Ocean Leadership Microgrants

Supporting youth-led grassroots projects to address ocean health—anywhere in the world. 


The 2021 application deadline has passed.



Grants for Ocean Leaders

The Ocean Leadership Microgrants program supports young ocean leaders (18-35 years old) and their grassroots efforts to address critical ocean health problems. We award grants across a range of ocean issues, as long as projects involve direct action rooted in science or research, and include an element of community engagement. This might be advocacy, public-facing knowledge sharing, or amplifying youth voices, for example. 

Microgrants are a springboard for diverse projects to broaden their impact: it might be a social enterprise, or an activation to increase ocean literacy through education, art or research—or perhaps it's an initiative that restores marine ecosystems through kelp reforestation or coral transplantation. 

Explore 2020 Grantees

Microgrant Program Details

Applications were accepted through May 31, 2021. If you missed the deadline due to unforeseen circumstances please contact us.

Ocean Leadership Microgrants include both financial and strategic support through funding up to $4,000 USD, access to dedicated mentors, and optional skill development opportunities like the "Ocean Leadership Deep Dive: Community Leadership" virtual event in October 2021.

Download & share one-pagers by language and regional focus: Portuguese | Portuguese (Brazil) | Spanish | Indonesian | English - (Africa) (Pacific Islands) (North America)

Projects need to tackle a key ocean issue, generally within these categories: 

Pollution Reduction & Circular Waste Solutions

Sustainable Fisheries & Aquaculture

Marine Data & Research

Ocean Literacy & Advocacy

Ecosystem Protection & Restoration

CO2e Reduction & Blue Carbon 

Microgrants FAQ


Project Requirements at a Glance


Eligible Microgrant projects must adhere to these criteria:

  • Project Leaders must be 35 or younger
  • Clear activities & ocean impact
  • Sustainable / replicable project
  • Planned appropriate fund allocation
  • Proficiency in English
  • Measurable impact in 2021


All applications must be submitted by May 31, 2021.



May 1: Applications open

May 31: Applications close

June 30: Grantees notified

2021 Scientific Advisors

A committee of scientific experts assists SOA in reviewing potential grantees.

  • Paula Keener-1

    Paula Keener


    Paula is a marine biologist and Founder of Global Ocean Visions. She spent 18 years directing the Education Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. 

    Paula Keener spent 18 years as the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Ocean Exploration’s Education Program. A marine biologist, she conducted extensive larval and adult fish research off the Southeastern coast of the U.S. and was a research team member in the Smithsonian Institution’s Western Atlantic Mangrove Program off Belize, Central America. Keener served as a member of The President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration and as a member of the National Academies Committee on Exploration of the Seas. She served as a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Ocean Hall Statement of Purpose Team, the National Science and Technology Council Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Human Capacity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Working Group, the 2006 National Conference on Ocean Literacy (CoOL) Working Group, and was Conference Program Committee CoChair for Education for the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Oceans 2005 Conference in Washington, DC and the 2011 Oceans Conference in Kona, HI. She is a Past-President of the National Marine Educators Association and the South Carolina Marine Educators Association and a founding member and Past-President of the South Carolina Marine Educators’ Association. She serves as a writer and editor for scientific and technical papers, publications targeted to the general public, and served as a scientific editor for Our Ocean World radio scripts which were distributed to 150 radio stations in the United States, the National Public Radio Network satellite network, 200-plus stations of Voice of America, and the Armed Forces Network. 

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  • xochitl-clare

    Xochitl Clare

    Ph.D. Student, UCSB EEMB Hofmann lab

    Xochitl Clare is a Ph.D. student in the Ecology, Environment, and Marine Biology Department at UCSB. She received her B.S. in Marine Biology as well as her B.A. in Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Xochitl is interested in eco-physiology in relation to environmental change and ocean acidification. She is also passionate about multi-media science communication and education. 


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  • Indrani Pal

    Indrani Pal, PhD

    Water Scientist and Educator, Columbia University Earth Institute and the City University of New York

    Indrani teaches Water Sustainability and Climate at Columbia University. She has also taught Basic Statistics; MATLAB; R; Fundamentals of Sustainability and Climate Change; Water Management, Global Food Security, Global Oceans, and Local Climates, among others.

    She is also the Founder and Leader of HydroDetectus.

  • Abigail Golden

    Abigail Golden

    PhD Candidate, Fisheries Ecology, Rutgers University

    Abigail is a graduate student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the Center for Fisheries and Ocean Sustainability at Rutgers University.

    She uses quantitative and qualitative methods to understand fisheries as dynamic social-ecological systems. Her work ranges from a remote trout fishery in northern Mongolia to New Jersey's recreational bottomfish fisheries.


