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The Ocean Odyssey Marine Debris Awards For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, And Accessibility (DEIJA) for Fiscal Year 2024 Announced

APRIL 15, 2024 — Following a competitive review process, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation are pleased to announce the 12 recipients of the Ocean Odyssey Fiscal Year 2024 Marine Debris Awards for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice, and Accessibility (DEIJA).  

A community clean up at the beach.
A community clean up initiative (Photo: Mr. Bolota via Adobe Stock).

These projects will support initiatives that investigate and prevent the adverse impacts of marine debris in communities that are underserved, underrepresented, or overburdened. The projects will support marine debris prevention, interception, removal, and monitoring and detection activities with work in projects in the State of Sonsorol in the Republic of Palau, American Samoa, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Hawai‘i, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, California, Texas, and Michigan.

Recipients include:

Akiak Native Community (Alaska, $7,500) will remove debris resulting from extreme riverbank erosion that has occurred in Akiak, Alaska over the past decade. The Akiak Native Community will lead work to remove debris along the riverbank and thereby prevent debris from flowing down the Kuskokwim River to the Kuskokwim Bay and Bering Sea. 

Elizabeth River Project (Virginia, $7,493) will mentor, train, and engage youth from ages 10-25 to remove marine debris and litter in the underserved communities of Berkley and Campostella in Norfolk, Virginia. They will work with partners to mentor these youth to develop leadership and stewardship skills and will involve them in the organization of local marine debris cleanups.

Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (Michigan, $7,500) will conduct research, detection, monitoring, collection, and analysis of marine debris on Lake Huron shorelines with various student groups and educators in northeast Michigan. Engaging underserved youth in rural communities is a priority for this project as it will help educate, protect, and preserve the Lake Huron shorelines for the future.

Gullah/Geechee Legacy (Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, $7,500) will expand the Gullah/Geechee Coastal Removal Engaging Artists Through Environmental Action (CREATE) project beyond South Carolina and into the Sea Islands of the Gullah/Geechee Nation in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Native Gullah/Geechee leaders and citizens will plan and lead community outreach and engagement sessions and Native Gullah/Geechee artisans will assist with intergenerational artwork activities at outreach and education events.

Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Hawaiʻi and American Samoa, $7,500) aims to study coral ingestion of microplastics in American Samoa. By gathering data and hosting experiential learning workshops, this initiative will enhance ocean literacy while addressing the urgent need for information about the impact of microplastics on corals, preserving invaluable cultural, economic, and ecological resources provided by corals.

Mystic River Watershed Association (Massachusetts, $5,860) will enhance the experiential learning components of an existing K–8 curriculum on trash in the Mystic River watershed and the connection to marine debris and plastics. Through the addition of field trips and local trash removal events, approximately 100 afterschool students in three underserved communities will engage in place-based explorations of the impacts of trash on stormwater, rivers, and the ocean.

Native Village of Afognak (Alaska, $6,116) will coordinate and carry out a marine debris cleanup at Catcher Beach on Afognak Island. Alaska Native youth and interns will clean up the beach and existing trails in Afognak Village, which are important areas for the tribal community.

Research Foundation of CUNY - Queens College (New York, $7,470) will train four students to assess the amount of microplastics in water and marine debris on the shoreline in northeast Queens, New York. In addition, this project will recruit volunteers from the community to assist in shoreline clean up events. The resulting project data will be shared to increase STEM engagement and promote environmental stewardship.

Resilience Education Training and Innovation (RETI) Center LLP (New York, $7,000) will educate residents to take action in the local urban watershed to create a more livable coastline for an environmental justice community. The project will support student stipends for local youth to count and document the marine debris collected from a new interception device at the RETI Center Field Station.

San Diego Audubon Society (California, $5,657) will engage more than 100 residents of San Diego’s underserved South Bay communities to remove 450 pounds of marine debris from the wetland habitat in San Diego Bay. Event attendees will remove debris on a kayak trip, receive bilingual education about local ecosystems, and meet with local professionals working in environmental fields.

Sea Turtle, Inc. (Texas, $7,040) will conduct community-based events serving the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The year-long, multi-pronged approach includes providing alternatives to single-use plastics, cleaning local jetties and beaches, and conducting shoreline marine debris monitoring through the NOAA Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project.

Sonsorol State Government (Republic of Palau, $7,500) will educate Sonsorol youth about the harmful effects of ocean dumping and options for waste management. The youth will develop leadership and organizational skills by implementing beach cleanups on each of the four State of Sonosorol islands and will present project outcomes at a town hall to inform citizens of project achievements.


Last updated Friday, April 19, 2024 2:06pm PDT