Students Naomi Estay and Omayra Toro from Chile received the 2013 Stockholm Junior Water Prize today for their work on how living organisms can help clean oil spills in extremely low temperatures. H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize at the award ceremony at the World Water Week.

The Chilean team travelled to Antarctica and managed to identify a whole dozen of bacterial strains with the potential to clean up oil spills, by metabolising it, in extremely low temperatures.

“The knowledge developed has potentially widespread application. It shows how we can learn from natural processes to solve modern problems. Rather than utilizing potentially toxic chemicals for remediation, the project identified a natural approach based on locally available biological resources,” said the Jury in its citation.

“The increasing melting of the polar ice caps and our continued thirst for oil will unfortunately make this kind of clean up strategies even more relevant in the future. The project also made an incredibly inspiring story,” the Jury concluded.

“We are so happy and excited. We worked with this project for two years. Antarctica, the white continent, has been a big inspiration to us in our work and now we want to continue our investigation.  We also want to spread awareness about the effects of pollution in the world”, said Omayra Toro, one of the two winners.