Congrats! New Innovative Solutions Grants+ awardees announced

For over 18 years, The Ocean Project has been advancing conservation in partnership with zoos, aquariums, museums, and other visitor-serving organizations around the country and the world. We’ve provided strategic resources and tools to help our network of partners effectively engage visitors, both onsite and online so that together we can solve issues in our backyards and around our blue planet. Thank you to our partner aquariums and zoos for all you are doing to involve your visitors and the public in conservation awareness and action! Together, we are making a real difference, as the movement is continues to gain traction.

A few years ago – with great thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – we launched an Innovative Solutions Grants+ Program (ISG+) to test different ways to engage aquarium and zoo visitors. ISG+ has focused especially on reaching teens and minorities, empowering them to help with solutions to ocean and climate issues. Through this program, we award grants to innovative zoo and aquarium leaders; the “+” in ISG+ refers to pro-bono strategic communications coaching we provide throughout the grant period and the catalyzing work we do to enhance peer-to-peer sharing. ISG+ is helping to accelerate individual and societal actions, with lessons learned benefiting the aquarium and zoo community as a whole.

Thank you to all who applied for a grant this year. This is the third year of ISG+, and each time we receive stronger proposals from zoos and aquariums around the country. It’s not easy for our Advisory Panel to select the winners. Ideally, we’d fund many more of your excellent proposals, and we’re trying to raise the funding to expand this program (see below).


We are pleased to announce the following ISG+ recipients for 2015-2016 support:banner-compressor

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Awarded $20,000 to engage university students in Tasting Sustainability, a community-based conservation initiative to increase awareness of seafood sustainability and decrease consumption of unsustainably caught or farmed seafood. Working with Tucson-based group, Lead Local, activities will engage the community, as well as enhance opportunities on the Museum grounds for visitors to help with seafood-related solutions.

National Aquarium: Awarded $25,000 for a project that engages the Hispanic community in a small Baltimore watershed. Through on-the-ground education and leadership training, they will create a network of community members who will spread plastic pollution and marine debris prevention messaging through their neighborhoods and networks. This project will also connect to the Aquarium’s Living Seashore exhibit, which features five Shore Heroes – individuals and groups who have taken action to protect aquatic resources. They plan to develop a sixth Shore Hero, their first with an urban focus, who will make clear the connection between urban waters and the ocean, and as well as set an example for plastic pollution and marine debris prevention.

Saint Louis Zoo: Awarded $15,000 to launch a project directed predominantly by teen volunteers via social media in high school peer networks and with Zoo visitors to tackle the growing issue of plastic pollution and marine debris (100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the United States, with less than 1% recycled). To address these issues in a relevant, actionable manner, staff and Zoo teens will develop a project to reduce plastic bags at Zoo retail locations, within teen volunteer peer networks, and among Zoo visitors. This project has the potential to impact the local community and beyond.

Teens at Woodland Park Zoo

Teens at Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo: Awarded a second year of funding, at $30,000 to expand their leadership role with Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (CAN). CAN was established with ISG+ support in 2014 as an evolution of Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Science Center youth programs. Through collective action, these organizations aim engage local teens in effective climate change leadership opportunities. Achieving their vision for Seattle Youth CAN as a replicable model depends upon their ability to continue to integrate new voices, relationships and resources. In 2015-2016, they plan to build upon the existing structure, by expanding the Network and its efficacy through various activities.

Congratulations to the grantees!

With all our partners, The Ocean Project looks forward to working with you in 2016 and beyond, to help effectively engage your visitors for conservation outcomes and impact. This round of support is the third year of a three-year grant from NOAA. In total, with NOAA funding, we have provided approximately $260,000 to 10 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.

We're seeking partners to continue to expand this program for aquariums and zoos. We’re hoping to secure additional support in 2016 from NOAA, and/or other funding sources. The Ocean Project is also looking to partner with key aquariums and zoos to target joint fundraising opportunities through collaborative grant applications. If interested, please contact us!

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