Past Winners of the Lexus Eco Challenge

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2016–2017 Land & Water Challenge! 


Environmental Wolves, Colorado
Lisandro, Jazlyn, Paulethe, Kenneth, Brandon, Lily, Sieairra, Kalie, Kimi
Do you know what macroinvertebrates are? Environmental Wolves do. Led by teacher advisor Katie Lunde, this team studied what might be causing a local decline of macroinvertebrates—animals without backbones, and specifically the aquatic insects in their nearby Gore Creek. They discovered that man-made pollution, and in general the town’s human population, has disrupted the local ecosystem over the years. They’re continuing to collect data, share their findings with the greater community, and plant native vegetation on the stream banks!

Team Water Bottles, Pennsylvania
Team: Grace, Alexandra, Lily, Kirby, Melissa, Meredith
Team Water Bottles students and their teacher advisor David worked to reduce plastic waste on their school’s campus and are currently taking steps to eliminate “single-use” plastic waste entirely. Thanks to the team’s influence, the school has recently installed bottle-refilling stations. Team Water Bottles is going to brand and sell reusable water bottles and is producing an instructional film to teach the school community how to use the filling stations. They are also pressing the administration to discontinue purchasing and selling “single-use” water bottles.

H2O Hotties, Utah
Madison, Sydney, Sadie, Ruby, Afton, Mary
Within the next 50 years, experts estimate that Utah will be hit by a damaging earthquake. Teacher advisor JoAnne Brown and her H2O Hotties set their sights on pure water, a resource that can become scarce when a natural disaster strikes. The students collected 67 large water bottles and many more half-size bottles. They learned how to recycle and reuse plastic water bottles as homemade water filters and then taught 50 students on campus and at nearby schools how to do it!

Pleasant Plains MS Green Team, Illinois
Olivia, Amelia, Sierra, Izabella, Alli, Emma, Brandi, Emily, Jessica
The monarch butterfly is a pollinator to trees and plants that produce food, and the species is slowly disappearing. Led by teacher advisors John Barrett and Aimee Eddington, Pleasant Plains MS Green Team students took action to inform their community on the significant decline of monarch butterflies—and of milkweed, where they lay eggs—in the state of Illinois. They had an article published in the local newspaper, they presented their concerns to city council members, they produced a video for the school community, and they’re working with the greater community on planting milkweed!

Team D.R.O.N.E., New Jersey
Fritz, Ryan, Daniel, Samantha, Diana
Team D.R.O.N.E. (Drones Recording Our Natural Environment) set its sights on tree health. Led by teacher advisors Joel Naatus and Robert O’Donnell, the team recognized that without healthy trees, there is more CO2 in the air, more call for air-conditioning, and other issues of concern. They’ve mapped/documented 26 trees in their parks and community with a drone in order to track the trees’ health over different seasons, are sharing that data with local organizations, and are learning what types of trees to plant and where based on the information!

S.O.A.P. Stars, Michigan
Mallory, Anéla, Griffin, Rachel, Liam
The FDA recently banned the marketing of certain antibacterial washes and soaps because they contained active ingredients that could pose health risks for consumers. Manufacturers were allotted a year’s time to comply with the ban, so teacher advisor Susan Tate and S.O.A.P. (Students Opposed to Antibacterial Products) Stars worked to raise awareness of the issue. They produced a video with their message (viewed by 254 students!), had a letter published in the local newspaper, and visited a number of local businesses to share the facts about antibacterial soap dangers!

To Bee or Not To Bee, Florida
Yukta, Ifeoma, Alyssa, Victoria, Emerson
Honeybees—important pollinators that play a direct role in the food supply chain—are widely disappearing all over the United States due to diseases, parasites, impacts from pesticides, and more. Teacher advisor Lesa Bland and thoughtful human be(e)ings To Bee or Not To Bee conducted a great deal of research to learn about the decline of honeybees and planted a bee-friendly garden on their school’s campus, which is all abuzz following informational presentations from the team. They educated community members about the topic at a local festival.

