Teenager Demi Johnson Honored By National Geographic For Saving Mississippi Oyster Reefs

by Gee NY

Demi Johnson, a Gulfport resident and ninth-grader, has received recognition from the National Geographic for her innovative plan to preserve Mississippi’s oyster reef population.

Johnson’s journey to the nation’s capital began when she emerged as a top-15 finalist in the National Geographic Explorers Festival’s Slingshot Challenge this spring.

According to WLOX TV, her dedication to environmental conservation was further acknowledged when she earned her Girl Scout Silver Award for her research contributions to the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program.

Expressing her excitement about the upcoming event, Johnson stated:

“I’m happy and I’m proud. I want this to be a fun one and one that I can talk about to others. I just want it to be really informational.”

Johnson initiated her oyster farm project at Schooner Pier in Biloxi during seventh grade. With weekly visits to clean debris and protect the oysters from predators, she collaborated with the Department of Marine Resources to ensure the success of her venture.

Over the past two years, her efforts have yielded over 1,000 oysters, contributing significantly to the local ecosystem.

In partnership with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, Johnson participated in the National Geographic Society Slingshot Challenge, aimed at nurturing the next generation of environmental advocates.

Her video submission earned her a spot among the top 15 finalists and a $1,000 grant to support her oyster conservation efforts.

Julian Rankin, representing WAMA, commended Johnson’s dedication, stating:

“We were really able to connect what Walter Anderson is all about which is investigation, inquiry, and nature but creativity and storytelling as well.”

Out of over 2,100 submissions worldwide, Johnson was recognized as one of two winners in the United States.

She received the 2024 Significant Achievement Award for her project “Off Bottom Oysters” and generously donated her prize money back to the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program.

Johnson’s initiative promotes community education and aims to restore Mississippi’s threatened oyster reef population.

As she competes for the People’s Choice Award for her video “Off Bottom Oysters” in Washington D.C., she remains committed to her cause.

“I’ve learned a lot from it. I’ve had good experiences and I plan to continue with this,” remarked Johnson.

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