Together with the Forum, the Summer School offered the Youth Ambassadors a unique opportunity to meet and interact with key ocean actors from around the world, engage in high-level sessions with policymakers and government officials, enhance their expertise through educational and training activities, and enjoy a private view into the workings of international relations as well as breathtaking spaces in and around the US capitol city. Hosted by NOAA and as part of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, the Forum also provided unparalleled personal and professional experiences and opportunity for growth in the ocean sphere to this enthusiastic group of early-career ocean experts. These two events marked an important milestone in the cohort’s ambassadorship, being the first time the AAOYA met and worked together in person after over 18 months of remote collaboration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Summer School activities started with a field trip to Annapolis, Maryland, where the Youth Ambassadors visited the Annapolis Maritime Museum, informing on the Annapolis area's rich maritime heritage and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. Due to challenging weather conditions the envisaged boat and kayaking activities were unfortunately suspended, but the Youth Ambassadors did not miss the chance to learn about US history at the Maryland State House, the only state house to have served as the United States’ national capitol in the country’s history. Another highlight of the Summer School was the opportunity to attend a private tour of the Smithsonian’s Natural History museum’s Ocean Hall and its private archives, guided by Dr. Brian Huber and Dr. Christopher Mah. The tour was followed by a private lecture by Dr. Andrea Quattrini on her coral research.
The AAOYA dedicated part of their Summer School preparing their key messages to convey to policy-makers at the Ministerial session. An important arena for the finetuning of these key messages was the Summer School’s Science Diplomacy Workshop, hosted by the German Embassy to the USA, where the All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassadors discussed the future of the All-Atlantic cooperation with key Alliance actors and other speakers, including White House and Delegation of the European Union to the USA representatives. At a training workshop at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, instructor Stacey Baker invited the AAOYA to take part in an interactive exercise putting into practice some effective science communication and public engagement strategies.
During their time in Washington DC, the AAOYA participated actively in the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Forum Ministerial Event, hosted at the National Academy of Science by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The hybrid event aimed to celebrate the achievements of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance together with the key players involved, present the findings of the Scientific Online Workshop, address intergenerational perspectives and celebrate the signing of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance Declaration.
During a dedicated plenary session, the AAOYA presented the activities and campaigns they have carried out during their mandate and launched the first edition of their Bridging the Ocean marine education and ocean literacy booklet series. Furthermore, several AAOYA representatives joined the four thematic roundtables on ocean literacy and capacity building, pollution and ocean-climate nexus, observing and ecosystems, and a sustainable ocean economy.
The AAOYA participated in the Forum’s official side events. These included the Science Diplomacy Workshop organized as part of their Summer School, the Research Cooperation from Pole to Pole side event organized by the AA-MARINET Joint Pilot Action, and the Connecting Communities: Partnering on Ocean Health to Address Climate Change side event hosted by the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs.