Meet the SOA Community Attending COP28


SOA Blog

Sustainable Ocean Alliance is accelerating ocean solutions around the world. Here are their stories.

From Ecuador to Sri Lanka, Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) is proud to introduce featured members of our community who are representing SOA at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, UAE

November 30 marks the first day of COP28—the largest climate conference in the world—and SOA is on the ground with our incredible ocean community to incite climate action, ensure the ocean is valued in critical discussions, and bring the youth perspective to the table. 

Get to know our robust delegation of youth leaders, ocean activists, ecopreneurs, and more below.

SOA Regional Representatives 

MARKMark Haver (U.S.)—Regional Representative for North America

For the last 2 years, Mark has led SOA’s delegation at COP26 and COP27, and he is excited to provide support to SOA’s delegation at COP28 in Dubai. He’s been involved in SOA for six years, first as a Hub Leader, and then as the Inaugural Chair of SOA’s Youth Policy Advisory Council (YPAC). Since January 2022, Mark has been working for SOA as our North America Regional Representative and a Policy Advisor. 

With his long history of engagement with the UNFCCC and at COP, Mark hopes to contribute his experience in navigating the ever-growing COP ecosystem to prepare his fellow youth delegates for how to make the most out of COP28. 

DANIELDaniel Caceres Bartra (Peru)—Regional Representative for Hispanoamerica

Daniel is a passionate marine biologist and ocean advocate from Peru. Throughout his career, Daniel has worked across many marine biodiversity and conservation projects—from working with humpback whales to registering new reefs in the North of Peru. Notably, Daniel has worked in Peru to influence its congress and political candidates to incorporate an ocean agenda into national policy.

In 2017, Daniel founded SOA Peru—the first international hub at SOA and currently the largest network of young ocean leaders in Peru, with chapters in every coastal region of the country. Daniel has been has been part of the official Peruvian delegation for COP 22, 23, 25, 26, and now COP28. 

KHADIJAKhadija Stewart (Trinidad & Tobago)—Regional Representative for the Caribbean

Khadija is an enthusiastic ocean and climate specialist from Trinidad and Tobago, using innovative storytelling as a catalyst to raise awareness and mobilize behavior change. She holds an MSc in Climate Change and Development from SOAS University of London as well as a second MSc in Sustainable Development and Management Studies from Kingston University London.

Presently, she is the founder of Ecovybz Environmental Creatives—a company focused on opening access to environmental knowledge, building young leaders, and developing impactful environmental content creation centered on climate change, ocean conservation, and water resources.

SOA Young Ocean Leaders

GABIGabi Fernandes (Brasil)—Communications and Administrative Coordinator at SOA Brasil

Gabi is a climate activist who empowers communities to take action, including healthy food, decarbonization, green spaces, circular economy, clean energy, and developing waterfront cities. She is an Animal Scientist from São Paulo State University (UNESP) and holds a Masters in Marine Biology from the University of Algarve (UAlg). Since 2022, Gabi has been at the helm of developing SOA Brasil.

Hailing from Brasil, she is invested in finding ways to preserve and protect these vital regions, especially concerning fishing communities and the illegal exploitation of fauna. She engages in monitoring, data collection, environmental education, and ecological tourism. 

With COP30 approaching to be held in her home country, she is leveraging her experience from COP28 to bolster the capacity of SOA Brasil and prepare them to make an impactful contribution at COP30. 

ELAEla Gökçiğdem (Türkiye)—SOA Representative for Türkiye and SOA YPAC 2022 Alumna

Originally from Avsa, Turkiye, Ela is an undergraduate student studying Economics and Environmental Sustainability at Babson College. With the guidance of EarthEcho International, she founded the Avsa Project, which is the first citizen’s science initiative focusing on the Marmara Sea archipelago in Türkiye. 

Last year, Ela attended COP27 as a representative of Türkiye with funding support from SOA's YPAC. In 2022, Ela co-founded MENAECO alongside fellow SOA Young Ocean Leader, Dana Ahmed, as the first youth-led ocean conservation organization serving the Middle East and North African (MENA) regions. With Ela’s crucial work to develop MENAECO,  she will be able to elevate the voices and calls-to-action youth throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Türkiye region for climate action at COP28. 

JANICEJanice Márquez de la Plata Molina (Ecuador)—Hub President at SOA Ecuador

Janice is a passionate marine biologist and PADI scientific diver interested in research on microorganisms living under extreme conditions and in the deep sea. Since 2020, Janice has functioned as the president of SOA Ecuador and led many successful projects with the hub and its satellite locations throughout other provinces in Ecuador. 

In 2021 with the support of SOA, Janice helped organize environmental education events for children on Puná Island and El Salado mangrove as well as a Hackathon for university students to develop solutions to marine pollution and unsustainable fishing.


Sudarsha de Silva (Sri Lanka)—Communications Coordinator at SOA Sri Lanka

Sudarsha is a journalist and youth activist from Sri Lanka working on social issues related to sustainable development, climate change, global warming, and biodiversity.

In 2018, Sudarsha worked as a Coordinator for the Sri Lanka SDG Stakeholder Platform, contributing to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in Sri Lanka.

