2018 Go Blue Awards Nominees – Youth

Blue Hatchling Youth Award Finalists:

Recognizes a person under age 17 who has made significant contributions in marine conservation through volunteer related activities.

Faith Blackall

With the heart of a mermaid, Faith’s love and respect for our oceans is evident by her enthusiasm to participate in projects around the state of Florida. She eagerly dives into any opportunity to showcase an appreciation for our underwater realm.

Faith is a Junior Ambassador for the Keep Fin Alive campaign originating in South Africa. With this endeavor, she introduces classroom peers and the general public to the beauty of sharks. Faith is working locally to derive empathy towards the plight of sharks while simultaneously shattering misconceptions perpetuated by media sensationalism.

Throughout the year, Faith assists Ocean’s Daughter Conservation Alliance to promote marine conservation. Her most recent contribution included an anti-finning campaign at SharkCon in Tampa, where she educated guests about various shark conservation initiatives. Additionally, Faith volunteers her time every October in St. Augustine, where she works with highly stigmatized species like snakes and crocs. During Croctober, she works with industry experts to deliver presentations that raise consciousness regarding the value of these stigmatized animals.

In January, she volunteered her time to cultivating and conducting an interview for a conservation magazine called Conscious Planet Earth that showcased sea turtle conservation (https://view.publitas.com/conscious-planet-earth/southfloridajanissuecpe/page/1). She wanted to reach a wider global audience and raise awareness for her favorite species. This summer, she embarked on a new adventure where she launched her very own business called “Soaps for Sea Turtles”. She has been dedicating her time to formulating handmade soaps in various fragrances and designs that she sells around the local community. She sprinkles conservation messaging into the sale of each soap and at the end of the year, she is donating 100% of her profits to sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Juno Beach.

Faith’s efforts are making waves around the community and beyond. Her efforts are resulting in shifting perspectives, educating minds, and changing hearts as well as financially supporting marine conservation initiatives.

Milo Cress

Creating positive change through education and awareness is not easy. Humans live on land but we all rely on the ocean that covers over 70% of Earth’s surface. For many the ocean and its growing pollution threat is ‘out-of-site’ however as our world increasingly becomes more interconnected through technology, awareness and education can flourish. One of the most talked about conservation topics in 2017 and 2018 is the plastic drinking straw and its deadly effect on our oceans and marine life.

We have had quite a few significant touch points this year with regard to plastic straws and plastic trash in our oceans:
1.) Earth Day this year focused on, “Ending Plastic Pollution”
2.) National Geographic published their iconic “Planet or Plastic” issue in June

As more awareness about single use plastics and the threat to our oceans grew throughout the year, we witnessed many multi-national corporations announce that they were going to evaluate their packaging and kick off their initiative by switching to paper straws. Some of these massive corporations include global airlines, hotel chains, Starbucks.

The conversation around plastic straws is one of the most powerful, ‘conservation icebreakers’ our industry has ever experienced and this icebreaker was largely due in part to one tenacious young man, Milo Cress who was the founder of the, “Be Straw Free” campaign, a campaign he started at the early age of nine-years-old.

Without statistical data available about how many single use plastic drinking straws were being used on a daily basis, Milo kicked off his own research and called straw manufacturers to create a formula for how many single use straws were used in the USA on a daily basis. His research lead him to a stunning number: 500 million straws each day were used and thrown away in the USA.

Since 2012 when Milo came up with his forecast, several leading market research consultancies, like the Freedonia Group for example, have also created formulas that forecast single use plastic straw use between 200 and 400 million straws per day in the USA.

Regardless of the exact number of single use straws in use, Milo’s work was largely responsible for kicking off a global conversation that continues to have significant and positive impact for our planet’s ocean and environment.

Mr. Cress is now in high school in Vermont and wants everyone to understand that the precise number of single use plastic straws thrown away in the USA each day is less important than the waste: “We use far too many straws than we need to, and really almost any number is higher than it needs to be.”

Milo Cress is a thoughtful and innovative young person and deserves to be nominated for helping to start a powerful global movement!


Gray Foster

Gray Foster is very well deserving of a nomination for the Blue Hatchling Youth category award for his significant local (and likely national) impact for marine conservation given his tenacious efforts to help educate his community, and impact legislation, relating to the dangers of balloons and single use plastics.

Palm Beach County, and the island of Palm Beach are among Florida’s most biodiverse coastal areas due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream current. Mr. Foster, a student at Palm Beach Day academy recognized his and his communities responsibility to advocate for their local environments, in an effort to keep them pristine and safer for marine life.

The Palm Beach Town Council asked Palm Beach Day students including Gray Foster to research the impacts of balloons and single use plastics on the environment and wildlife. Mr. Foster took the lead on much of the research, wrote the report, and presented his findings several times at public meetings in front of Town Council.