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2020 Grantees

We awarded funding to 93 projects in 40 countries, to leaders averaging 26 years of age.

Featured Projects

  • Four month Mangrove Nursery

    Mikoko Pamoja

    Gazi Bay, Kenya

    Mikoko Pamoja is a community-led project to protect and restore mangroves through the sale of carbon credits. Their project tests the Riley Encasement Technique, an innovative replanting method, in a bid to rehabilitate mangroves in the denuded high energy intertidal areas of Gazi bay.

    Mikoko Pamoja plants 4,000 mangrove seedlings (Sonneratia Alba) annually, which capture carbon and serve as a carbon credit. Changes to the sites from human development and climate change have made it so that typical mangrove planting no longer works. 

    Leaders: Josphat Nguu, SOA Kenya

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  • Carbon Ethics

    Project Tumbuh

    Jakarta, Indonesia

    CarbonEthics is a startup, not-profit organization running Project Tumbuh to directly sequester carbon through the conservation and restoration of coastal habitats (mangroves, seagrass, and coral) while also enhancing the livelihood of local communities. SOA is supporting them to conduct stakeholder mappings and assess carbon stock potential as well as gain formal government accreditation. 

    CarbonEthics aims to educate individuals and institutions about how to reduce and offset their carbon footprints. In less than 1 year since forming, CarbonEthics had offset >670 tons of CO2e through Blue Carbon Ecosystem Conservation with 6,230 of marine & estuarine mangrove trees planted, 1,325 seagrass seeds, 610 seaweed seeds and 247 coral polyps. Through this conservation, CarbonEthics had given direct economic contribution to 17 farmers partners and indirect socioeconomic contribution to coastal communities in Thousand Islands Marine National Park, Indonesia.

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    Go Zero Waste

    Madrid, Spain

    Go Zero Waste is an App (iOS and Android) that shows plastic-free alternatives for everyday items and then shows where to buy it in your area. The app challenges users to start a zero-waste lifestyle with new sustainable habits and rewarding them with a gamification feature.

    Read more about Go Zero Waste on their website.

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  • MyMizu

    My Mizu

    Tokyo, Japan

    Mymizu (“mizu” is water in Japanese) provides a free water refill platform that connects people to 200,000+ locations globally where they can refill their water bottle, instead of buying bottled water. SOA is supporting them in developing materials for volunteers to carry out their own workshops across Japan, scaling their impact.

    A large part of Mymizu's mission is education on the oceans & the plastic problem; they carry out workshops and awareness-raising activities at schools, universities & events (70+ times in the past 7 months to 5000+ people), as well as create digital content (e.g. infographics/videos) to engage people on social channels.

    With SOA funds, they have developed fun, educational materials for Mymizu volunteers and community members to carry out their own workshops across Japan, enabling them to reach significantly more people through localized and volunteer-led workshops (both online and/or in-person).

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  • thresher shark

    Thresher Shark Champions

    Alor, Indonesia

    The Thresher Shark Champion Program trains local youths with leadership, communication, and conservation knowledge to undertake conservation initiatives that will stimulate behavior change of local communities who are targeting thresher sharks and support the transition to alternative livelihood solutions.

    Thresher Shark Project Indonesia focuses on the conservation of Thresher Shark in Alor, East Tenggara Indonesia. The 3 main focuses of this project are (1) identifying critical habitat and migration patterns through satellite tagging and citizen science; (2) creating sustainable alternative livelihoods for the local shark fishing communities; and (3) conducting outreach, education to students, local youth communities, and other stakeholders. The project proposed with SOA microgrant is to specifically conduct the “Thresher Shark Champion Program”.

    Watch the thresher Shark Project documentary.

    Leaders: Putri Martosudarmo, Rafid Shidqi, Dewi Ratna Sari, Gisela Emanuela Nappoe, Primiaty Natalia, Ahmad Hilmy Mubarak,
    Vivekananda Gitandjali

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  • salwater classroom

    Saltwater Classroom

    Washington, D.C., USA

    Saltwater Classroom is a nonprofit that runs weeklong workshops focused on ocean science and conservation for young students. Through SOA support, Saltwater Classroom has pivoted their in-person programming to the virtual world, creating a unique opportunity for students across the world to connect with one another and learn from ocean experts. In November, Saltwater Classroom ran a three week virtual workshop that featured live sessions, encouraged hands-on activities, and fostered creative inquiry amongst its participants.

    Check out their website.

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  • Awareness into Action, Stop Trashing it

    Awareness into Action Programme

    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

    Stop Trashing It is a network of youth helping people shift awareness into action when it comes to living lighter on the planet. They aim to ease these habit changes and encourage self-accountability through three action areas: Act Now Workshop Series, Digital Communications Program, and Action Campaigns.

