Saving wolves, reducing styrofoam pollution and protecting our inland bays are the causes of a next-generation of Delaware environmentalists recognized last week.
Every year for the past 29 years, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) selects three students who have taken initiative in restoring or enhancing Delaware’s environment for the Young Environmentalist Award.
Three winners representing different age groups were recognized July 28 at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington and were awarded a certificate, a gift card and a prize pack for their efforts.
Meet this year’s winners and learn about their work.
Tao Le Marchand, elementary school
Tao Le Marchand, better known as Ty, has dedicated his free time to advocating for wolves, and he isn’t letting up anytime soon.
Over the past year, the 10-year-old spread the word about helping wolves and raised money in his local community for the Wolf Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. His three-month effort amounted to a $400 donation to the sanctuary, the largest single donor the organization had seen that year.
The rising fifth grader at North Star Elementary also started a club with some friends and family members where they discuss their plans for future fundraising efforts and flyers designs.
Inspired by the impact that wolves had on the ecosystem in Yellowstone Park, and angered by how people continue to hunt them, Ty decided to take his concerns to the very top.
“I wrote a letter to the White House saying how we should put wolves on the endangered list so they’re more respected and less hunted,” Ty said. “I tried to give it to the President, but I honestly don’t think he read it himself – he’s too busy.”
Ty has a hopeful vision for the future of wolves and animal rights.
“I want to see not just wolves but all other animals having more care than they used to in the past, to be able to thrive without humans hating them and underestimating them,” he said.
His hope is that people can see wolves for what they actually are, ‘beautiful creatures.’
Ty’s favorite subject in school is science, because it “solves all the answers in the universe.” When he isn’t advocating for animal rights, he enjoys playing games like Minecraft and Fortnite on his Nintendo Switch.
Anna Spence, middle school
Anna Spence knows hypocrisy when she sees it. As a fifth-grader at Lake Forest Central Elementary in Felton, Anna noticed something wrong with her own environment and decided to take action.
Styrofoam cups became an invasive species on the playground of Anna’s school. Used as cups for water in the cafeteria, Anna noticed that other kids would rip them up and litter them around the school’s grounds.
“They were all over the playground and in the water of the retention pond, and the geese were tearing them up,” the 11-year-old said.
This inspired Anna to take action. She wrote a presentation on her computer about why the school should change the styrofoam cups to something more eco-friendly and gave it to her principal.
Her principal expressed his agreement with Anna’s cause and passed her presentation on to the superintendent. The styrofoam cups remain in her school’s cafeteria, but she remains determined.
“I really care about the environment,” Anna said. “They teach us in school about how it’s important to recycle and reuse and pick up trash, yet the school is creating or putting out so much waste on the school’s community.”
Her passion for this cause has gone so far that Anna refuses to get a drink at the fast food chain Chik-fil-a because of their use of styrofoam cups.
As an incoming middle schooler, Anna’s favorite school subject is social studies. Outside of school, she is a member of the 4H youth development organization and participates in beach cleanups. She also rides horses, dances and showed a cow at the state fair.
James Haley, high school
James Haley of Worcester Preparatory School was a trailblazer for environmental monitoring as he led his Boy Scout troop through a data-gathering project.
This past spring, James worked with the Delaware Center for Inland Bays leading a team to perform GPS mapping of aquatic vegetation around the tributaries of the inland bays as his Eagle scout project.
Over the course of four days, the 15-year-old and his team set out on kayaks to map the tributaries. Their efforts amounted to 146 hours of environmental service to the community.
James explained in his project proposal why this action is so crucial to Delaware’s environment.
“This project is essential to protect the ecosystems in our local bays and to restore the remaining beds of seagrass,” James said. “With the coordinates my team provides, the Delaware Center for Inland Bays will be able to track the health of the beds over time and work to expand existing beds.”