Spinner dolphins on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast (Stenella longirostris longirostris) rest by day in protected bays that are increasingly popular for recreation. Because more frequent interactions of people with these dolphins is likely to reduce rest for dolphins and to explain recent decline in dolphin abundance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed stricter rules regarding interactions with spinner dolphins near the main Hawaiian Islands and plans to increase enforcement. Simultaneous investment in public education about both interaction rules and their biological rationale has been and is likely to be relatively low. To test the hypothesis that more educational signage will reduce human-generated disturbance of dolphins, a paper questionnaire was distributed to 351 land-based, mostly unguided visitors at three dolphin resting bays on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast. Responses indicated that visitors wanted to see dolphins, were ignorant of interaction rules, were likely to read signs explaining rules and their biological rationales, and were likely to follow known rules. Therefore, investment in effective educational signage at dolphin resting bays is recommended as one way to support conservation of spinner dolphins on Hawai‘i Island’s west coast and similar sites in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Communication and Education
Oceans are complex systems and problems preventing a sustainable future require complex solutions. This can be achieved through innovative blends of natural and social sciences, with input from stakeholders. There is growing expectation that early career researchers (ECR), especially conservationists, should be more than natural scientists. ECR are expected to have skills in several domains, not all important to the quality of their work. Scientific skills range from knowledge of complex statistics to programming, and experience in different scientific fields. It is not only impossible to master all such tasks in a lifetime, much less as an ECR, but most importantly, attempting to do so means an ECR cannot master any single skill. This is especially true for minorities, non-native English speakers, and those who must juggle doing science with little or no funding, while having other jobs and family commitments. ECR are also expected to participate in activities that, while important for conservation, do not necessarily improve their scientific skills. These are social skills and range from policy engagement to science communication. This can contribute to developing mental health issues as it hinders having a healthy work-life balance. This expectation of engaging in extracurricular activities can overwhelm people with social anxiety and other difficulties with social interactions (e.g., people in the autism spectrum). Through collaborations, we can effectively draw on the more specialized skills of various people. Building an inclusive scientific community for ECR, therefore, calls for seeing diversity of skills, thoughts, and personality traits as its strength.
The ocean plays a crucial role in the functioning of the Earth System and in the provision of vital goods and services. The United Nations (UN) declared 2021–2030 as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Roadmap for the Ocean Decade aims to achieve six critical societal outcomes (SOs) by 2030, through the pursuit of four objectives (Os). It specifically recognizes the scarcity of biological data for deep-sea biomes, and challenges the global scientific community to conduct research to advance understanding of deep-sea ecosystems to inform sustainable management. In this paper, we map four key scientific questions identified by the academic community to the Ocean Decade SOs: (i) What is the diversity of life in the deep ocean? (ii) How are populations and habitats connected? (iii) What is the role of living organisms in ecosystem function and service provision? and (iv) How do species, communities, and ecosystems respond to disturbance? We then consider the design of a global-scale program to address these questions by reviewing key drivers of ecological pattern and process. We recommend using the following criteria to stratify a global survey design: biogeographic region, depth, horizontal distance, substrate type, high and low climate hazard, fished/unfished, near/far from sources of pollution, licensed/protected from industry activities. We consider both spatial and temporal surveys, and emphasize new biological data collection that prioritizes southern and polar latitudes, deeper (> 2000 m) depths, and midwater environments. We provide guidance on observational, experimental, and monitoring needs for different benthic and pelagic ecosystems. We then review recent efforts to standardize biological data and specimen collection and archiving, making “sampling design to knowledge application” recommendations in the context of a new global program. We also review and comment on needs, and recommend actions, to develop capacity in deep-sea research; and the role of inclusivity - from accessing indigenous and local knowledge to the sharing of technologies - as part of such a global program. We discuss the concept of a new global deep-sea biological research program ‘Challenger 150,’ highlighting what it could deliver for the Ocean Decade and UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.
Today, many science communicators are using social media to share scientific information with citizens, but, as research has shown, fostering conversational exchanges remains a challenge. This largely qualitative study investigated the communication strategies applied by individual scientists and environmental non-governmental organizations on Twitter and Instagram to determine whether particular social media practices encourage two-way conversations between science communicators and citizens. Data from Twitter and Instagram posts, interviews with the communicators, and a survey of audience members were triangulated to identify emergent communication strategies and the resulting engagement; provide insight into why particular practices are employed by communicators; and explain why audiences choose to participate in social media conversations with communicators. The results demonstrate that the application of interpersonal communication strategies encourage conversational engagement, in terms of the number of comments and unique individuals involved in conversations. In particular, using selfies (images and videos), non-scientific content, first person pronoun-rich captions, and responding to comments result in the formation of communicator-audience relationships, encouraging two-way conversations on social media. Furthermore, the results indicate that Instagram more readily supports the implementation of interpersonal communication strategies than Twitter, making Instagram the preferred platform for promoting conversational exchanges. These findings can be applicable to diverse communicators, subjects, audiences, and environments (online and offline) in initiatives to promote awareness and understanding of science.