    This fall they teamed up with the Veith House Urban Garden to deliver a fermentation workshop where they learned how to make Kimchi using in-season produce grown locally (available on YouTube). Fermenting and pickling foods is a great way to make produce last longer at the end of growing season.

    More info on the action area:

    (1) Act Now Workshop Series: Hosting skill-building workshops and impact-driven events working with local partners.

    (2) Digital Communications Program: Creating clear and engaging social media content to inspire action.

    (3) Action Campaigns: Encouraging individual actions through pledges and challenges, and engaging political action by advocating for regulatory changes based on novel research.

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  • Reproductive Ecology of Manta Rays

    Reproductive Ecology of Manta Rays

    Nusa Penida Island, Indonesia

    This project collects data on Manta Rays in The Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area (MPA), and couples this information with individual sightings data to understand their population demographics and dynamics. The information garnered from this study will provide data on manta ray life-history parameters and lend insights into whether sites repeatedly used by smaller individuals can be considered nurseries for this species, which is an understudied aspect of manta ray ecology. Information from this study will inform tourism management within the MPA.


    Check out their website.

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  • Virtual Diving

    Virtual Diving Project

    Maranhão, Brazil

    Virtual Diving is an environmental education project inspired by Google Cardboard. Through virtual reality glasses made of recycled cardboard, students take a virtual tour in different marine ecosystems using the Google app "Expeditions". The Virtual Diving team knows that most people never have and probably never will have the opportunity to dive in their entire lives. They also know that this is a big problem for the oceans, because it is impossible to preserve what you do not know. 


    Through their virtual tours, they show people what exists beyond the waves. The main themes they explore are coral bleaching and marine pollution.

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  • Spain river cleanup/plastic pollution analysis

    Microplastic Collection & Analysis

    Nerja and Almuñécar, Spain/ Cork, Ireland

    This project carries out clean up activities and monitoring of litter and microplastics in the Sanguino River and streams near a protected coastline located in Maro-Cerro Gordo Cliffs Natural Area (Nerja and Almuñécar, Spain). Previous monitoring work by the organization associated with this grant (Hombre y Territorio) has identified heavily polluted sites due to intensive agriculture. 

    Primary activities include cleanup and litter characterization, analysis of water samples for microplastics by infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), training citizen scientists to maintain fieldwork, and communicating project impact with local policymakers and stakeholders.

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  • Gambia Ocean Heroes clean-up

    Gambia Ocean Heroes

    The Gambia

    12 tonnes of trash along River Gambia (Barra to Kartong) were collected, as well as activities to sensitize community members (especially those who travel on the river ferry) about the effects of riverine and marine pollution through radio programs and surveys. Gambia Ocean Heroes is a service-learning project under the GREAT Institute created in 2018. Apart from clean up activities, the GOH supports local communities and organizations to take the lead in efforts towards promoting ocean health and reducing plastic pollution. Since 2018, GOH has collected 350 tonnes of trash along The Gambia’s coastline and is excited to expand this effort to rivers. 

  • SOA Brunei

    River Clean Up Operations (RECOVER)

    Brunei-Muara, Brunei

    River Clean-Up Operation (RECOVER) is a collaborative community service project conducted by SOA Brunei, YSEALI and Save Kampong Ayer to gather solid wastes found along the Brunei River in Kampong Ayer (Water Village). This project aims to provide immediate short-term relief to solid waste discarded in the environment by engaging volunteers and the local Kampong Ayer community through the collective effort of a mass river clean-up. To date, RECOVER has engaged 186 volunteers and successfully collected 270 bags of waste.



  • A-B-Seas Philippines


    Guimaras Island, Philippines

    A-B-Seas is a two-day experiential learning camp for children and teens to nurture interest in marine life and inspire pro-environmental behavior. This program introduces participants to basic concepts in marine ecology, conservation, and leadership, with special attention to the different roles and responsibilities humans have. Each lesson is accompanied with an activity or task, represented by a marine species. Each camp ends with an assignment for attendees to pursue in their own social circles (e.g., convince their parents to use reusable bags for groceries, write a letter to their principal about waste segregation in their school, etc.). 




    A-B-Seas was created in response to the concern of MPA (Marine Protected Areas) managers that most people involved in MPA management and coastal conservation belong to older age groups.

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  • Project Mariknows Philippines

    Project Mariknows


    Project MariKnows is a project that aims to empower Maritime professionals and students (Marine Engineering and Marine Transportation) in the Philippines as leaders in marine conservation by hosting a two-day seminar-workshop and creating an institutionalized Learning Kit. The Philippines is the 2nd largest producer of seafarers around the world, so it is essential that they understand the most pressing issues of their industry including ballasting, marine litter, noise pollution, eliminating carbon emissions in the shipping sector, and oil spills.



