her Finformation program.

Derek, Landon, and Christian Petrisko will work to create a fundraiser to support marine conservation work by creating a calendar highlighting marine environments and organisms through compelling photos. They will also work to engage K-12 students in a mangrove re-planting initiative.

Through her Green Team Project, Paris Shewfelt will coordinate education programs focused on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and will engage tourists and community residents in coastal cleanup initiatives.

Monica Henry and Shelby Graziani will team up with the Florida Oceanographic Society to launch their Stash It and Trash It campaign with the goal of creating a beach ambassador program to increase marine debris awareness and inspire environmental stewardship. Through this project the will also coordinate community beach cleanups, school/community outreach presentations, and marine debris data collection.

Brooke Welch and her Ocean Preservers program will work to protect marine wildlife from fishing line entanglement by working to engage students in assembling and distributing 200 personal-sized fishing line recycling bins through the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project.

Nicole Stevens will work with her fellow students at Berkeley Preparatory School to build a vertical garden at their school in order to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and sustainable gardening.

Destiny Treloar will launch the Reef Resurrection program to raise awareness through education about the issues faced in the oceans, particularly marine debris. To accomplish this they will collaborate with South Africa's Two Oceans Aquarium Young Biologist Program to organize cleanups within their community, and then turn the trash into art projects for the severity of the issues.

Elinor Rienzo will launch her Trash Stash program to create reusable, personal-sized trash bags that will allow individuals to store their trash so it doesn’t accidentally enter the environment. Her efforts will work to prevent the issue of marine debris at its source.

Keyla Correia will launch the Plastic Free Mermaids project by working with fellow students to highlight the dangers of plastics in the ocean through virtual presentations to classes and engage students in cleanup efforts. This project also plans to build a great white shark sculpture from marine debris collected.

Deja Golder and the National Aquarium’s Aquarium on Wheels program will launch the Drain Savers project to educate students in Baltimore, MD about water quality and mark storm drains in the city to help prevent runoff and trash from entering the surrounding water ways. They will also work to organize city cleanups to help address this issue.

Mikaela Groomes’ We-Cycle project will work to create a recycling program to prevent marine debris and provide places for disposal of fishing line near boat ramps and piers. She will also work to organize cleanup events and create educational outreach materials to teach students about marine debris prevention. 

Congratulations to all recipients and a special thanks to you, and all of our Summit participants for your work to protect marine ecosystems! Additional grant awards will be announced shortly for participants who attended the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit at the Seattle Aquarium!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Youth Ocean Conservation Summit Empowers Students to Save the Ocean!

The ocean needs young people now. That was the message to the 200+ youth and adults attending our fourth annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit on Saturday, November 8th, at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL. Our largest Summit to date, this annual event is designed to empower youth participants with the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully launch ocean conservation projects in their local communities. Youth and adult participants from 10 states attended the event, which was kicked off by an inspiring keynote from Steve Culbertson, President and CEO of Youth Service America, who share with participants 4 reasons why the ocean needs youth ASAP. Steve’s passion for youth leadership, service, and ocean conservation came together in his powerful and inspiring message to participants. The event continued with outstanding presentations by past Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants who shared their work over the past year on ocean conservation initiatives in their local communities. Student attendees then had the chance to work on action plans for their own ocean conservation projects with the help of expert mentors from across the country, and take part in a session focused on careers in ocean conservation. Throughout the remainder of the event, participants attended workshop sessions designed to empower them with the knowledge and skills needed to successfully implement and/or expand ocean conservation projects in their communities. These workshops included topics such as fundraising, social media marketing, using art to promote ocean conservation, working with government officials, exploring ocean conservation issues, film making, grant writing, and a panel session featuring young students taking on ocean conservation issues in their communities. Thanks to Mote Marine Laboratory and the New York Aquarium, select Summit sessions were streamed live for the first time to students watching in Coney Island, NY!

Throughout the day Summit participants had the opportunity to network with other youth and adults from across the country who are passionate about ocean conservation, and connect with organizations working to protect marine ecosystems. The Summit ended with an inspiring “Call to Action” message from long time event supporter, singer/song-writer Jack Johnson!

Immediately following the Summit, the third annual Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival provided an additional avenue to raise awareness about ocean conservation issues, and the work of young people in the field of ocean conservation, to a greater community audience. This year’s event featured a silent auction and raffle fundraiser to help fund the student-driven ocean conservation project planned at the Summit, a screening of the winning films from our 2014 Community Ocean Conservation Film Festival, a screening of the inspiring short film Cabo Pulmo highlighting a marine conservation success story, and the featured presentation – Mission Blue, the powerful story of Dr. Sylvia Earle and her mission to save the ocean.

The 2014 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit weekend wrapped up with an exploration of Sarasota Bay featuring hands on seining, marine life observation, and kayaking experiences led by the staff from the Loxahatchee River Center and FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours!
Throughout the year, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit participants will be connected to additional resources and support for their conservation work through our Youth Ocean Conservation Team network.

A special thanks to the incredible participants, presenters, volunteers, sponsors, and Summit planning team members for their inspiring commitment to ocean conservation!

Thanks to the 2014 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit partners and sponsors: Mote Marine Laboratory, the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, Disney, Wyland Galleries, Wyland Foundation, Youth Service America, Mission Blue, Jim Abernethy’s SCUBA Adventures, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, FLOW Kayak and Paddle Tours, Wild Studies, Liz Arme Realty, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, United by Blue, Klean Kanteen, Mote Scientific Foundation, Artist Ryan Sobel, SUP Sarasota, Loxahatchee River Center, ROI Media, The Nature Conservancy, Sarasota Bay Watch, the Florida Aquarium, SCUBAnauts International, Blue Frontier Campaign, The Fishes Wishes, Gloria Clifford – Tropical Island Art, Carly Mejeur Art, Robert Johnson Art, Event Step and Repeat, the Pulse Team, Florida Oceanographic Society, Spunco Films, Sarasota Fins, Ben Hicks Art and Design, Jordan Holm, From the Bow Seat, Ringling College of Art and Design, the New York Aquarium, and Ocean GEMS.