In early October, my fellow Sea Grant Marine Education Interns and I sat down with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s educator, Mare Timmons, who gave us a binder filled with important documents and resources from previous Youth Ocean Conservation Summits (YOCS) held at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

For the last four years, the Sea Grant Marine Education interns have taken on the task of planning a YOCS, which is designed to empower middle and high school students across the country with the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to successfully implement ocean conservation projects in their local communities. The day-long event is filled with skill-building sessions and presentations by leaders in the field of conservation.

After the first meeting, we began brainstorming about what we wanted to do, who we wanted to bring in as speakers and mentors, and how many sessions we wanted to offer. We delegated tasks based on our unique skill sets and decided on “Making Waves in Conservation” as the theme for the 2018 YOCS, which could not have been more fitting.

YOCS speakers, Amanda Wrona Meadows and LA Allen from The Nature Conservancy, kicked off the summit with an interactive activity that encouraged collaboration and communication when tackling environmental conservation issues. The first activity really loosened up participants and conversations between the students continued to build throughout the day during skill-building workshops led 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 Anne Lindsay, associate director of Marine Education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

A career panel exposed participants to a variety of marine conservation career paths. Julia Diaz, assistant professor at UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; Mandi Moroz, a law clerk for the Senior U.S. District Judge William T. Moore; Mike Robinson, a research professional at UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; and Lisa D. Watson, a local artist who uses recycled materials in her work, discussed how they tackle conservation issues through law, science and art.

Mandy Castro, 2017-18 marine education intern

The culmination of the summit’s events was a poster session that not only provided the students the opportunity to showcase their action plans but also allowed them to discuss their conservation ideas with their peers and mentors. The discourse was rich and the excitement was high as the students bounced ideas off each other and got inspired by other projects.

It was an honor and privilege to serve as one of the organizers for YOCS 2018. As I helped  facilitate educational growth and leadership among participating students, I felt like I was growing in those areas as well. I look forward to seeing what the participants of the YOCS do with their new knowledge and resources.