The ocean regulates global climate, produces more than half of the oxygen we breathe, and holds nearly 97% of Earth’s water. Global ocean systems largely influence life on land, even hundreds of miles from a coastline. Salt, fresh, warm, or cold, all water is connected through the water cycle. Like our human bodies, 70% of Earth is water, and this water is continuously in motion: it rises from the ocean, creates clouds in the sky, and returns to land as rain or snow. This precipitation soaks into the ground; collects in freshwater streams and lakes; is taken up by trees and plants; and sustains every living being it encounters on its journey—bacteria, fish, insects, birds, mammals, and of course, humans. All life needs water, and where there is water, there is life. WATER RISING challenges students to explore and understand their connection to water, and to creatively communicate the need to protect this vital resource and life-sustaining relationship.
2021 Contest winners will be announced November 2021.
Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis
Oceans play a central role in regulating Earth’s climate and act as a buffer that protects us from human-caused global warming; but oceans are feeling the heat. Climate change—primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas—is changing water temperature and chemistry, altering marine habitats, and threatening marine life. The good news is, there is much cause for hope: individuals, communities and cities, organizations and movements (largely youth-led!) around the globe are already working to slow the climate crisis and drive the transition away from destructive, polluting, and unjust practices to systems that respect, value, and protect the diversity of life on Earth. Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis invites students to learn about the climate crisis and its impact on oceans; discover or imagine solutions at local, national, or global scales; and create work that explores hope in action.View 2020 Winners
Presence of Future
Climate change requires that we think about the past, present, and future simultaneously. Because of earlier human actions, our ocean is facing real and imminent threats today; our every action—or inaction—now impacts the future of our communities and our blue planet. The effects of climate change are not something that will happen to faraway generations—it is happening now; it is happening to us. What do we stand to lose? What can we gain from learning from our past and taking steps now to create a sustainable and just future? Create a piece about a coastal/marine species, place, or system that will be threatened, altered, or lost due to climate change.View 2019 Winners
Our Oceans in a Changing Climate
Our health is tied to ocean health, whether we live on the coast or 500 miles inland. Human systems – social, economic, political, and cultural – are interdependent on the ocean; however, human-caused global warming is already producing substantial changes to our coastal and marine ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. Your work should explore the relationship between human systems, climate change, and our oceans. We challenge you to create a piece that not only presents issues and challenges, but also communicates a message that inspires others to act.View 2018 Winners
Ocean Pollution: Challenges & Solutions
You may choose to focus your work on one type of pollution, or the impact of ocean pollution as a whole. Whichever way you choose, we want your submission – visual art, poetry, prose, or film – to make viewers reflect on the impact of ocean pollution, inspire them to consider possible solutions, and challenge them to take action.View 2017 Winners
Making Meaning out of Ocean Pollution
Research, explore, interpret, and say something meaningful about the connections between human activities and the health of our oceans through art, poetry, prose, or film.View 2016 Winners
Our Oceans, Our Plastic
Submit a work of art, a poem, a written work, or a film about plastic pollution in the ocean. Look for connections between science, creativity, environmental advocacy, and your personal interpretation of the theme.
Ocean Plastic Pollution
Why is there so much plastic in our oceans? Where does it come from? How does it affect ocean animals and ecosystems? Is this a problem worthy of international attention? Are there alternatives to plastic that could help alleviate the ongoing problem of ocean pollution? How does our “throwaway culture” impact the amount of plastic in our oceans? You may work alone or in a group, and submissions can take one of the three following forms: art, essay, or advocacy (film).
Ocean Awareness Essay Contest
The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered large whales. It is estimated that only 500 North Atlantic Right Whale (aka the Urban Whale) remain. Examine the plight of the Right Whale and discuss what you think the future holds for this species. Finally, do you think it is important to save any one species? Why?
Overfishing has historically played a decisive role in the depletion of cod and other groundfish in the Gulf of Maine. Scientists are now also examining the role of forage fish, like herring and alewives, in promoting and maintaining healthy groundfish stocks. How have forage fish impacted groundfish stocks over the years? What efforts are being made to restore forage fish in the Gulf of Maine and what are the trade-offs with these projects?
Ocean Awareness Essay Contest
Steven Kress, founder of the Puffin Project, is a pioneer in the field of seabird restoration. Describe what steps and techniques he employed to create the successful return of puffins to Eastern Egg Rock. In your analysis pick one other seabird restoration project from around the world where some of Dr. Kress’s strategies were implemented. Describe the similarities to the Puffin Project.
While other fisheries in the Gulf of Maine have either collapsed or been greatly diminished, lobsters have thrived in the region. Colin Woodard in his book The Lobster Coast calls the increased catch the “great lobster mystery.” What are the explanations for the high landings? Elaborate on what you consider are the most important fishing methods that lobstermen/lobsterwomen and regulators have employed along the coast to keep the lobster fishery thriving.
Ground fishing has changed dramatically in the Gulf of Maine. Many of the premier fisheries like Cod and Haddock have seen a substantial and dramatic decline; overfishing is thought to be the contributing factor in these decreases. Ted Ames, a fisherman and fisheries researcher has suggested, “we need to fish smarter.” Describe and analyze a few significant examples of how people or communities in the Gulf of Maine have changed their fishing practices to protect and rebuild these fisheries.