Identifying sources of variability in public perceptions and attitudes toward sharks can assist managers and conservationists with developing effective strategies to raise awareness and support for the conservation of threatened shark species. This study examined the effect of several demographic, economic and socioenvironmental factors on the quality of knowledge about and perceptions toward sharks in two contrasting scenarios from northeastern Brazil: a shark hazardous coastal region and a marine protected insular area. Ordered logistic regression models were built using Likert data collected with a self-administered questionnaire survey (N = 1094). A clear relationship between education, knowledge and perceptions was found, with low education level and knowledge of sharks resulting in more negative perceptions toward these species. Prejudice toward sharks stemmed as a potentially limiting factor because the positive effects of other variables such as affinity for nature and specific knowledge about sharks were superseded by the effects of negative prejudice. Other practical factors such as age, economic level, and gender, also influenced respondent’s knowledge and perceptions and could provide a guidance for optimizing socioenvironmental gains relative to public engagement efforts. Results also suggested that populations inhabiting regions with high shark bite incidence likely require distinct outreach methods because some factors underlying knowledge and perception dynamics exhibited structural differences in their effects when compared to the trends observed in a marine protected area. Altogether, public perceptions and attitudes toward sharks could be feasibly enhanced with educational development and nature experiencing strategies. Moreover, disseminating shark-specific knowledge across the society might catalyze support for the conservation of these species in a cost-effective way. This study provides a potentially useful socioenvironmental framework to deal with the human dimensions of shark management and to strengthen conservation policies aimed at promoting societal compliance with pro-environmental values, which is crucial to endow shark populations with effective protection from anthropogenic threats.
A critical component of textbooks is fair representation of the material they cover. Within conservation biology, fair coverage is particularly important given Earth’s breadth of species and diversity of ecosystems. However, research on species tends to be biased towards certain taxonomic groups and geographic areas and their associated ecosystems, so it is possible that textbooks may exhibit similar biases. Considering the possibility of bias, our goal was to evaluate contemporary conservation biology textbooks to determine if they are representative of Earth’s biodiversity. We found that textbooks did not accurately reflect Earth’s biodiversity. Species, ecosystems, and continents were unevenly represented, few examples mentioned genetic diversity, and examples of negative human influence on the environment outweighed positive examples. However, in terms of aquatic versus terrestrial representation, textbooks presented a representative sample. Our findings suggest that modern conservation biology textbooks are biased in their coverage, which could have important consequences for educating our next generation of scientists and practitioners.
Scientific research and expertise play a critical role in informing legislative decisions and guiding effective policy. However, significant communication gaps persist between scientists and policymakers. While interest in science policy among researchers has substantially increased in recent decades, traditional academic and research careers rarely provide formal training or exposure to the inner workings of government, public policy, or communicating scientific findings to broad audiences. Here, we offer 10 practical steps for scientists who want to engage in science policy efforts, with a focus on state and federal policy in the United States. We first include a primer to government structure and tailoring science communication for a policymaker audience. We then provide action-oriented steps that focus on arranging and successfully navigating meetings with government officials. Finally, we suggest structural steps in academia that would provide resources and support for students, researchers, and faculty who are interested in policy. We offer our perspective, as early-career marine scientists who have participated in policy discussions at state and federal levels and through the American Geophysical Union’s “Voices for Science” program. This guide offers potential pathways for engagement in science policy, and provides researchers with tangible actions to effectively reach stakeholders. Lastly, we hope to activate further conversations on best practices for policy engagement, particularly for researchers interested in careers at the science policy interface.
There is a disconnect between ambition and achievement of the UN Agenda 2030 and associated Sustainable Development Goals that is especially apparent when it comes to ocean and coastal health. While scientific knowledge is critical to confront and resolve contradictions that reproduce unsustainable practices at the coast and to spark global societal change toward sustainability, it is not enough in itself to catalyze large scale behavioral change. People learn, understand and generate knowledge in different ways according to their experiences, perspectives, and culture, amongst others, which shape responses and willingness to alter behavior. Historically, there has been a strong connection between art and science, both of which share a common goal to understand and describe the world around us as well as provide avenues for communication and enquiry. This connection provides a clear avenue for engaging multiple audiences at once, evoking emotion and intuition to trigger stronger motivations for change. There is an urgent need to rupture the engrained status quo of disciplinary divisions across academia and society to generate transdisciplinary approaches to global environmental challenges. This paper describes the evolution of an art-science collaboration (Catching a Wave) designed to galvanize change in the Anthropocene era by creating discourse drivers for transformations that are more centered on society rather than the more traditional science-policy-practice nexus.
As conservation has limited funds, numerous studies have identified aesthetic characteristics of successful flagship species which generate donations and conservation. However, prior information about species can also impact human preferences, and may covary with animal appearance, leading to different conclusions about which species will be most effective. To separate these two factors, we use images of imaginary animals as a novel paradigm to investigate preferences for animal appearance in conservation donors. Using discrete choice experiments, we show that potential conservation donors prefer larger imaginary animals which are multicolored and cooler toned. We found no effect of eye position or fur, which we used as a proxy for mammalian species. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these preferences can predict the number of donations received by species‐specific conservation charities. These results suggest coloring, and particularly number of colors, is an overlooked aspect of animal appeal, and an important aesthetic characteristic for identifying future flagship species.
Plastics, owing to their various beneficial properties (durability, flexibility and lightweight nature), are widely regarded as the workhorse material of our modern society. Being ubiquitously and increasingly present over the past 60 years, they provide various benefits to the global economy. However, inappropriate and/or uncontrolled disposal practices, poor waste management infrastructure, and application of insufficient recycling technologies, coupled with a lack of public awareness and incentives, have rendered plastic waste (PW) omnipresent, littering both the marine and the terrestrial environment with multifaceted impacts. The plastic marine litter issue has received much attention, especially in the past decade. There is a plethora of articles and reports released on an annual basis, as well as a lot of ongoing research, which render the issue either to be overexposured or misconstrued. In addition, there are several misinterpretations that surround the presence and environmental impact of plastics in the oceans and, consequently, human health, that require much more critical and scientific thinking. This short communication aims at unveiling any existing misconceptions and attempts to place this global challenge within its real magnitude, based either on scientific facts or nuances.