Flood Fighters, Florida
Noelia, Julio, Frederick, Jaime, Ricardo
Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can carry and spread deadly diseases. Flood Fighters, led by teacher advisor Louie Remy, took aim at reducing the chance of hazardous street flooding and standing water by focusing on keeping storm drains clear and free of debris. Based on the model that most people use to catch leaves in their homes’ rain gutters, the students fashioned a successful “gutter guard” with plastic mesh to prevent trash from being carried by rainwater into their school’s storm well. They’re also spreading awareness of the problem within their school community.


project reservoir
Runoff Resolvers, Texas
: Hunter, Kimmy, Nolan, Aadit, Leo
Teacher advisor David McLoda and the Runoff Resolvers dug into their state’s rainfall data and the impact of wastewater discharges on the health of the Trinity River. In an effort to reduce the level of pollutants in the river, the students partnered with local environmental groups and found sponsors to help them install bioswales, which are landscape elements that are intended to trap pollutants, reduce acidity in the water, filter out fertilizer chemicals, and more. At school, they shared lessons about protecting their natural resources and hosted community events to promote their ideas.

eco warriors
EcoNarcs 3.0, California
Esther, Sandra, Royce, Anna, Marlene, Armin, Samuel
An invasive species called Sargassum horneri was first collected on California’s Long Beach Harbor in 2003 and has since spread widely on the coast, displacing types of seaweed on which lots of organisms rely for food. EcoNarcs 3.0 and teacher advisor Dominique Evans-Bye learned all about the species and its benefits to humans, and shared their findings. The students snorkeled and gathered samples, conducted a chemical analysis of Sargassum horneri, mapped their sightings using geographic information system mapping software, and guest lectured at a nearby college on their research.

can you hear me
The Water Warriors, Oklahoma
Keagan, Darrian, Joey, Dalton, Michael, Brooke, Savannah, Rebekah, Gracie, Trinity
A side effect of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—a method by which oil is extracted from deep inside the earth—is wastewater injection, in which water is injected into the earth. The Water Warriors and teacher advisor Annie Keehn explored the connection between wastewater injection and seismic activity. In Oklahoma, where they live, there were 109 magnitude 3+ earthquakes in 2013; by 2014, the tally was at 585. The students researched the effect of wastewater injection, presented their findings at school, interviewed local elected officials and a state geologist, and reached out to three major oil companies about this important issue.

Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery, Maine
Connor, Ben, Clementine, Grady, Duncan
The European green crab, an invasive species, has been a troublesome pest for years in Maine, and has been particularly dangerous to the state’s soft-shell clams population. Local aquaculture—the raising of soft-shell clams in a protected tank and silos (an upweller)—seemed like a prudent move for teacher advisor Morgan Cuthbert and his students on the Yarmouth Shellfish Nursery team. After partnering with local officials, professors, marine organizations, and businesses, the students designed and built their own upweller system to raise clam seed in order to study the mollusks, spread awareness, and help repopulate local wetlands.

Aquasorb, New York
Brandon, Brian, Rohan, Mansi, Emma, Ben, James
Teacher advisor Serena McCalla and Aquasorb are heavily invested in the health of marine and terrestrial environments in their community—specifically, the impact that water pollution has on those environments. The students conducted scientific research on the contamination caused by the presence of heavy metals as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their water, and their plan of action was multitiered. Aquasorb met with local water experts about taking political action, shared their research in order to spread awareness about what can be done, and organized a school battery drive for responsible disposal of batteries.

H2O: Helpful2Organisms, Missouri
Aditya, Oluwatobi, Deepa, Jeremy, Yan
Water conservation and reducing pollution are at the center of an action plan from Helpful2Organisms and teacher advisors Dr. Karen LaFever and Dr. William Bowman. The students conducted deep research at five local water sites, singling out the most common dangerous chemicals for presentations they made to nearby elementary schools about pollution and smart conservation practices. They’ve also created a survey about water management that will reach more than 3,000 students and produced blueprints for a solar-powered water heater.

Kohala Ocean Clean-Up Crew, Hawaii
Zazttaney, Duncan, Nicole, Maya, Naomi
Hawaii’s Kohala Ocean Clean-Up Crew concentrated on the nonbiodegradable plastics that threaten our planet’s bodies of water. Led by teacher advisors Marcus Douglas and Duncan Anderson, the students started at the source—they spoke with members of the community and conducted presentations about recycling plastics at school. They testified before a county committee on environmental management about securing park recycling stations, produced an educational video on plastics’ impact, and collected about 700 pounds of debris at beach cleanups.

SUA Soil Savers, Ohio
Nuurah, Alexa, Sara, Madeline, Kathryn, Sarah, Hannah
Back in 2014, some residents of Ohio were told not to drink or use their tap water after a city plant found that it was unsafe. Officials said the water was likely harmful due to an algae bloom. SUA Soil Savers report that these blooms can be caused by the placement of dredged sediment in lakes. New legislation bars companies from placing the sediment in lakes, so teacher advisor Jackie Kane and her students helped local engineers in their quest to find a farming benefit within the issue. The team helped test the success of vegetation growth on dredged sediment, reached nearly 5,000 students and parents in presentations about their efforts to produce crops on the sediment, and connected with local and state officials about the problem.

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