Palm Beach’s Depuity Town Manager, Mr. Jay Boodheshway had this to say about Mr. Foster, “The environmental impact from balloons and plastic is something the future generations will have to deal with, especially in coastal communities, so we are hopeful that by engaging our children today it will pay dividends in the future as tough policy decisions are made. I think Gray’s report was excellent. His research was thorough and his conclusions were to the point.”

Mr. Foster conducted extensive research on balloons, single use plastic shopping bags, single use plastics and even used data from Loggerhead Marinelife Center on the impact plastics, and balloons have on sea turtles.

On several occasions, Mr. Foster presented his report and findings publically to Town Council. His presentation was very clear, packed with science and fact, and infused with responsible and well-focused passion about his desire for his community to create a legacy of responsible conservation.

Many Council members asked Mr. Foster specific questions about his findings, and he was able to concisely offer factual responses as he clearly understood his research, the report, and has honed his knowledge through both education and his hands on observations on local beaches and environmental areas.

Very smartly, Mr. Foster researched the complex political landscape in Florida as it pertains to single use plastics. Much of his strategy revolved around what we can do now, through education, and what we can do long term by rewriting our policies to better protect our environment and marinelife.

Mr. Foster had this to say to Town Council:
“All bills addressing plastic bags have died in committees because there are some special interests fighting to protect the profits on plastic bags,” Foster said. “The slick talking points of the pro-plastic bag lobby are not convincing when we have a front-row seat to the damage they do here in our own town. The young people of Palm Beach are counting on adults to do anything they can to preserve the beauty and quality of life here in our hometown and to follow through with the responsibilities we are reminded of each time we admire the Atlantic Ocean that makes our lives here so unique.”

Foster said a resolution from the town to the Florida Legislature is the most effective way to address the issue “For the time being. Several other coastal towns already have enacted resolutions seeking the ability to regulate plastic bags and Palm Beach should join this leadership position.”

In February of 2017, the Town Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning the release of balloons and sky lanterns within the town. In addition to this exceptional leadership position, and because of the highly effective education Mr. Foster provided to the Town Council, and to our local media, the Town of Palm Beach is actively perusing bans and or resolutions on single use plastic bags and single use plastic drinking straws among other items.

It is with great pride and gratitude that I nominate Gray Foster for this award. We need more Gray Foster’s in our world and I am proud to spotlight his very good work.

Ryan Moralevitz

Nomination: I believe Ryan should be considered as a recipient for this award because he has shown a continued passion and dedication to caring for the ocean and it’s amazing creatures through all of his work thus far and he will continue to inspire and motivate our future generations to want to help the ocean too.

His results have been amazing! He has organized cleanups that have removed hundreds of pounds of trash that otherwise would have ended up in the ocean. Ryan has raised a little over $7,000.00 which was donated to various conservation organizations. He planted 2,000 sea oats and several mangroves to help with local beach erosion. His speaking engagements over the years have motivated and inspired people from all walks of life to do their part in helping preserve our beautiful oceans. His book is in several libraries across the country and in Canada. Ocean Conservancy purchased several hundred books which were sent to their donors and 50 additional books were purchased by a children’s theater group in California to use in their marine conservation program.

His summer camp was so much fun and was filled with facts about pollution in the ocean. The kids made microfilament disposal tubes out of old tennis cans, there was an ocean trash trivia cleanup and waterslide game, fossilized shark tooth mining with tooth identification, a mobile gaming truck where the kids played Endless Ocean, a surprise appearance by the Tampa Bay Rays mascot with photos and so much more. All of the snacks he planned were sea-themed and served with compostable utensils and paper straws. In addition, he started a volunteer list to help with future events and it grew exponentially after the summer camp, a lot of the kids from that camp are participating in his July 25th beach cleanup.

His most successful fundraiser to date was his online Fishes Wishes auction. Through Ryan’s efforts he garnered donations from several companies including Tiffany Jewelers, Adidas Corporation, Guy Harvey Foundation, Autographed books by Pout-Pout Fish Author Deborah Diesen, Bote Boards, Bloomin Brands and so many more. He donated $2,000.00 to The Stow It-Don’t Throw It Organization from this auction!

Ryan’s continued dedication to the ocean he loves so much is evident in his volunteer history. The films he writes are educational and inspiring. Speaking at The Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco and getting to talk about his work was an experience he will never forget. Ryan has spoken on three different occasions at The Stow It-Don’t Throw it annual summit in Sarasota, FL. He speaks in front of a couple hundred kids and hopes to be asked to speak about his work again in the future. He always says that the summit is amazing and he learns so much, he thinks it is awesome to be around other kids and teenagers that love the ocean as much as him.

Ryan is very excited to continue his work this year and to raise enough money from the sale of his eco-friendly keychains and suncatchers to purchase refillable water bottle stations for his school. He is currently trying to get a grant which would also allow him to buy these stations to install along the bike trail.

Barnes and Noble Clearwater has invited him back for a second book signing once his book is complete and he is working on getting it done so he can have a second book to sell to raise more money for conservation. In addition, he has a meeting set-up with a local restaurant to discuss the possibility of them switching to a more environmentally friendly straw.

