Sparta High School student wins statewide contest protecting NJ’s rare wildlife

Sparta. Lauren Johnson won third place for her research and social media posts on the piping plover.

30 Jun 2020 | 05:39

Lauren Johnson from Sparta High School won third place in the fifth annual Species on the Edge 2.0 Social Media Contest.

The statewide educational competition open to all high school students. The contest was hosted by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and contest sponsor, PSEG Foundation on June 18, 2020.

“By participating in the Species on the Edge contest, I’ve learned a lot, definitely some things I didn’t know before. I didn’t know what a piping plover was until I started researching and posting about it on social media,” said Lauren. “I think that the whole contest was a great way to spread awareness for the conservation of our endangered species.”

Participating students created an online campaign that featured an endangered or threatened New Jersey species and highlighted the importance of protecting our state’s imperiled wildlife.

“It is so inspiring that even in these incredibly challenging times, events like this capture why we still can have a spirit of optimism: it brings together corporate leadership and students in the next generation, ” said David Wheeler, Executive Director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation. “We designed this contest in hopes of meeting this generation where their interest and expertise are already off the charts, and, in a sense, helping us be led by them into the future.”

The PSEG Foundation sponsored the contest and provided scholarships to the three winning students..

“I am so proud to hear that there are so many young people who have taken up the challenge — who are coming up with their own thoughts and strategies on how we can best conserve wildlife,” said Rick Thigpen, Senior Vice President of Corporate Citizenship for the PSEG Corporation and the Chairman for the PSEG Foundation.

Like Lauren, first-place finisher Virginia Higgins of Arthur P. Schalick High School in Pittsgrove also focused on the need to protect the piping plover. Second prize went to Rory Leadbeater of Toms River High School North for her campaign on protecting the horseshoe crab.

This year’s winners were honored during a live-streamed virtual awards ceremony that can be found on the Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s Facebook page at

About the foundation

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) is the only statewide, non-profit organization focused solely on threatened, endangered and imperiled species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. It carries out its mission by researching and managing rare animal species, restoring habitat, educating New Jersey’s residents, and engaging volunteers in our conservation projects. Since the early 1990s, CWF scientists and educators have helped conserve and protect a variety of at-risk species of wildlife in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation. To learn more, visit