This summer seven enthusiastic students traveled on the National Geographic Sea Lion to explore Southeast Alaska’s coastal wilderness. So, what brought them aboard? The voyage was their prize for winning Storyfest. An annual contest run by Planet Forward, which is a project of the Center for Innovative Media at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, Storyfest recognizes the best student-told stories about environmental issues and solutions. Over the course of the 8-day expedition the students were tasked with documenting their experience—and the resulting stories reveal many compelling facets of one of the last wild frontiers. Watch three of their projects below.

From left: Alex Rubenstein, George Washington University (GW); Navya Pothamsetty, UC-Berkeley; Shandra Furtado, GW; Ashley Gallagher, GW; Katherine Baker, Columbia University; CEO Sven Lindblad; Frank Sesno, Planet Forward Founder; Vanessa Moss, Sewanee: The University of the South; Emily Arnold, Georgetown University; and Dr. Imani M. Cheers, GW Assistant Professor. Photo courtesy of

The Hobbit Hole by Ashley Gallagher
One of Ashley’s favorite excursions was a 45-minute stop at a tiny alcove in the otherwise-uninhabited Inian Islands. Here, she met Colter Barnes and Lexie Hayes, an inspiring couple who run a school that is just about as off-the-grid as you can get.

Alaska: A Tale of Resilience by Alex Rubenstein
A soul-stirring encounter with the majestic Dawes Glacier inspired Alex’s story which highlights Alaska’s sheer beauty and hopeful resilience—along with some help from Lindblad naturalist Marylou Blakeslee.


Sustainable Fishing In Alaska by Katherine Baker
Katherine was struck by the impressive way Alaska is working to maintain one of its most valuable and renewable resources. For her film, she highlighted their prime example of sustainable fishing practices—and sheds light on the importance of keeping marine populations healthy.

Do you know an aspiring storyteller? 2019 Storyfest is now open for entries! Next year’s grand prize winners will travel with Lindblad Expeditions to the Galápagos to report on the unparalleled stories found in these unique islands. Visit for more details.