Over 150 students from across the region attended the first-ever New England Youth Ocean Summit about and took action in support of protecting our oceans from rising temperatures, pollution, plastic, deep-sea mining, and more.

With the Gulf of Maine heating up faster than 96 percent of our oceans, students around New England are motivated– now more than ever– to take action to conserve ocean habitats, protect threatened marine creatures and fight plastic pollution. On Sunday, over 150 students from Amherst College to the University of Rhode Island flocked to the oceanside campus of UMass Boston for the first-ever New England Youth Oceans Summit. 

The program, hosted by MASSPIRG Students alongside our partners at Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center, brought together leaders in environmental advocacy, marine research and policy to share their expertise with young people on pressing ocean issues and tools to protect its wildlife and ecosystems. It included panels and workshops on saving the critically endangered right whale, the importance of permanently protecting ocean hotspots like Cashes Ledgereducing plastics which pollute our oceans, and taking action against deep-sea mining.

Robert F. (Bob) Chen, Professor and Interim Dean of the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston, shares his marine research journey.

Jadyn Kuah, organizer with MASSPIRG Students, joins with the Digital Storytelling in Asian American Studies Lab at UMass Boston to lead the “Tell your Ocean Story” workshop.

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission
Kelsey Lamp, Oceans Director with Environment America Research and Policy Center, moderates panel on saving the right whale with speakers Jeremy Pivor from Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Regina Asmutis-Silvia from Whale & Dolphin Conservation, and Luke Cukierski and Anabelle Kniesel from the Calvineers.

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission

“Young people and students love the ocean. But saving the ocean takes more than love. We need to turn that love into political action,” said Ashanti Mclean, sophomore Environmental Studies major at UMass Boston and MASSPIRG Students Board Member.

Panelists Jesse Mechling, Janna Cohen Rosenthal, Amber Schmidt, Nick Vasconcellos, and Janet Domenitz discuss plastic pollution in our oceans

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission
Students network at New England Youth Ocean Summit, held at UMass Boston.

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission

And turn that into political action they did: the Summit marked a culmination point after a year of campaigning to protect Cashes Ledge, in which students collected over 6,000 campaign actions to deliver to the Biden Administration. From writing and illustrating postcards to decision-makers, to signing petitions against deep-sea mining, to making eco-activist collages with our partners at Bow Seat Ocean Awareness, the students that attended the Summit took the opportunity to champion ocean conservation with the tools and lessons learned from panels.

Student at UMass Boston makes collage during “Artivism” workshop with partner, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness.

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission
Lydia Churchill, with Environment Massachusetts, moderates panel about protecting Cashes Ledge with speakers Gareth Lawson from Conservation Law Foundation and Isha Sangani, Alum with Earth Echo International.

Tim O’Connor | Used by permission

This summit was an opportunity to bring together young people from across the region and give them the knowledge and tools they need to take that passion and turn it into action.

Ashanti McIean, MASSPIRG at UMass Boston

During closing remarks– looking around the room– I saw bright, determined youth leaders  ready to create a healthy, thriving ocean for wildlife and generations to come. 

The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of our event partners: Sustainable Ocean Alliance, Surfrider Foundation of Massachusetts, UMass Boston School for the Environment, UMass Boston Office Campus Planning and Sustainability,  UMass Boston Nantucket Field Station, UMass Boston Urban Harbors Institute, The Ocean Project, World Ocean Day, Natural Resources Defense Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, the Ocean River Institute, Clean Water Fund: Rethink Disposable, Earth Echo International, Sustainable Solutions Lab, UMass Dartmouth Torch, The Calvin Project, UMass Dartmouth Torch.

Kicking off the Youth Oceans Summit | Tim O’Connor | Used by permission


Lydia Churchill

Clean Energy Associate, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Lydia is spearheading campaigns to transition Massachusetts to 100% clean, renewable energy to make our homes and buildings more efficient, and to enact policies to incentivize the widespread adoption of solar rooftops. In her free time, Lydia enjoys ballet, crochet and cooking.

Kelsey Lamp

Director, Protect Our Oceans Campaign, Environment America

Kelsey directs Environment America’s national campaigns to protect our oceans. Kelsey lives in Boston, where she enjoys cooking, reading and exploring the city.