Dolphins, Drones and Giant Clams Winners in the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge

Over 37,000 Middle School Students in 21 Countries Pick Best Research Videos

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Short videos highlighting research related to dolphins and drones were chosen by middle school students from around the world as first-place winners in the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge.

Nearly 38,000 students from 336 schools spent the past two months evaluating and judging 10 video finalists. They critiqued each entry and ultimately determined which 3-minute video abstracts best explained the results and significance of the scientists’ research, choosing the top four entries. Each winner will be awarded a portion of a $9,000 prize package to honor their work in communicating science to the public.

This year’s two first place films, Dolphin Research Center Blindfold Imitation Study led by Kelly Jaakkola at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys, and Drones at the Beach led by Patrick Rynne at the University of Miami, were singled out by students for being innovative, creative and thought provoking.  Rounding out the winning submissions was second place entry How to Treat a Bruised Flipper: Developing Pain Medications for Dolphins from Claire Simeone at The Marine Mammal Center in northern California, and third-place entry Rescuing the Gentle Giants led by Charles Waters at the University of Auckland Institute of Marine Science.

Participating scientists were motivated by more than just the prize money.

“For a lot of students, science can have a negative, scary image. They picture people in white lab coats talking about topics that nobody understands in the most boring, unimaginative way possible,” said first-place winner Jaakkola. “If we want to get kids excited about science, we need to change that image.”

Thanks to the videos created by this year’s finalists, the 37,795 student judges were exposed to a range of ocean science topics from submarine volcanoes along the Oregon coast to fish migration in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to sharing the results of recent research, the videos also described the importance and relevance of the research to society. Teachers around the world applauded the effort of the finalists to make connections between classroom lessons and the impact of scientific discoveries.

“Too often, students only see science in isolation with the benchmarks assigned to them, rather than the real-world application of that learning,” said Kathryn Blysma, whose students at Dr. John Long Middle School in Wesley Chapel, Florida, participated as judges. “Although our state benchmarks are thorough in supporting key learning for our students, making connections between classroom learning and the real-world is critical to being good stewards of our planet.”

The Ocean 180 Video Challenge provides scientists with a platform to connect with a broad audience and offers an opportunity to practice translating the importance and outcomes of their research to non-experts. As first place winner Patrick Rynne explained, the ability to communicate scientific findings is an essential skill to develop.

“At the end of the day, most research is funded by the taxpayer,” he said. “Although it is critical that work go through the peer-review process such as technical journals and conference proceedings, we also have a responsibility to deliver our findings in a digestible way to the general public.”

Visit to learn more and to see a full list of finalists and participating classrooms.


From noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, March 26, the annual Student-Scientist Summit will be held. During this virtual assembly, scientists from the top Ocean 180 video abstracts will answer questions from student judges. “Attendance” is free and all are welcome. Register at

2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge Winners

1st Place (Amateur Category)

Drones at the Beach

Patrick Rynne, University of Miami
Fiona Graham, University of Miami/Waterlust
Ronald Brouwer, Ad Reniers and Matthieu de Schipper, Delft University
Jamie MacMahan, Naval Postgraduate School
Laura Bracken, University of Miami/CARTHE

1st Place (Professional Category)

Dolphin Research Center Blindfold Imitation Study

Kelly Jaakkola, Emily Guarino, Mandy Rodriguez and the Visual Communication Staff, Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida

2nd Place

How to Treat a Bruised Flipper: Developing Pain Medications for Dolphins

Claire Simeone, The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito, California

3rd Place

Rescuing the Gentle Giants

Charles Waters, University of Auckland, Institute of Marine Science
Scott Ewing
Richard Story, Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources
Mark J. Costello, University of Auckland


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