Round 2: Innovative Solutions Grants+ winners announced!

Thank you to our partner organizations for your involvement in advancing aquatic and ocean awareness and conservation! For over 16 years, The Ocean Project has been supporting our partner zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs) and other organizations do more for conservation action with visitors, both onsite and online, by providing strategic resources and tools to more effectively educate and communicate with your visitors for conservation outcomes.

Most recently we developed an Innovative Solutions Grants+ Program to help engage visitors with solutions to ocean and climate issues. Thanks to funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we award grants to innovation leaders (currently $100,000/year for a few zoos and aquariums) that also come with pro bono strategic communications coaching throughout the grant period and technical expertise to catalyze peer-to-peer sharing and learning. The lessons learned benefit the aquarium and zoo community as a whole.

Thank you to all who applied for a grant from the Innovative Solutions Grants+ Program. For this second round of support, we had very strong proposals from zoos and aquariums around the country, and our Advisory Panel had a challenging time selecting the winners.

We are pleased to announce the following grant recipients:

Philadelphia Zoo: Awarded $30,000 to measure the connection between onsite messaging and offsite behavioral change. To quantify the impact of the Zoo's mission-related conservation-education messaging on visitors, and to link Zoo visitors with ocean issues, they will develop a pilot project that will message ocean acidification (OA) at their Coral Reef Tank exhibit in their new KidZooU: The Hamilton Family Children's Zoo & Faris Family Education Center. The Zoo will leverage their partnership with PECO – the energy supplier for the Greater Philadelphia region – and Opower, to measure and compare the energy consumption behavior of Zoo visitors who have been exposed to OA messaging and asked to "save energy to save wildlife" with that of non-Zoo visitors, as well as visitors who have not received Zoo interpretation about OA.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden: Awarded $12,000 to create a year-long immersive program for its ZooTeens. The program, dubbed Teen S.O.S. (Stewards of Our Seas),  will feature three main elements: 1.)Teen Action; 2.) Community Action; and 3.) TeenMD (marine debris), the first in a series of S.O.S. action kits.  Teens will create innovative art from waterway cleanups and engage in peer-to-peer teaching as they weave the topic of marine debris into interactive programming for guests of all ages and inspire action through a teen-developed "Plastic Pledge - Take Back the Bag" campaign.

The Florida Aquarium: Awarded $28,400 to work with the entire school community of a local Title 1 elementary school where many children are not getting a lot of hands-on science programming and where approximately 50% of the student population report English as a second language. This project will strive to increase participation of students' families in climate change-related activities and will include development of curricula and related materials in Spanish, that will be shared broadly.

Woodland Park Zoo: Awarded $28,000 to engage their community in climate change, sustainability and conservation action by leveraging the collective energy and enthusiasm of their youth participants. Teens will develop their own carbon reduction action campaign that they will participate in and encourage participation in from their peers. Their project will focus on three primary areas:  1) Training: Develop and implement a comprehensive training/workshop for teens on climate science, interpretive practices, and strategies in developing social marketing/action campaigns and projects; 2) Action: Create the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network made up of teens from WPZ, Seattle Aquarium and the Pacific Science Center. Teen leaders from each will develop and implement their own action campaigns/projects; and 3) Communication: Support teen participants through engaging in a collaborative process that enriches teen experiences within each institution while providing opportunities for them to come together to learn and share throughout the year.

Congratulations to the winners and The Ocean Project looks forward to working with all our partners in 2015 and beyond, to help communicate strategically for conservation action outcomes and impact. We will be releasing another RFP at some point in 2015 so watch the blog and our website for further information.

Image via Shutterstock.