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California Teen Wins National Award for Ocean Environmental Service
Dylan Vecchione, age 15, wins 2013 National Gloria Barron Prize for his work in founding ocean environmental organization ReefQuest
By: ReefQuest and The Barron Prize
Each year the Barron Prize celebrates twenty five inspiring, public spirited young people from all across America who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet.
The top winners each receive a $5,000 cash award to support their service work or higher education.
Dylan founded ReefQuest, an environmental organization fostering marine environmental stewardship through citizen science. He has imaged coral reefs in Hawaii to create underwater 3D panoramas available online, which are being used as a platform for citizen science environmental programs. His work is being used in 48 countries, and over 60,000 students have participated in ReefQuest sponsored research.
The Barron Price was founded in 2001 by author T.A Barron and was named for his mother, Gloria Barron.
“Nothing is more inspiring than stories about heroic people who have truly made a difference to the world”, says Barron. “And we need our heroes today more than ever. Not celebrities, but heroes – people whose character can inspire us all. That is the purpose of the Gloria Barron Prize: to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others” continued Barron.
Dylan was inspired by his family’s annual trips to Hawaii, where he watched many areas of his favorite coral reef – thousand of years in the making – die over the span of a few years. After learning that the same was happening all over the world due to climate change and pollution, “I decided to do something about it” says Dylan. His work caught the attention of scientists working in coral conservation and ecology and they introduced him to the concept of citizen science as a way for ordinary people to get involved and help the scientific community collect data.
Dylan begun building a website (www.reefquest.org) that would allow people to engage in coral reef citizen science and later officially launched ReefQuest.
He soon realized the challenge in exciting people about the oceans and coral reefs if they could not dive and experience them firsthand, so he decided to bring the reefs to the people through the power of the Internet.
He begun designing and creating a way to do underwater 3D photography and received a grant to bring his vision to reality. His work resulted in the creation of the Virtual Reef. ReefQuest has grown to become one of the world’s largest documentation projects of coral reefs. Dylan is now working to develop an interactive curriculum for middle and high school students using the virtual reef. “I have learned the importance of mentorship and perseverance”
Dylan has donated his cash winning to ReefQuest to help continue fund its mission and the expansion of the Virtual Reef project. He said “I am very grateful and honored for being recognized by the Barron Prize. The values T. A. Barron and his mother represent inspire me” .
For more information about the Gloria Barron Prize see www.barronprize.org
For more information about ReefQuest see www.reefquest.org
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