How One Seven-Year-Old Raised Hundreds for the Duke Marine Lab

Stella Younes (left) visited the Marine Lab on March 16th with her family, including her sister Sophie (right), to tour the facilities and present a check for the $400 she raised for her seventh birthday.

Seven-year-old Stella Younes raised over $400 for the Duke Marine Lab in lieu of receiving birthday gifts this year.

In late 2017, Duke alum Paul Younes (MBA’16) came across an episode of BBC’s popular series Blue Planet that showed the damage humans are doing to the earth’s oceans in the form of plastic and other pollutants. Appalled by what he saw, he decided to share the video with his family and friends. When Stella, his (then) six-year-old daughter, saw the video, she was upset to see the effect man-made waste is having on marine life. Having recently donated to a friend collecting items for a local animal shelter in lieu of birthday gifts, Stella was inspired by the idea of giving back. She decided that, instead of receiving presents for her seventh birthday, she wanted to raise money for an organization that would help clean up one of the things she adores most: the ocean.

Paul, an alumnus of the Fuqua School of Business, remembered that Duke has a school of the environment. “I contacted the Nicholas School, and was surprised to hear that Duke has a marine lab – one right here in North Carolina,” said the Durham resident. The Nicholas School’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations connected Younes with Courtney Edwards, Communications and Development Coordinator at the Lab, who helped coordinate the family’s plan to raise money for the DUML Community Science Initiative. “The idea was to do what Stella wanted to do for the ocean and then kind of marry that with Duke University. I think Duke is a great platform for [raising awareness for important causes],” the Fuqua alum went on to say. Once they knew where they wanted to donate, Stella and her parents put together a fundraising campaign on a popular crowd-funding website. They shared the campaign with friends and family and quickly raised four hundred dollars. Edwards then helped the Younes’ coordinate their family visit to the Marine Lab so Stella could present a check to Liz DeMattia, Lead Research Scientist for the Community Science Initiative.

As a thank-you for her commendable efforts, Stella, her younger sister (Sophie), and her parents (Paul and Stephanie), were treated on March 16th to a Duke Marine Lab tour, led by DeMattia and Rett Newton, a DUML Community Science Initiative volunteer and Program Manager of the Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab. The family received a sneak-peak into the Marine Lab’s Community Science Program on Marine Debris, which provides knowledge on marine debris, art mosaic methods, solid waste and recycling, remote sensing via drones, and scientific sampling. Stella’s father was very impressed with the work being done at the campus he — until just weeks before — didn’t know existed. “[The Marine Lab] is doing so many great things – the drones, cleaning up the ocean, tracking animals – you even have the mayor involved!” (Paul was referring to Newton, who, among his previously stated credentials, is also the newly elected mayor of Beaufort.) Stella – the star of the day’s events – was thrilled with her Marine Lab experience, exclaiming over lunch, “I love the ocean! I want to work here when I grow up!”

If you would like to make a contribution to Stella’s campaign, click here. All money raised goes to the Duke Marine Lab Annual Fund.

Check out more photos from Stella’s family visit below!

Stella (left) finds crabs in samples on the dock with the help of Liz DeMattia, Lead Research Scientist for the Community Science Initiative


Stella uses her ocean reference guide to identify crustaceans in the research lab, alongside her father, Paul, and Courtney Edwards, DUML Communications and Development Coordinator


Stella (left) and younger sister, Sophie, look for crabs in the lab


The Younes family learns about drones and how they help with tracking marine animals from Rett Newton, Program Manager of the Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab


Stella (far left) and sister Sophie collect trash next to the dock alongside Liz and their mother, Stephanie (far right)


(L-R) Sophie, Liz, and Stella turn plastic ocean debris into art


Stella presents her check to Liz and the Community Science Initiative. (L-R): Paul Younes, Courtney Edwards, Stella Younes, Sophie Younes, Liz DeMattia, and Stephanie Younes