Youth Innovation Challenge 2023 Winners

YIC 2023 Winners and Finalists

The 2023 GEEP Youth Innovation Challenge (YIC) gave young people (ages 15–30) around the world a chance to come up with innovative solutions to protect marine resources and support people of all ages to be engaged stewards for marine conservation, using environmental education as a key strategy. From our amazing finalists, three winners were chosen to receive a $1000 USD prize! 

Check out our 2023 Youth Innovation Challenge Winners and Finalists below! 

Click here to read the full press release. 


Ajay Sawant | Pune, India

The Coral Conservancy: The First Youth-Led Coral Transplantation and Restoration Initiative Project in India

Coral continues to decline in the Indian Ocean due to environmental degradation from pollution, harmful fishing methods, coral mining, and other factors. Ajay's innovation—a youth-led coral transplantation project in Mumbai—aims to rejuvenate the biodiversity and biomass of the adjacent waters. With a focus on addressing the critical decline of coral reefs and their ecosystem services, this project aligns with the global 30 x 30 action plan and SDG14 goals for the ocean. To achieve this goal, he and a dedicated team of passionate and trained young individuals, under the guidance of marine experts and with methodologies tailored to the Indian ecosystem, will employ advanced coral transplantation techniques to effectively restore and revive the coral reefs. Through educational programs and community outreach initiatives, this project will also inform coastal populations about the significance of marine protected areas and the importance of traditional sustainable practices. 

Follow Ajay on Instagram, X, and LinkedIn

Check out two marine-focused organizations Ajay is a part of: Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs (Facebook, Instagram, X, and LinkedIn) and ThinkOcean Society (Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn).

Jennifer Obiorah & Team | Enugwu Agidi, Nigeria

TeamUpcyclers' Ocean Restoration Challenge

Team members: Magdaline Chinenye Obiorah, Grace Ifunanya Obiorah, Lawrence Somtoochukwu Obiorah, Charles Ikedinachukwu Obiorah, Victor Emeka Ekemezie

After noticing a learning gap across primary and secondary school students regarding education about SDGs, climate change, and marine debris, Jennifer came up with the idea to host an inter-school marine debris challenge in Nigeria for students with the target of reaching out to an average of 10,000 students across the federation. The "TeamUpcyclers' Ocean Restoration Challenge" would run for two months and would include four masterclasses to educate the students about the SDGs, climate change, marine environments, and how to conserve the marine ecosystem and biodiversity by removing marine debris. One winning team each from the primary and secondary sectors and one winning team for the most creative project will receive a prize. Having already established several partnerships in the past, Jennifer and her team aim to scale this project with the aim of reaching 50,000 Nigerian students in 5 years.

Follow Jennifer on Facebook, Instagram, X, and LinkedIn.

Keira Chen | Hsinchu, Taiwan

The Ocean Library

As a volunteer at her local library, Keira noticed how young children are genuinely interested in reading, and how they especially enjoy the library's comfy reading corner.  With this in mind, Keira came up with an innovative solution to promote ocean conservation to young children at her library by setting up an ocean-themed reading corner. The ocean-themed corner would include shelves filled with children's picture books promoting ocean protection. Soft blue pillows, colorful chairs, and marine stuffed animals would attract children's interest to read in the corner. Each weekend, a group of volunteers would have story-telling sessions to educate the children about ocean protection and discuss examples of ocean waste. The volunteers will be trained beforehand to ensure that they have adequate story-telling skills and accurate knowledge of marine life and current ocean issues. Beyond storytelling, other activities in the ocean-themed reading corner will include a small puppet show and opportunities to create artwork of marine animals and ocean protection, which will subsequently be displayed in the library ocean corner. This project aims to increase children's passion for protecting our ocean and marine animals while also empowering them with clear solutions and realistic steps to protect ocean ecosystems.

Follow Keira on Instagram: Keira Chen and DazzlingScience.


Alex Jang | Irving, United States

Measuring Oceanic Microplastic Concentration by Size: An Educational Tool Kit for Student Citizen Science

The size of microplastics, plastics ranging from 1 micrometer to 5 millimeters, can have radically different effects on organisms. Unfortunately, existing citizen science initiatives focus only on one data point: the number of microplastics. To address this issue, Alex proposes a microplastic test kit that democratizes microplastic data collection while educating users about microplastic pollution. These kits, which are designed to be used by students and can be integrated into science curricula or after-school programs, contain different-sized filters to collect and categorize different-sized microplastics in accordance with a new categorization method proposed by J.R. Bermúdez and P.W. Swarzenski based on the sizes of plankton. The data collected through the kits will be logged on an online interactive map and shared with scientists and policymakers, directly contributing to the understanding and mitigation of marine debris. Finally, the kits will provide a hands-on learning experience for students, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills and enabling them to contribute to real scientific research. This solution will build a strong data collection infrastructure that will contribute to a better understanding of the effects of microplastics of various sizes, guiding efforts to reduce microplastic pollution and empowering and educating the next generation by involving them directly in scientific research and environmental conservation.