Currently, he serves as the Editor of Earthlanka, the Founder of Earthlanka Youth Network, and is a Hub Leader at SOA Sri Lanka. He also works with many other international and local organizations such as the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, Island Innovation, and more. 

SOA Grantees

JEREMYJeremy Raguain (Seychelles)—Grant: Discussing Seychelles’ Position on Deep-Seabed Mining, Take Me to the Islands Project

Jeremy holds a bachelor's degree in International Relations & Environmental Geographical Sciences from the University of Cape Town, as well as a degree in Environmental Management from the Dresden University of Technology. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science & Policy at Columbia University

Jeremy is an expert in several key topics being negotiated at COP28, including the Global Stocktake, ocean inclusion in climate negotiations, and loss and damage. Jeremy has also been an active member of the SOA community with multiple programs such as SOA's Campaign Against Deep-Sea Mining, Grants Program, and the Youth Policy Advisory Council 2020-2021. 

RUSSELLRussell Reed (U.S.)—Grant: Building an Equitable Seaweed Economy in Colombia, Alchemy for Coastal Restoration

Russell is a queer environmentalist dedicated to fostering a more equitable environmental movement.  Currently, Russell is the conservation program manager at Virunga National Park, the oldest and most biodiverse national park in Africa, which was the focus of his honors thesis on the political ecology of mountain gorilla conservation.

He is involved in a number of equity-driven environmental initiatives, including spearheading an Indigenous-led seaweed industry in Colombia and advising glass recycling and coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana. He graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude with highest honors in Geography & Development and a secondary field in African Studies & Kiswahili, becoming the university’s first geography graduate in over 70 years. 

SHAMLAShamla Saleem (Sri Lanka)—Grant: Awareness of Seabed Mining

Shamla is a small business entrepreneur, the Founder of the Global Youth Climate Connect, and a Hub Leader for SOA Sri Lanka. She has an academic background in Business Management & Marketing from the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM).

Through SOA's Grants Program, Shamla coordinated a national campaign advocating for a moratorium on deep-seabed mining, collected data and solicited youth contributions for a research paper about deep-sea mining, and helped build awareness of the issue in Sri Lanka to influence government protection of marine resources.

At COP27 last year, Shamla was a National Youth Delegate for Sri Lanka to represent her country during climate discussions. 

BODHIBodhi Patil (Canada)—Grant: One World Breath, Ocean Uprise Global Internship

Bodhi Patil is a UN-recognized, award-winning GenZ ocean-climate “solutionist” dedicated to improving the interconnectedness between ocean health and human health.

He is the Founder & CEO of Inner Light, empowering a generation to build resilience from the inside out for people and planetary wellbeing. He is also the co-creator/cofounder of Ocean Uprise with Parley for the Oceans and advises several climate organizations on a mission to protect our blue planet. 

At the 2023 UN General Assembly during Climate Week NYC, he presented to 250 world leaders on behalf of fellow youth leaders calling for a global ban on deep-sea mining, swift ratification of the High Seas Treaty, the recognition of ocean rights, and investment into intergenerational collaboration with an emphasis on youth-led solutions.

SOA Ecopreneur Network Members

ALEXEIAlexei Levene (U.K.)—Co-Founder at Desolenator

Alexei is a startup founder who dreams of a world without waste, with access to clean water, food, and education for all. His background in consumer products, business consulting, and sustainable technologies led to the development of Desolenator, the world's first solar thermal desalination solution that harnesses the photons of the sun to turn seawater or brackish water into high-quality, pure water—with zero harm to the planet. 

YANISYanis Souami (France)—Founder & CEO at Sinay

Yanis is an entrepreneur and marine engineer passionate about maritime industries, ocean conservation, artificial intelligence, and big data technologies. He founded Sinay in 2008 as a "plug & play" big data platform that includes an exhaustive maritime database and dedicated AI to create data-centric apps that provide actionable insights.

Thanks to his international network and his experience of the maritime ecosystem, Yanis became a National Navy advisor and auditor at the Institute of Higher Studies of National Defense for maritime strategy issues.

LIANELiane Thompson (U.S.)—Co-Founder & CEO at Aquaai

Liane Thompson is an ocean advocate passionate about providing the next generation with a healthier planet. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of Aquaai, a data and marine robotics company on a mission to help keep humanity alive through sustainable and environmentally friendly practices combining risk management, affordability, and biomimicry. Founded together with her partner, Simeon Pieterkosky, Aquaai stems from a promise to their daughter to "save the seas." 

Prior to starting Aquaai, Liane had a career as an international reporter and New York Times executive creating innovative content with global audience appeal.  

DAVIDDavid Lunsford (Switzerland)—Founder & CEO at Stream Ocean

David has a strong personal commitment to sustainable development and climate change solutions. With more than 20 years of professional experience, he has comprehensive skills in project management, negotiation, stakeholder engagement, and communication. In 2022, David launched Stream Ocean—an environmental technology company developing an AI-powered end-to-end solution for real-time marine life monitoring to accelerate ocean health and science.

Follow along for live updates from #COP28UAE on social media at @SOAlliance over the next couple of weeks. 


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