    Read more about Project Mariknows on their website. 

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  • See our Seas docuseries

    See Our Seas Docuseries

    Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

    The Sea Our Seas Docuseries is a joint project between Ecovybz Environmental Creatives and 4 Change TT where six short documentaries will be created that highlight the oceans, marine resources, and problems and challenges facing effective ocean management in Trinidad and Tobago. The topics addressed include: fisheries, pollution, coral reefs, ghost gear, the Blue Economy, and climate change. This docuseries will educate on ocean resources and ocean problems, showcase solutions and mobilize actions, present stories from different stakeholders involved in ocean management, and aid in sharing information with schools and other interested bodies.



  • EpoXonomy

    EpoXonomy: Curating The Science of Taxonomy through the Art of Epoxy Resins

    Terengganu, Malaysia

    The science of taxonomy and the art of biological specimen collections go hand in hand to illustrate and catalogue the importance of life on Earth, particularly where marine biodiversity loss is increasing at alarming rates. This project aims to: 1) Curate selective marine organisms and illustrated graphics to debunk misconceptions of taxonomy through the art of epoxy resin, 2) prepare information for resin specimens and blocks via QR codes, with video links from experts related to themes of acidification, aquatic invasives, destruction of habitat and pollution, 3) create awareness through advertising and create an educational toolkit and exhibition.


    The project is expected to help youths engage the fundamental science of taxonomy with conservation and ecology in line with the themes of SOA and SDG 14, and aid experts by working towards establishing conservation priorities of our Malaysian marine biological heritage.


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  • Adrien Landa France cleanup

    WindKart Beach Clean-Up

    Fort-Mahon Plage, France

    WindKart Beach Clean-up conducts regular beach cleanups using their own specific 'windkarts' that are suited to the wide, windy beach. They also sort the waste they collect and obtain data which will both inform sensitization projects and demonstrate the high amount of pollution generated by fishermen and mussel farmers who use and discard plastic gear. The team is engaging with corporates to have employees participate as part of CSR policies and in the future, they aim to offer consulting services to those companies so that they can reduce their impact.



    Check out how the windkarts are used for clean-up in this video.


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  • Sawfish Project Indonesia

    Sawfish Project Indonesia

    Bogort, Indonesia

    Sawfish Project Indonesia is an interdisciplinary project that seeks to provide data about sawfish to local and national governments to implement legal protections for them. The project will conduct scientific research using Environmental DNA (E-DNA) and fisheries surveys to investigate the problem of sawfish bycatch, which is one of the major factors leading to the decline of sawfish populations in Merauke, Indonesia. Sawfish Project Indonesia ultimately aims to enhance the capacity of indigenous people in Merauke to continue the important work of sawfish conservation locally. This project will perform an incubator workshop to teach the youth of Merauke about sawfish conservation.



  • Let the Sea Turtle Live Cameroon

    Let the Sea Turtle Live

    Southwest Region, Cameroon

    A project in partnership with the Cameroon Ministry of Environment, Nature, and Sustainable Development to raise awareness among fishermen to improve fishing practices with the aim of conserving the endangered sea turtles. Over 3,000 fishermen in 4 fishing communities took part, including 30 fishermen association leaders who agreed to serve as ambassadors for the project and to continue to spread awareness in their community. Volunteers from the University of Buea played key roles in door-to-door sensitization, which contributed to an estimated 75% increase in awareness amongst the fishing community on the ecological importance of sea turtles.



    Read more about their project and see a video of their work here. 


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  • SOAGhanaHub

    Journalism to Combat Marine Debris

    Accra, Ghana

    The ocean plays a critical role as a climate regulator by absorbing about 30% of human emissions of carbon dioxide, but increasing levels of plastic waste threatens this key ecosystem function. This project seeks to leverage data and storytelling tools to spotlight the challenge of marine pollution and its dangers to society. The project also deploys a digital campaign involving use of short videos and infographics to educate residents across West Africa on the dangers of marine pollution, and improve practices of waste management.

    Read more about their project and read a recent article here.

    More articles on plastic waste and marine pollution,


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  • Kiabu Reef Restoration A055

    Kiabu Reef Restoration

    Kiabu, Indonesia

    25 year old Dennis and his team work with managers of the Anambas Islands Marine Tourism Park, a new management area made up of five small islands, to develop their regional marine management plan to: 1. Re-establish fish habitat and help to restore fish populations by providing artificial reefs of 40 coral spiders; 2. Increase the percentage of coral cover by transplanting 500 corals at restoration sites, and 3. Become a model of community-based conservation activities on small islands in Anambas.

Explore all 2020 grant projects

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