Nature Positive Universities Alliance, “Monster in the Water” by Dylan D’agate, Climate Champ–Molly Burhans!

by | Dec 26, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Nature Positive Universities Alliance, “Monster In The Water” By Dylan D’agate, Climate Champion, Molly Burhans!



We discovered one other good thing to come out of COP15. It’s called the Nature Positive Universities Alliance. It’s co-led by the University of Oxford and UNEP. This initiative brings together universities from around the world to come together and prioritize nature on university campuses and in their supply chains. What does Nature Positive mean? According to their website, it means halting and reversing nature loss so that species and ecosystems may start to recover.

This network now includes sign ups from over 600+ people from 400+ universities – a mix of people including students, researchers, staff and leadership. Part of its mission is to convert other universities who may have not yet heard about Nature Positive Alliance to making a Nature Positive Pledge. This refers to everything a university does, from its teaching and research work to the operations and supply chains that keep it running. To be Nature Positive there must be a measured biodiversity baseline, timeframe, a target, clear actions, analysis of how actions add up, monitoring and transparent reporting. 

Making the pledge involves each university’s senior management committing to carrying out a baseline of their biodiversity impacts, setting smart targets, carrying out actions and reporting annually. The alliance also has a network of Student Ambassadors. Over 100 students from all six continents including Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, China, DRC, Finland, the UK, USA and Uzbekistan, promoting action for nature on their campuses.

Why does the Nature Positive Universities and the Nature Positive Alliance matter to us? For a university, restoring species and ecosystems that have been harmed by the impacts of a university and its activities and enhancing the university’s positive impacts on nature, which will enhance the student experience. Want your school to join the pledge? Visit to find out how.




Meet 17-year old Long Island, NY native, Dylan D’Agate. He’s the author of Monster in the Water, a book about taking care of the ocean. The “monster in the water” in this case is algae. Specifically algae blooms or “red tide.” Having grown up on Long Island surrounded by water, then 16-year old D’Agate understood the extensive impact harmful algal blooms can have on a community. He decided to write Monster in the Water: Fighting Back Against Harmful Algal Blooms, in hopes of raising awareness in young people about the dangers of pesticides and pollutants.

The overuse of pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers and other pollutants have been cited as the primary causes for red tides. His book is also a motivator to encourage kids to take action. D’Agate started out as an “earth blogger” for the Sierra Club before writing the book. Here’s the pitch: “The children of Seaville get a nasty surprise when they go to the beach and find it closed. Is there a monster lurking in the water? The kids enlist the help of environmental scientist Professor Bloomington to learn the causes of the harmful algae growing in their beloved ocean and what they can do to defeat this destructive monster!” 

Why does Monster in the Water matter to us? In the words of Greg Traymar, International Director, Sharing Nature Worldwide, “With the environmental challenges we face today, to have this book written by a young man with an environmental ethic at such an early age is inspiring! It gives us hope! This book not only states in a clear way the challenge of algal blooms but shares positive solutions. Bill McKibben of read the book and of it said, “A spirited account of a growing problem—and one we can solve if we put our minds to it!” 




At age 26, Molly Burhans learned that the Catholic Church was one of the biggest land-owners globally, in possession of over 177 million acres. She also learned it had rarely done land inventories. This led her to found GoodLands. Goodlands wants to bring the most powerful technology for large-scale property planning and sustainability – Geographic Information Systems – to the Catholic Church – the global organization with the most land and the most people. 

Its mission is to make the Catholic Church a leader in the fight against climate change as well as related social issues like migration and human trafficking. Our work can be a model for other globally distributed non-state actors including for other religions, the British commonwealth, the United Nations and meta-national entities. Burhans was Chief Cartographer for the first global data-based maps of the Catholic Church. She has a  Master’s Degree in Ecological Design from the Conway School. There she was a Sustainable Communities Initiative Fellow. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Canisius College. 

Burhans is  also an Ashoka Fellow. Ashoka is an organization that builds and cultivates a community of Fellows, Young Changemakers and beyond to help foster the changemaker in all of us. Why does Molly Burhans matter to us? Because she’s willing to tackle the world’s biggest land owners, to digitally map them and encourage environment stewardship. Molly Burhans is also a United Nations Young Champion of the Earth.

DEEPER DIVE: Molly Burhans,  Ashoka