Ryan has supported marine life and marine life conservation since he was 5-years old and is motivated to continue to do so in the future. I appreciate you allowing me to nominate him for this award and really hope you consider him for this award!

Please click videos to watch!

Madison Toonder

I wholeheartedly nominate Madison Toonder of St. Augustine Beach, FL.  Madison is a conservation-related scientific researcher, educator, environmental advocate and youth engagement advisor. As a little girl growing up next to the ocean, Madison became acutely aware of the danger our oceans and its inhabitants were facing at a very young age.

Beginning in middle school Madison became interested in utilizing scientific research as a platform for investigating environmental concerns.  Her first research project in 7th grade involved air quality.  Her next project (in 8th grade) revolved around pollutants swimmers slough off into the ocean and waterways and its effect on marine life.  Her results were astounding.  Her study supported her theory that chemicals in sun block were not only harmful to humans and marine life but the cumulative effect over time was causing die offs of certain species.  Her study revolved around the oyster but inferences could be made about the other marine species who rely on the oyster for water quality, food and protection.  This study was conducted in 2014.  Since then other major studies have been conducted that support the study Madison did on her own from her back porch.  She raised oysters in multiple tanks, grew her own algae, cycled the bay water daily and injected different amounts of chemical sunscreen and mineral sun block into each tank based on a mathematic equation from sewage water data to examine the effect.  She set up iPads to record the effect on the oysters gape rhythms and the ultimate demise of those individuals introduced to the chemical sunscreens.

Since this study, Madison moved up the food chain and began studies of sea turtle fibropapillomatosis and has compared resilient alligator immunity with that of the sea turtle to see if there is a connection that can be drawn to connect and intertwine the alligator’s superior resilience to disease while living in the same conditions as many species of sea turtle.  She has developed multiple research concepts in which she conducts comparative pathology studies with samples provided by Dr. Justin Perrault of Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Dr. Nicole Stacy of University of Florida and Dr. Carolyn Cray of the University of Miami Avian and Wildlife Pathology Lab.

Madison’s work utilizes modern human comparative laboratory tests to gain new insight into assessment parameters currently used to gauge sea turtle health.  By utilizing capillary electrophoresis to compare plasma samples of sea turtle individuals in comparison to the common use of agarose gel electrophoresis a higher resolution of 9 fractions could be defined vs 6 with gel electrophoresis.  The newfound differences seen with higher resolution supports continued examination of capillary electrophoresis as a tool to more finely assess green sea turtle fibropapillomatosis severity in conjunction with the balazs tumor score.

Madison’s award-winning work has earned her a well respected place among her peers at local, Regional and international science fairs.  In addition to science fair awards, she was named 2nd place in the nation for her oyster research data by the Broadcom MASTERS competition in Silicon Valley in 2015.

This past week she attended the 67th Annual Wildlife Disease Association conference where her abstract was not only accepted for inclusion in the poster presentation session but was selected among the top 30 abstracts out of 264 submissions.  Madison was the only high school student among graduate students phd candidates and seasoned industry professionals from around the world.

In addition to utilizing her research to gain platforms to discuss the plight of our oceans, waterways and marine wildlife she participates in multiple activities which allow her to serve as a voice and educator to teach people how to be better stewards of our world.  Madison has been a volunteer and docent at the Brevard Zoo for the past 4 years where she handles animals and educates guests about conservation of habitat for our wildlife.  She has been a committee chair for the Sea World Youth Advisory Council where she assists corporate with ideas to engage our world’s youth to conserve our oceans and marinelife.  Through her past 2 years in this position she has had opportunity to speak with varying groups regarding her message of conservation.  She also had opportunity to go out on the M/V OCEARCH for the day to learn from Chris Fischer and onboard researchers about the research they are conducting in the name of ocean conservation.  Madison was the youth face of the new collaboration between Sea World and OCEARCH to tag released marine animals to track their progress after rehabilitation.

This past July, Madison was invited to be one of the 6 youth of the 2018 Sea Youth Rise Up delegation to Washington, DC for World Oceans Day.  Madison and her peers conducted a live feed google presentation highlighting their individual conservation platforms and spoke on stage to all of the attendees for the World Oceans Day rally and march.  They also met with members congress to discuss marine conservation.  Madison was honored to be in the company of her mentors and conservation heroes i.e. Fabian Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, Wallace Nichols, Sylvia Earle and others.

Madison’s research platform has allowed her face-time with youth all over the world to promote marine and ocean conservation.  Her vibrant personality, friendliness and charisma engages her audience.  She is a born leader and educator.  Her future aspiration is to become a marine or exotic animal veterinarian with a focus on conservation of endangered species and outreach so she can continue her conservation work.  Her dream job is to be a veterinarian/researcher at a zoo or aquarium where she can continue her research while caring for animals and educate guests about what they can do at home to conserve our oceans and the world we live in for us and the animals around us.  She will apply to college this fall.

Madison Toonder CV>>

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