Local high school students showcase artwork focused on endangered species

Students from five high schools within the Long Beach Unified School District in Southern California participated in the 8th annual NOAA Art Contest. The contest was just one facet of NOAA Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific on November 14, 2015. The aquarium annually hosts NOAA Day for more than 7,000 visitors. The Art Contest and other events help build public knowledge about NOAA’s mission including the agency’s science, service, and stewardship activities.

“Endangered Species in the Ocean” was the theme of this year’s art contest. To help students and teachers learn about endangered marine species, NOAA Fisheries provided a slideshow presentation with website links and videos to highlight the agency’s role in recovering endangered species to be used in their classrooms in preparation for the contest.

Students submitted 95 pieces of artwork representing a range of ocean species vulnerable to extinction including sea turtles, marine mammals, abalone, salmon, and steelhead. Their art incorporated what they learned about the species, their habitat, and impacts to these species through school assignments prior to the contest.

First place finalists from Groups One (grades 9-10) and Two (grades 11-12) were both from Millikan High School and chose sea turtles as their subject. We caught up with both students to find out more about how they researched their topics and how they decided to include specific elements in their artwork.

winner, teacher and submission

Above: Group One 1st Place Winner Isabella Aroz and her art teacher, Kathleen Charval. Photo: Christine Whipp, Long Beach Unified School District

Isabella Aroz, the tenth grader who took first place in Group One, explains, “I chose to focus on the problem of too much trash in the ocean. I drew a sea turtle that takes up most of the space on the paper and I placed plastic bags floating in the water approaching the sea turtle. When looking at the websites our teacher provided, plastic bags were mentioned over and over as being one of the main threats to sea turtles. I wanted to highlight how our everyday decisions could impact sea turtles.”

winner, teacher and submission

Above: Group Two 1st Place Winner Cosette Trujillo and her art teacher, Kathleen Charval. Photo: Christine Whipp, Long Beach Unified School District

The first place winner from Group Two, Cosette Trujillo, who is in 11th grade, shares what she wanted her artwork to reflect:, “My work titled Help shows a green sea turtle swimming through words that appear to be floating off the pages of a book. The book is an encyclopedia with a page about the green sea turtle. The last line of the book states ‘The green sea turtle became extinct in 2086 due to…’ and the words surrounding the sea turtle and book are the reasons it became extinct.” 

Trujillo researched the major threats to green sea turtles using several websites including NOAA Fisheries’ website. The message she was hoping to convey through her artwork is, “Through human carelessness, and failing to change little things we do, we are throwing away the green sea turtle.”

couple and kid looking at submissions

All student artwork was displayed at the aquarium entrance during NOAA Day. NOAA, in partnership with the Aquarium of the Pacific, held an Art Awards Ceremony for student finalists. Scuba divers in the large Blue Cavern tank that provided the backdrop to the ceremony helped to announce the winning students. The aquarium also generously donated gifts for the finalists.

Other highlights from NOAA Day included 14 booths displaying the breadth of NOAA’s various offices, such as NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Weather Service, NOAA Ocean Service, and NOAA’s Sea Grant Program; a teacher workshop about climate change provided by Sea Grant; live Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) demos and a build-your-own ROV workshop for kids provided by Long Beach City College; and sustainable seafood tasting provided by the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Seafood for the Future program. NOAA staff were located throughout the aquarium giving presentations and discussing their work with visitors.


turtle and plastic bags

1st Place "Sea Turtle" by Isabella Aroz, Grade 10

2nd Place "Endangered Beauty" by Olivia Torres-Fields, Grade 10

whales and net

3rd Place "Space Denied" by Tessa Delee, Grade 10


Honorable Mention "Beluga Whale" by Michelle Hernandez, Grade 10

turtle and rope

Honorable Mention "Hooked" by Alyssa Wider, Grade 9



1st Place "Help" by Cosette Trujillo, Grade 11

whale tale

2nd Place "Tail of Death and Destruction" by Charli Hurley, Grade 11

3rd Place "Song Interrupted" by Kyla Phelps, Grade 11

chinook salmon

Honorable Mention "Chinook Endangered" by Alexandra Herrera, Grade 12

Honorable Mention "Oil Grip" by Starla Adams, Grade 11


Honorable Mention "Flying Turtle" by Celeste Joaquin, Grade 12

spotted seal

Honorable Mention "The Spotted Seal" by Allyson Carroll, Grade 11

otter and oil

Honorable Mention "The Sea Otter" by Belicia Enriquez, Grade 11

LEARN about NOAA Fisheries’ Species in the Spotlight Initiative for highly endangered species:



READ about the West Coast Region’s collaboration with the Pacific Northwest College of Arts to raise awareness of endangered species: