Got an idea to protect our oceans? Here is $10k to make it happen.

In recent years, there has been a growing global understanding of the importance in establishing marine protected areas (MPA) in our oceans. These sanctuaries serve a fundamental role in creating safe spaces for fish to spawn and grow before spilling out into the open ocean to benefit environmental rejuvenation and fisheries alike. These have been springing up all across the world, including the recent announcement by the Obama administration about expansion of the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument (PRIMNM – now the largest protected area in the world). These efforts should be commended for the hard work that goes into creation of a marine sanctuary, both small and large. We have seen through the work of Enric Sala and the Pristine Seas crew that protecting these areas are critical to the future of our oceans.

However, once these marine reserves are established, the important next step is in how we ensure that they remain protected. Much like we have seen with the large terrestrial parks, effective monitoring and enforcement is key to a successful sanctuary. Kruger National Park needs to watch their rhino population just like PRIMNM needs to monitor its Pacific tuna. A thriving ocean MPA creates a promising target for illegal fishers and poaching operations. Currently that monitoring task falls to the military through a combination of infrequent vessel patrols, aerial support, and satellite monitoring. In parts of the world that lack the same military funding as the United States, this enforcement often falls short. Many of the methods we have used for protection of the ocean areas in the past are too expensive, logistically unfeasible, or just not effective enough to make a difference. What we need are fresh ideas on better ways to make this happen.

Well, the leadership at Swift Engineering has pulled together a $10,000 grant award for any group or individual that has that great idea to protect MPAs. With the help of philanthropist conservationists Rod and Heidi Roddenbery, Red Bull Athlete and America’s Cup Skipper Jimmy Spithill, and myself (conservation technologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer), we plan to award the $10k to the solution that holds the most promise. These proposals can focus on education (through promoting public awareness and support of marine reserves), networking (by engaging citizens in global networked stewardship of marine reserves), or technology (in identifying low-cost citizen/open-source technology solutions that could work). The winning entry will be announced on stage during the Blue Ocean Film Festival on November 6th in St. Petersburg, Florida (watch the announcement of the award via Google Hangout here).

All you need to do is to submit a short (90 second) video explaining how the idea works to the competition website before October 27th. Selection will be based on the number of votes each idea receives and the discretion of the judging panel (based off funding need, creativity, and ingenuity). We invite the world to share your ideas to help conserve our oceans. There hasn’t been a better time than now for people with innovative ideas to come in and propose new ways to protect these oceans. Enter today and let #TheBlueFellowship bring your dream to life!

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Changing Planet


Meet the Author
National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Spacecraft Propulsion Engineer. Ocean Conservation Technologist. Leader at Engineers Without Borders. My primary activity is focused on the use of engineering in it's ability to harness design and science to improve humanity and solve our greatest problems. These efforts are specifically within the areas of ocean conservation, unmanned spacecraft, and access to clean water, sanitation, and renewable energy in the developing world. I am a conservation technologist and technology expert working to identify and implement innovative approaches to ocean conservation. This work began at Stanford University and I have worked with a number of influential nonprofits and government organizations worldwide. The work, often called “FishNET”, was honored as 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-Finalist, 2011 Savannah Ocean Exchange Gulfstream Navigator Finalist, and 2011 Katerva Award Nominee. Most recently, this work resulted in National Geographic naming me as one of their 2013 Emerging Explorers. This includes the identification of innovative approaches and technologies that work within the constraints of a certain community, including the development of hardware (low cost conservation drones, acoustic sensors, etc) and data management solutions (smartphone apps, online databases, etc.). I also created MPA Guardian, a website and smartphone app to allow crowdsourced protection of CA’s marine protected area network. I also work as a spacecraft propulsion systems engineer, focused on both liquid and ion propulsion systems for satellites. In this work, I have supported propulsion systems engineering, R&D efforts, and worked numerous launches and mission controls. Finally, I serve as the Southern California Regional Representative for Engineers Without Borders (EWB), watching over all the university and professional chapters in the region (consisting of thousands of professional engineers and engineering students). I have held multiple leadership roles within EWB, including many years as President of the Los Angeles Professional chapter and project leads for many projects throughout the world. Some examples of the projects I have built are homes in Mexico, solar energy projects in Mali, water distribution systems in Malawi, and rainwater catchment systems in Tanzania (so students spend time in school instead of fetching water).