OurEcho Challenge

‘OurEcho’ biodiversity competition engages U.S. and U.K. students

EarthEcho International, with support from Aramco, inspires youth to take on biodiversity challenges.

‘OurEcho’ biodiversity competition engages U.S. and U.K. students

For a fourth year, the OurEcho Challenge, an annual STEM competition held by EarthEcho International made possible by support from Aramco, challenged middle school students to examine biodiversity in their communities and propose solutions. 


This year the competition expanded its geographic reach beyond the U.S. to students in the U.K. When it was over, six teams emerged tackling issues related to a range of biodiversity challenges from endemic bird species to safe haven habitats. 


Aramco representatives served as judges 

“We are proud to work with Aramco to award these teams grants to turn their projects into a reality,” said Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski, associate director of Programs, EarthEcho International Inc. 


Aramco’s involvement included serving on the expert judging panel for each country. Rana M. Ghamdi, senior environment scientist, served on the U.S. panel of judges, and Muayad B. Aaraj, environmental scientist, served on the U.K. panel of judges. Both work in Aramco’s Green Energy and Environmental Policy Department. 


“The program is a great opportunity to develop young leaders who can shape the future by taking action toward environmental challenges and raising environmental awareness,” said Ghamdi. 


For Aaraj, the judging was a “wonderful and amazing experience.” 


U.S. winning teams

The first-place team from Hawaii, “Team Pono Popoki Project,” is working to save the Hawaiian coot, an endemic bird species that live in coastal wetlands. The feral cat population has contributed to the decline of this bird species and their project calls for implementing a humane capture, spay, and neuter program to address the immense feral cat population. 


The second-place team from Kentucky, “Team Nocturnal Natives,” is addressing the steady decline of the native bat population in the state. The team looks to improve the bats’ natural habitat by installing bat houses and planting more native plants in the area to increase the population of insects, which will provide more food sources for the bats. 


The third-place team from Colorado, “Team Fungi Frogs,” strives to protect the Northern Leopard Frogs from diseases and fungi in hopes of protecting the species, which has experienced an alarming decline in population.

U.K. winning teams

The first-place team from Rochdale, Lancashire, England, “Team Falinge,” is looking to increase the amount of sphagnum moss in their local peat bogs of Greater Manchester to make a positive impact on biodiversity and air quality. Moss is an integral part of England’s ecosystems and this team’s community council has a goal to restore 50% to 75% of peatland by 2038. 


The second-place team from Reading, Berkshire, England, “Team Bio Hazard,” is designing an eco-friendly garbage truck that runs on solar panels and biofuel. The truck design is outfitted with a collection system that will separate landfill waste from compostable waste, which can be used as biofuel. 


The third-place team from Rochester, Kent, England, “Team TA SREWS,” plans to create safe haven habitats in marshlands and fields to protect animals such as hedgehogs, squirrels, and insects from human disturbance. The team also plans to include a robust public education aspect to its project. 


“The 2023 OurEcho Challenge finalist teams impressed us with their grasp of local biodiversity and a broad range of issues and potential solutions, from native bird species threatened by feral cats to restoring local peat bogs,” said EarthEcho International founder Philippe Cousteau Jr. 


These young innovators and problem solvers provide us a glimpse into the global youth movement that is reinvigorating environmental advocacy around the globe.
— Philippe Cousteau Jr.


Aramco’s commitment to biodiversity protection reaches beyond Saudi Arabia to places where we operate around the globe. The initiative was supported by Aramco Americas and Aramco Europe in support of our company’s dedication to raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity protection.


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