Hosted in partnership with BOAT International, the annual Ocean Awards ceremony commends those who have made a significant contribution to protecting the ocean and marine life. For the Young Initiative Award, the judges acknowledge the efforts of an individual or group aged between 18 and 30, who despite their young age have shown an impressive commitment to ocean conservation at the start of their careers. From improving diversity in the field of marine conservation research to using social media to raise awareness of the ocean crisis, take a look at this year’s nominees…
Minorities in Shark Science
A group founded in Florida in 2020, Minorities in Shark Science (MISS) is led by Amani Webber-Schultz, Carlee Jackson, Jaida Elcock and Jasmin Graham. All aged between 23 and 27, these four young scientists started the organisation not only to educate the public about the importance of sharks and rays within marine ecosystems but also in order to amplify the research and work of minority scientists within the field.
Credit: Minorities in Shark Science
Since starting, the group launched a science outreach programme called Gill Guardians, providing an online curriculum accessible to all ages for learning about shark research and conservation. They have also organised summer camps to help youngsters deepen their knowledge of ocean conservation, hosted ten women of colour abroad a scientific research vessel to teach them field techniques and provided six fellowships for emerging shark scientists to participate in research at dedicated institutes. Through science communication and outreach, MISS has directly communicated with more than 100,000 people to raise awareness.
Faqih Akbar – Elasmobranch Project Indonesia
Elasmobranchii – a group of marine species including sharks, rays and skates – are sparsely recorded in Indonesia. The last published reference for the biodiversity and distribution of this species in the island nation dates back to 2006, with Indonesia’s wide archipelagic geography and lack of resources meaning that this data had barely been updated in the last 15 years.
Photo: Faqih Akbar.
To tackle this issue, 26-year old Faqih Akbar founded Elasmobranch Project Indonesia (EPI) to collect data across the country using citizen science. So far, EPI has collected 270 encounter data of 53 elasmobranch species from across 22 provinces. The resulting data has been shared with government institutions and NGOs to help support elasmobranch conservation in Indonesia. Using social media to gain traction around the world, EPI has worked closely with experts, scientists, students and Indonesian nationals to further maximise the success of its marine conservation projects.
Mirali Shukla – iO Conservancy
Californian 27-year-old Mirali Shukla has been nominated for her organisation iO Conservancy. Her work for the organisation includes both undertaking practical scientific research and spreading awareness through public campaigns.
Photo: Mirali Shukla.
Fieldwork undertaken by Shukla for iO Conservancy has included a reforesting project of 100,000 mangroves throughout eastern Africa, training and hiring workers for the project from local communities. Mirali has also assisted marine biologists in a novel study of beaked whales in the Azores to learn how noise affects their habitats and to try and find the last remaining areas of acoustically ‘unpolluted’ ocean, a project which she then created a film about. More recently, Mirali has also assisted in research for iO Conservancy as a crewmember on a sailboat, monitoring and collecting data from whales in the Azores to elucidate migration patterns and discover how to reduce the impact of man-made noise such as military sonars.
Rebecca Daniel – The Marine Diaries
Rebecca Daniel is the 26-year-old director of The Marine Diaries, an NGO founded to use digital platforms to educate, advocate and inspire the public about marine conservation issues. Through social media, webinars and films, The Marine Diaries has made scientific information more digestible and accessible to the general public. The Marine Diaries has grown an online community of over 35,000 ocean advocates across five social media platforms.
Photo: Rebecca Daniel.
Key campaigns that The Marine Diaries has launched include Plastic Not Fantastic, a campaign that brought together more than 35 plastic researchers, organisations, and influencers to address ocean pollution and solutions to the issue. Rebecca also launched the Marine Ecosystem Diaries project which created informed materials around nine marine life ecosystems that can be used and shared by the general public as well as teachers and other NGOs. The materials encompass nine documentary films that incorporated archival footage to reduce production emissions, as well as posters and articles that can educate and raise awareness about ocean conservation.