These kids are only 16 years old
They are students of the New York Harbor School and part of the Billion Oyster project: an initiative designed to restore the underwater ecosystem of the New York Harbor by growing a few oysters. And by a few, I mean one billion.
Their goal: To grow One Billion Oysters
I first heard of them through the Simons Foundation during a retreat hosted by the National Academy of Sciences designed to connect storytellers with scientists. I was instantly hooked by the project – why did more people not know about this crazy ambitious project? Who were these kids? How could I help them?
I decided to fly over to New York City and learn more about these young heroes.
They believe that if enough oysters are grown in the harbor, the river can heal itself
What I discovered was a small army of passionate students, fighting against insurmountable odds, to protect and restore the waters that most have given up on. Speak to almost anyone living in Manhattan, and they would rather be shot than to take a dip in the Hudson river.
Not so for these students.
I wanted to know who these heroes were.
I gathered my gear, a little band of volunteers and a team of videographers to go on a small adventure to discover what these kids were working on.
This is their story:
These were kids working through the weekends
I learned that once upon a time, the Hudson River was home to billions and billions of oysters. Unfortunately, due to over-fishing and pollution, they went nearly extinct.These student believe that with a large enough oyster population, they can restore a thriving marine ecosystem.
To monitor the growth of oysters and other sea creatures
Around the Oyster nurseries, dramatic increases in local biodiversity around reef installations could be observed. A wide range of species such as black sea bass, oyster toad fish, blue crabs and seahorses were all starting to come back.
Study the impact that the oyster nurseries were having on the water
Water quality and clarity in the vicinity of reef installations were also vastly improved. Oysters have a super power: they can improve water quality by filtering algae and detritus from the water.
And learn new cutting edge technologies
And when the waters were too dirty, students would operate underwater drones capable of monitoring reef sites to take pictures and monitor temperature, salinity and turbidity.
These kids were changing the world.
It is so easy these days to get caught up on how much the world is spiralling out of the control – but there are amazing people out there that are fighting to make a difference and those are the ones we should focus on and celebrate.
As a photographer and campaign creator, I feel like my role is to help tell these amazing stories and initiatives that are out there. By celebrating these students and showing how amazing they are – I hope that it inspires others to follow in their footsteps. If you live in New York City and want to help support these amazing kids, check out the Billion Oyster Project‘s website!
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- Photography: Von Wong
- Video Editor: Krishna Yalla
- Motion Graphics: Cross Media International
- Drone operator: Travis Keyes,
- Video Camera operators: Rick DiMichele, Travis Keyes, Frankie Lopis
- Assistants: Kevin Kara, Juan Osorio, Ivo Orellana
- Special thanks: Billion Oyster Project, NY Harbor School, Nauticam, Science Sandbox