At the end of October, 11 global leaders in ocean conservation came to the New England Aquarium for the first-ever Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) Fellows Summit.
The MCAF program helps foster the success of ocean changemakers worldwide by providing them with microgrants, a broader network of contacts, recognition, and enduring professional support.
In celebration of MCAF’s 20th anniversary and the New England Aquarium’s 50th anniversary, the MCAF Summit brought together the Fellows to share their work with each other, the Aquarium community, and audiences in greater Boston.
The Fellows hail from nine different countries, including Costa Rica, Kenya, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Senegal, and work with diverse species such as manta rays, thresher sharks, sea turtles, African manatees, and billfish. The Fellows are all highly accomplished, and some have been named National Geographic Explorers, Pew Fellows, Rolex Laureates, and Fulbright Scholars. They have helped bring about key protections for imperiled species, have made groundbreaking discoveries in their fields, and are training the next generation of ocean protectors. Bringing all of these talented and visionary global leaders together made for an incredibly inspiring, exciting, and energizing week!
The summit was packed with many different activities held inside and outside the Aquarium’s walls. There were dinners and roundtable meetings at which the Fellows shared their work and discussed ways they could collaborate with one another and with the Aquarium community.
The Fellows also contributed the depth and diversity of their expertise to a “Little Think” on the Grand Challenges of Ocean Conservation, facilitated by Conservation X Labs.
In between these serious discussions, there also was time for fun. Some of the Fellows dove into the Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank while other Fellows and their families spent quality time feeding Myrtle the turtle, getting kisses from our harbor seals, or discovering the soft and slimy touch of Ruddy the octopus. These immersive experiences were a fun way to celebrate our Fellows as cherished members of the Aquarium’s global community.
Kerstin Forsberg and her daughter share a sweet moment during Kerstin’s dive in the Giant Ocean Tank. (Photo: Elizabeth Stephenson)
Tomas Diagne and Lucy-Keith Diagne visit with Myrtle the green sea turtle. (Photo: Elizabeth Stephenson)
The Fellows also shared their work with audiences in greater Boston through two signature summit events. The first, an evening of lightning talks and networking in collaboration with SeaAhead and Venture Café, helped connect the Fellows with new audiences, including members of the startup and funding community who could help advance their work.
The final event of the summit was an all-day symposium, Building Community in Conservation: Stories of Hope from Boston and Across the Globe. The symposium was a celebration of stories and an exploration of ideas from the front lines of inclusive, community-based conservation initiatives and featured MCAF Fellows alongside leaders and expert voices from Boston and beyond. The speakers shared lessons learned from taking their first steps toward change, to overcoming challenges, to developing inclusive and lasting solutions. The shared stories and insights were enlightening, edifying, inspiring, and full of hope. One of the key messages of the symposium was noted by Kannan Thiruvengadam, founder and director of Eastie Farm who said that having a diversity of voices and stakeholders engaged in these initiatives “isn’t just nice to have, it’s critical to conservation.”
Click here to read a story from The Daily Free Press on the “Building Community in Conservation” Symposium.
Click here to learn more about the MCAF Program and our global Fellows.