Bremen youth earns ‘Eco-Hero’ award for work to save mollusk

Posted:  Monday, October 20, 2014 - 8:45am

A 13-year-old Lincoln County youth left for San Francisco on Oct. 16 to claim an award for his work to save the chambered nautilus, a type of marine mollusk.

Ridgely Kelly of Bremen, along with his childhood friend Josiah Utsch, 14, of Montana, will receive an “Eco-Hero” award from Action For Nature.

The California-based environmental organization recognizes the accomplishments of youths ages 8-16 who work toward solving the world’s environmental problems. Action For Nature will present the youths with a $400 check and second place “Eco-Hero” Award during an Oct. 18 ceremony.

Action For Nature is recognizing the youths’ efforts for designing, a website designed to raise money and promote awareness about the chambered nautilus.

The mollusk lives in tropical waters extending from the Andaman Sea east to Fiji, and from southern Japan to the Great Barrier Reef.

According to Kelly, the chambered nautilus is heavily harvested for its shell because jewelry manufacturers covets its dark brown zebra-striped pattern.

The two boys designed a website detailing the chambered nautilus’ existence, with the intention of promoting awareness about the obscure shellfish.

The website also raised nearly $20,000 selling T-shirts and bumper stickers.

Kelly is an eighth grader at the Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb. He joined Utsch’s invitation to start a public awareness project after reading a piece in The New York Times.

The article detailed  Dr. Peter Ward’s research about saving the chambered nautilus.

Ward is a scientist at the University of Washington and characterized by Action For Nature as a leading researcher in the field.

The two youths hope their work results in more public awareness about the creature.

“The chambered nautilus is over 500 million years old, but nobody really knows about it,” Kelly said. “We not sure if it’s an endangered species yet. So it’s important to raise money for research and to create awareness to save it.

Kelly said he hopes the T-shirts and stickers will help stop people from buying nautilus shell jewelry.

Ward purchased underwater cameras with money raised on Kelly’s and Utsch’s website. The cameras are used to better count the mollusks in their habitats. Ward rewarded the boys’ efforts in 2012 by inviting them to join his American Samoan research group.

Kelly hopes his work results in the chambered nautilus being placed on the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species list.

The “Eco-Hero” award is the not the first time the two have been recognized by an environmental organization.

In 2013, the boys received a $5,000 Barron grant, which rewards youths under age 18 for their conservation efforts and activism.