Partner Highlight EarthEcho - Interview with Sean Russell, Director of Youth Engagement

Tell us about EarthEcho’s work and impact
For nearly two decades, EarthEcho International has been building a global youth movement to protect and restore our ocean planet. Through our multifaceted programs and initiatives, we build ocean, climate, and environmental literacy in youth, connect young people to the broader community of ocean advocacy and activism, and expedite and elevate youth-led ocean and climate action. Today, we are proud to support a Youth Leadership Council, five wide-ranging ambassador programs, two international Challenges – one focused on water quality, the other on biodiversity loss – that empower young change-makers to lead environmental solutions in their communities, and an online resource hub designed to help teachers bring climate and environmental lessons to life in their classrooms. Additionally, we manage GenSea, a digital platform through which young people (ages 13 to 25) can network, learn from their peers, and get involved with opportunities to take collective action in service of our ocean and planet.

EarthEcho International was founded by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau in honor of their father Philippe Cousteau Sr., son of the legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Our founders and staff believe wholeheartedly that activating and engaging youth is key to building a durable conservation movement that can move with the speed and audacity needed to transform the future, and EarthEcho International is at the forefront of that work.

EarthEcho is focused on building a global youth movement for the ocean, why the focus on the ocean?
The ocean and climate are inextricably linked. Covering 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns. For this reason, climate change—the warming of the earth and all of the critical problems it causes — is fundamentally an ocean issue.

You just hosted your Youth Ocean Advocacy Training at the Reservoir Center, what’s the history of this training?
We were thrilled to host our Capitol Hill Ocean Week Youth Advocacy Training at the Reservoir Center this year. Organized in collaboration with Big Blue & You, The Ocean Project and World Ocean Day, and the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, the training united over 60 young ocean advocates and adult mentors with a focus on equipping participants with skills to elevate their voices in efforts to advance policies focused on ocean protection and restoration. The training kicked off a week of participation in Capitol Hill Ocean Week, the nation’s premier ocean conservation conference, which united ocean advocates in Washington, DC, June 4-6. The Youth Advocacy Training provided conference attendees and young advocates in the area an opportunity to learn about priority ocean issues through presentations from fellow ocean advocates, connect with coaching experts to plan and prepare for meetings with members of Congress and the Biden Administration, and make a game plan for a successful week at the conference ahead. This was our first year hosting the event in this format and we look forward to building on this work in collaboration with our partners and youth participants moving forward.


What does the week look like for a youth who participates in your Ocean Advocacy training in DC?
Our Youth Ocean Advocacy Training provided an opportunity for young people from across the ocean conservation field to build the skills needed to advance ocean conservation policy initiatives. We were thrilled to bring this year’s cohort of EarthEcho Ocean Protection Ambassadors to Washington, DC, to join in both the Advocacy Training and Capitol Hill Ocean Week programming. Our Ocean Protection Ambassadors program provides young ocean advocates from American Samoa, California, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawai’i, Maine, New York, and Puerto Rico with funds and training to design and execute campaigns that advance ocean protections and achieve the goal of protecting 30% of America’s waters by 2030 (30×30). This program is made possible in partnership with support from the National Ocean Protection Coalition, a project of Resources Legacy Fund. Ambassadors advance their campaigns through work with local community partners, including Conservation Law Foundation, Friends of the Mariana Trench, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium.

Aside from bolstering their advocacy skills and networking with peers, participating in Capitol Hill Ocean Week and the Youth Advocacy Training provided an opportunity for Ambassadors to directly highlight their campaigns and policy priorities to decision makers in Washington, DC. Ambassadors took part in a full day of Capitol Hill meetings with the offices of 10 members of Congress, joined fellow youth advocates for meetings with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and leadership team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and met directly with representatives from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to share their community perspectives and priorities for this work. When they weren’t busy having discussions on the Hill, Ambassadors were attending (and speaking at!) Upwell, the Ocean Justice Symposium, as well as participating in the robust schedule of Capitol Hill Ocean Week sessions. In the evening, participants joined young ocean advocates from across the country for the Sea Youth Rise Up Social for the Sea, an evening networking and celebratory event hosted at the American Geophysical Union Offices.

You have a number of other youth engagement programs, where should someone start if they are interested in joining the movement?
Young people interested in ocean advocacy and plugging into our work can begin by joining GenSea, EarthEcho’s digital community platform connecting young ocean advocates ages 13-25 from around the world for year round networking, learning, and action opportunities to advance ocean protection and restoration. No prior experience is necessary, GenSea members have free access to monthly events featuring professionals and experts in the field to help them build their knowledge of critical ocean and climate issues. For those interested in pursuing deeper involvement through an EarthEcho Ambassador Programs or the Youth Leadership Council, GenSea is the first place we post about applications and new opportunities. Visit to create an account and get started.

What’s next for EarthEcho in 2025?
EarthEcho looks forward to continuing our work to engage young people from around the world in ocean protection and advocacy. We anticipate welcoming new youth into our Ambassador Programs to forward such efforts as mitigating plastic pollution, improving local water quality, building on the establishment and strengthening of new marine protected areas in the U.S., and engaging young people in supporting the global advancement of the High Seas Treaty. Given how this year has shaped up, we expect a busy 2024!