Follow Alex’s Sustainability Club, Eco Club Coppell, on Instagram and X.

Ally Zlatar | Glasgow, United Kingdom

Addressing Medical Waste on Marine Debris through Art-Based Voices and Empowering Marginalized Communities

Recognizing the significant amount of waste the pharmaceutical industry generates, Ally uses art to address the issue of medical waste that contributes to marine debris. By combining art, environmental education, and cross-sector collaboration, Ally aims to create awareness, inspire action, and drive sustainable practices within the pharmaceutical industry. Through public awareness campaigns featuring art billboards with QR codes, Ally and her team will reach a wide audience, including community members, educators, young people, decision-makers, and corporations. Ally’s team will collaborate with community organizations and local artists to create art installations that reflect the experiences and perspectives of marginalized communities affected by medical waste. This inclusive approach aims to amplify the voices of these communities and shed light on the disproportionate impact they face. Additionally, Ally’s solution will involve organizing art workshops where participants can explore different artistic mediums, express their perspectives, and raise awareness creatively. This project will also use digital platforms and social media to share educational resources and engage with a broader audience. These activities will facilitate dialogue exchange between various stakeholders, promoting cross-sector collaboration, and will foster partnerships between artists, educators, pharmaceutical industry representatives, and decision-makers to develop innovative solutions that address medical waste and promote sustainable practices.

Follow Ally on Instagram and at The Starving Artist.

Chidimma Anastasia Chima & Benedict Chima | Abuja, Nigeria

Blue Rescue: Creating Awareness, Preserving Marine Biodiversity Through Recycling Waste Plastics to Reduce Marine Debris

Marine debris isn't a stand-alone problem, and addressing it is a necessary step for the conservation of marine biodiversity. The problem of marine debris is worse in low-income communities, where waste management facilities are inadequate and a dedicated subject/curriculum for environmental studies in schools is absent. For these reasons, dumping of garbage is a norm in Chidimma and Benedict's community, whether dumping waste directly in open spaces (where the garbage gets washed away by rain into rivers) or into drainages and rivers. Their innovation includes introducing environmental education into the school’s curriculum and creating a plastic waste collection program. This initiative will include hosting weekend street carnivals featuring an ocean awareness song, working with traditional and political leaders to recruit Zero Waste Ambassadors for each street, and handing out free copies of a marine awareness book that Chidimma wrote, among other community-focused initiatives. Chidimma and Benedict aim to replicate this project across 20 communities around their area.

Follow Chidimma and Benedict on Instagram.

Dang Chi Kien & Team | Hanoi, Vietnam

Shores of Resilience: Harnessing the Power of Coastal Tree Planting to Safeguard Viet Nam’s Coral Reefs

Team members: Yen Nhi, Duy Khang, Trong Hung, Duc Tung, Tue Nguyen

Today, coral reefs are being destroyed by many factors, such as urban development, destructive coastal fishing practices, and climate change. Especially in Vietnam, urban development along the coast and overexploitation of marine resources, sedimentation, and eutrophication, combined with uncontrolled exploitation of coral reef resources, have contributed to the disturbance of marine resources, the most prominent of which has witnessed a 50% decline in coral reef populations with an area of about 400 ha. This issue motivated Kien and his team to find an innovative solution that facilitates the growth of coral reefs and lessens the effects of global warming on sea life, while also educating the community on this topic. Their innovative solution, EcoReefTech, includes a revolutionary Coral Conical system and 3D printing that is used to create intricate and customized biorock structures. This allows for the production of structures that mimic natural coral formations, providing optimal conditions for coral attachment and growth. In addition, incorporating biorock technology in its structure will help promote coral growth and the development of coral reefs by accelerating the deposition of calcium carbonate. State-of-the-art sensors will continuously monitor crucial parameters such as pH levels, temperature, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, chlorophyll, and coral health across various regions in Vietnam. This real-time data is then transferred into an application, empowering scientists and conservationists to make informed decisions for effective reef restoration and preservation. Additionally, this innovation will engage in large-scale tree-planting initiatives to help stabilize the soil along vulnerable coastal areas and provide environmental education initiatives for the community.

Follow Kien on Instagram

Etchel Leinne Perez & Team | Cavite City, Philippines

Locks of Hope: An Awareness and Hair Donation Drive Initiative to Alleviate Marine Oil Debris and Mitigate  Impacts to Marine Biodiversity

Team members: Angel Joyce Acuar, Aaron De Sagun, Gia Jean Nella Dela Cruz, Nicole Althea Ditchoson, Stephen Ivan Primicias

Oil spills are a big threat to marine biodiversity. But one novel way to clean oil spills is to use hair. Etchel and her team created a program to both collect hair and increase awareness of oil spills for citizens in their city, Manila. This initiative would include several activities. First, they would create learning materials such as comic books and brochures, featuring a fictional character named Craboo, containing stories and factual information about oil spills and their impacts on marine biodiversity to increase the awareness of both the younger and older generations. These materials will be distributed to communities within Metro Manila, especially to hair salons and barbershops, since they are the expected primary contributors of hair. Next, they will collect human hair from hair salons and barbershops that are willing to participate, from donations from the general public, and from free haircuts in the Metro area. Then, the acquired hair will be sent to the team’s partner organization that is working to mitigate the effects of oil spills in the country.

Follow the team on social media: Etchel (Facebook, Instagram); Aaron (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn); Angel (Facebook, Instagram); Gia (Instagram); Nicole (Facebook, Instagram); Stephen (Facebook, Instagram, X).

E. Haripriya & Team | Bengaluru, India

Harnessing the Power of Responsible Seafood Consumers for Marine Conservation and Oceans’ Sustainability

Team members: Meghana Teerthala, Abhilasha Sharma, Ranjini Sen, Anu Priya Babu

Aquatic foods are an affordable and accessible source of animal protein and micronutrients worldwide. Global consumption of aquatic foods has increased at an annual average of 3% since 1961. This growing demand has led to overfishing and unsustainable fisheries, endangering marine biodiversity. Recognizing that all stakeholders along the value chain should be held accountable for supporting sustainable fisheries, Haripriya and her team aim to encourage seafood consumers to opt for sustainable and responsible seafood consumption. The team will use social media campaigns that include sharing local recipes that use less-desirable seafood, sharing fishers’ testimonials highlighting the benefits of seafood diversification, and other illustrations of this issue. They will also engage with their community in person by organizing community gatherings across Bengaluru, including a seafood festival, and collaborating with other influential grassroots organizations and nutritionists.

Follow Dakshin Foundation on Instagram, X, and LinkedIn

Follow Haripriya and team on social media: Haripriya (Instagram, X, LinkedIn); Meghana (Instagram, X, LinkedIn); Abhilasha (Instagram, X); Ranjini (Instagram, X, LinkedIn); Anu (Instagram, LinkedIn). 

Jacqueline Cruz Aguila | Mexico City, Mexico

Policy Advocacy for Seas Governance

Policy advocacy is an important part of transforming policies related to climate change and the environment across geographical scales. Jacqueline’s innovation aims to increase young people’s participation in public affairs concerning climate change and environmental issues affecting marine resources through lobbying. Her project is divided into three components. First, she will select 30 young people (aged 15–30) from Mexico to take part in a training program focused on how to develop advocacy initiatives in public policies to address environmental problems in Mexico related to climate change, marine ecosystems (conservation and restoration), and marine debris. Next, the project will provide training to young politicians and interested environmental activists on the importance of ecosystem services in the face of climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as workshops on the economic valuation of marine ecosystem services. Finally, her project will encourage young beneficiaries to participate in the development of the Law Initiative for environmental education in Mexico, with the goal of pushing a proposal at the federal level that integrates environmental education in multiple areas: educational, labor, citizen, and productive. Overall, this project will stimulate youth participation in developing and executing advocacy proposals, where solutions to tackle various marine resource challenges will be positioned on the political agenda through cooperation and partnership with the government and institutions.

Follow Jacqueline's Instagram (#SeasGovernance) and her personal Instagram.

Karl Japeth G. Rosal | Alabel, Philippines

High Seas Watcher Initiative

The UN’s adoption of the High Seas Treaty is a significant step towards fulfilling the global 30 x 30 initiative. This underscores the protection and sustainable use of marine ecosystems outside national boundaries. But considering that the high seas are miles away from land, how will we guarantee that the treaty's contents are followed, and who will ensure that the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are protected? Karl’s innovation, the High Seas Watcher Initiative, aims to create an organization of seafarers and fisherfolks that promotes marine biodiversity and conservation through technology and environmental education. 

Seafarers and fisherfolks can use the mobile-based app developed under the initiative to map marine species they encounter through their voyages. An MPA map will also be interfaced in the app so that users can identify if they are located near or within an MPA. One of the goals of the 30 x 30 initiative is to extend MPAs further away from land. The High Seas Watcher Initiative will surely provide a cost-effective, wide-scale, and efficient way to promote marine biodiversity and conservation across the ocean. The app will also be integrated with a reporting function to allow users to report suspected environmental violations that may affect the sea, like ship pollution, illegal fishing, etc. A web-based platform will also be developed as a tool for authorities to receive alerts about suspected violations. This creates a safe and anonymous space for users to report violations without fearing repercussions. The High Seas Watcher Initiative will also provide environmental education to seafarers and fisherfolks to create a more profound awareness about the impacts of the damage to the marine ecosystem.

