Rosa Lozano Durán, Elisabeth Pozo Camacho, and Rocío Ruiz Arias, Spain

Rosa Lozano Durán, Elisabeth Pozo Camacho, and Rocío Ruiz Arias of Spain won for their project, “Echinoderms as Biological Indicators of Water Quality in the Alborán Sea Coast.”

Rosa, Elisabeth, and Rocío have conducted an innovative project with direct and relevant implications for society.
Dr. Johan Rockström, the chairman of the international nominating committee.

The Spanish students used sea urchins, starfish, and sea cucumbers to help determine how effective a European Union (EU) beach program was in protecting plant and animal life on Spain’s Alborán Coast in the Western Mediterranean Sea. By evaluating different beach strips and using the echinoderms as an indicator of bacterial pollution, the students accurately identified which beach environments are truly protected, and which require further protective measures. In particular, they focused on coastal areas and beaches receiving the “European Blue Flag,” given to areas that meet environmental and aesthetic criteria. The young Spaniards observed many of these beaches have high levels of bacterial pollution, thus placing plant and animal life at risk. They proposed amending European Blue Flags with echinoderm logos that further indicate ecosystem health.