Given the election, it seems wise to relinquish expectations of US federal leadership on ocean or climate policy. Our anti-science (among other deeply concerning antis) president-elect and his appointees have sent clear signals about their disregard for our environment and the ethos of sustainability. Yet, a healthy ocean is critical to food security, a stable climate, and the livelihoods and cultures of coastal communities around the globe.
OpenChannels has a team of dedicated bloggers addressing targeted aspects of ocean planning and management, including communication, technology, ocean uses, and more. Our bloggers are experts in the field, drawing from their own knowledge and experience.
The OpenChannels community can also benefit from your knowledge and experience. We appreciate the diversity of perspectives in this field and welcome the use of OpenChannels for sharing these views. Do you have a perspective on ocean planning you would like to share? We'll help you do that right now: just click the button above and follow the prompts. If you are interested in blogging but have questions, please email Nick Wehner at nwehner [at] openchannels.org. We look forward to your contribution!
The OpenChannels Team
By Dr. Francine Kershaw and Grace Goldberg
Genetic data is often overlooked and geneticists are rarely at the top of the marine planning party guest list. This results in a significant gap in the protection of evolutionary processes, that are essential for the long-term survival species in the face of environmental change. Genetic tools provide unique information useful for marine protection in a way that complements other approaches, such as satellite tracks and habitat mapping.
So why isn’t genetics being systematically used in marine spatial protection? Research suggests that genetic data is considered valuable by planners and policy-makers, but because it is generally dispersed, inaccessible, or misunderstood.
Human well-being and human rights are inextricably tied to the health of the ocean, yet ocean conservation work is often isolated. Last month, as the United National General Assembly focused on tackling the grand challenges represented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both the ocean goal (aka Goal 14, “Life Under Water”) and me, as a marine biologist, were a bit lonely.
At one event, guests were asked to put a sticker on their name tag indicating the goal they most supported. Of course, I chose the ocean goal: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” And until a colleague arrived, I was the only one representing the ocean. What was supposed to be a conversation starter turned me into a wallflower. It was a poignant reminder of how misunderstood and marginalized ocean conservation issues often are — and to our global detriment.
The U.S. Department of State is set to host the third annual Our Ocean conference this week. This gathering of political leaders, philanthropists, scientists, diplomats, NGO executives, filmmakers, and private sector leaders, will be focused on the themes of marine protected areas, climate change, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution. Many of us in the ocean conservation and policy community are awaiting the outcomes of this meeting with baited breath.
Perhaps the greatest value of the previous conferences is that they served as a deadline and platform for launching important new initiatives for ocean conservation. And given the dire and worsening state of our ocean, commitment to bold actions are sorely needed.
Everyone loves a good story. It’s in our DNA. Humans have a long history of storytelling, yet somehow it’s only now catching on with the sciences. If you’d like to get your work out there to a larger audience, storytelling is essential. Stories resonate with people in ways that facts and figures simply do not. Furthermore, stories and metaphors are much more memorable than facts alone. Don’t just tell your audience about your work, tell them a story.
I know at first this can sound quite daunting. I’ve participated in several storytelling workshops myself, often leaving without any idea how I could possibly tell a story about my work, or our mission here at OpenChannels. But like all things creative, it’ll come to you…eventually…when you’re totally not expecting it. If I can come up with a decent story about Google alerts and literature updates, you can come up with an excellent story about saving our oceans and coasts. I have faith in you! You can do it!
There are many, many resources out there for teaching storytelling for science and sharing your story across the globe. This blog will highlight just a small fraction of them.
If you’re a planner, the sheer number of tools available to support your work can be overwhelming, and trial by error can be tedious and time-consuming. Here, we describe two participatory mapping tools our partners are using in the Galapagos—SeaSketch and InVEST. We also share insights into what works and what could be gained by implementing these tools in tandem.
Whether you’re writing a press release or a blog about your research, chances are you’ll be including an image or a visualization. If you’re including an image, I only have one suggestion for you: don’t put in a generic stock-photo. You know the kind I’m talking about. A lovely photo of a breaching whale, or a tropical beach, even though the work has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with whales or beaches. While these are useful for click-bait, they perpetuate the myth that only charismatic megafauna and pretty places deserve protection. That’s not cool. It shows that you have no respect for your reader. If you can’t respect your audience and their intelligence to recognize when you’re throwing click-bait at them, then they will hold no respect for you, either.
Now if you’re including a visualization (i.e. chart or graph) in your press release/blog, I have much more advice for you! Namely:
Dos Mares was created in January 2013 with the vision to contribute with the development of marine science, marine conservation and education in Central America. There are two Mission's Short Term Programs: The Legal Incorporation Program and the Local Approach Program. The Mission's Medium and Long Term Programs comprise sixteen programs distributed in Core Programs, Marine Science programs, Reinforcement programs and Awareness programs. To learn in more detail about the different programs, click on the white pads of the Dos Mares Conceptual Plan.
Ever heard of the phrase, the Twitter fire-hose? That’s a colloquialism for all the data coming out of Twitter. And there’s a lot of data! Roughly 50-times the data available via the standard stream. On average, there are over 6,000 tweets sent each second. And that’s only Twitter we’re talking about here. Just think of how many Facebook and Instagram posts, snaps, and emails are sent each second (hint: it’s well over 1.3 million, every second, even accounting for the fact that about 50% of emails sent are spam).
Let’s say you read the last two blogs in this series: you have done some research in collaboration with a protected-area manager, it has clear management implications, the academic journal article is freely-available online, and you’ve written a short one-pager for the management audience. How are you supposed to share your work when you’re competing with the unfathomable amount of data your audience (and you!) are sifting through every second of every day?
In last week’s blog, I focused on the need for scientific publications to be available freely online. No managers are going to pay to access your pay-walled research. While Open Access publications are expensive, and review boards often force young researchers to publish in “top” journals, there are plenty of ways to get your research online for free. More in this topic to come. But in the meantime, we’ll focus on researching and writing with management in mind.
I must say, this isn’t rocket science. If you’re doing research to help conservation, do the research that’s needed by the people managing that resource. I hear countless stories from MPA managers (and others in similar situations) talking about the “fly-and-bye” tendency of academics. That is, they fly in from abroad, do a bunch of research, and then leave. Never to return to talk about their findings. Never even bothering to share their work with the managers, nor ask how it’s helped. Please, don’t be these kinds of people!