Follow Karl on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Kee Farms (Nicholas Kee & Team) | Jamaica

Reducing Overfishing Through the Establishment of a Seaweed Mariculture Network and Training in Fishing Communities

Team members: Chelsi-Rae Buckley, Dean Morris, Matthew-Pierre Rogers, Shauna-Gaye Pusey, Geasean Johnson, Aprille Ferguson

Jamaica has the most overfished waters in the English-speaking Caribbean. Over the past four decades, the nation's fisherfolk, the majority of whom are artisanal fishers, have been fishing lower and lower down the food chain. Currently, grazers such as parrotfish—which clean and maintain coral reefs—are being overfished. Nicolas’s project aims to teach a fishing community in Discovery Bay, St. Ann, Jamaica to grow seaweeds as an alternative means of income to ease the pressure on parrotfish stocks. This allows the whole fishing community to become involved in establishing an alternative source of income where their existing skills can be channeled to earn a livelihood and allow coral reefs to recover. In turn, the coral reefs enhance surrounding biodiversity. Through environmental education, fishing communities will learn skills that allow them to reduce their impact on coral reefs and improve water quality. In doing so, the community is empowered with skills that allow them to sustain their livelihoods and marine biodiversity in the long term. 

Follow Kee Farms on Instagram, X, and LinkedIn.


Nora Maung | Upland, United States

The Coral Symphony Project

One of the critical challenges facing degraded coral reefs is their emission of less attractive acoustic cues, dissuading settlement-stage fishes from making their homes there. To tackle this issue, Nora proposes repurposing Whale Acoustic Deterrent Systems, devices that use underwater speakers to emit sounds of the natural predators or threats of whales. However, instead of deterring whales, she will reuse these acoustic deterrent devices to mimic the sounds of healthy coral reefs to beckon marine creatures toward damaged coral habitats and help restore the reefs. This innovation draws inspiration from a groundbreaking study conducted by the University of Exeter in Australia, which found that acoustically enriched coral-rubble patch reefs exhibited remarkable transformations with enhanced fish community development. Nora’s project would also include immersive webinars on coral reef conservation and the role of acoustic systems; freely accessible online resources featuring informative articles, engaging infographics, and interactive tools; and tailored curriculum materials that focus on marine conservation for educators.

Follow Nora on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Pamela Kiambi | Nairobi, Kenya

Integrating Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainable Marine Conservation and Biodiversity

Incorporating Indigenous knowledge into marine conservation efforts is a crucial step toward achieving sustainability. Indigenous communities have been living sustainably and in harmony with the environment for generations. Their knowledge and practices provide a unique perspective and approach to marine conservation. The United Nations says over three billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, these ecosystems are under threat due to overfishing, pollution, and climate change. By working with Indigenous communities and acknowledging their contributions, we can create inclusive and equitable solutions that protect marine ecosystems and preserve cultural heritage. Indigenous practices and knowledge passed down for generations can provide insights into sustainable practices and the protection of marine ecosystems. 

Pamela’s innovative solution aims to create a partnership between local Indigenous communities, youth groups, and conservation experts. The first step of this project includes hosting a series of intergenerational workshops for youth, Indigenous communities, elders, and other marine conservation experts to gather and share information about the unique marine biodiversity found in the region. The second step will include collaborating and working with artists and storytellers to create educational materials that highlight the importance of protecting marine ecosystems. These materials will be engaging and culturally relevant and can be shared with a wider audience. Overall, this project hopes to help bridge the gap between traditional knowledge and modern technology, facilitating new and innovative approaches to sustainable practices and conservation efforts, as well as empower young people to take an active role in protecting their local ecosystems and foster a sense of pride and connection to the natural world.

Yuli Efriani | Medan, Indonesia

Green Camp Family

Team members: Zahrul Fuadi, Nurul Azrina

In 2022, Anggar Beach in Sibolga City produced around one ton of marine debris, much of which came from houses around the beach that throw their trash into the sea. In this area, a majority of the population work as fishermen and may not get to spend time with their families. With this in mind, Yuli and her team propose the Green Camp Family. This program is aimed at 20 coastal families, including one parent and one child aged 9–17 years old, in Ps. Belakang, Sibolga Cirt, Indonesia. The camp activities will include education on effective practices for sorting and disposing of waste, family games, and parent and child sessions. All camp activities will take place outdoors to help participants get closer to nature and learn from observations. Overall, this program aims to reduce household waste that pollutes the sea, especially at Anggar Beach, and raise awareness of the issue of marine debris.

Follow Yuli and team on social media: Yuli (LinkedIn), Zahrul (Instagram), and Nurul  (LinkedIn).

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