For protected areas to achieve their conservation goals, visitors should be aware of reserve boundaries and follow the protective measures within them. However, lack of knowledge about the specifics of reserve geography and rules can lead to actions that adversely affect marine life (unsanctioned fishing and collecting) or disturb sensitive species within these areas, even when general support for protected areas is high. We assessed public awareness of State Marine Reserves locations and policies on the central California coast. Using surveys in the form of semi-structured interviews and written questionnaires, we asked beach visitors whether they had prior knowledge about State Marine Reserves. We provided half of participants with new knowledge about State Marine Reserves in the form of a verbal, short pre-survey speech. We asked participants to indicate if they were currently standing inside of a State Marine Reserve and assessed their self-reported likelihoods of performing several actions related to environmental etiquette such as following reserve rules. Finally, we tested how provisional new knowledge influences perceptions surrounding the importance of protecting marine habitats and human impacts on them. Overall, 60% of participants had heard of marine reserves, though this varied by participant region of residence. 33% of participants with prior knowledge and 13% of participants with no prior knowledge identified site protection status correctly. Over half of participants self-reported behaviors consistent with reserve rules and environmental etiquette. Survey participants who received new knowledge did not differ from the control group in their ability to correctly identify reserve location or in their perceptions of human impacts. Our results suggest that the information in our short verbal speech was not sufficient for changing perceptions, though over 90% of visitors stated marine protection to was already personally important or very important to them. Beach visitors intend to treat reserves well if they know they are visiting a reserve. However, because less than one third of visitors recognize reserve locations, a disconnect exists between understanding acceptable behavior for protected sites and knowing where to apply this behavior. Finally, we discuss the educational strategies of docent presence and place-based learning opportunities to improve awareness of marine reserves and their locations for local and non-local visitors.
Communication and Education
Environmental education for children is one of the fundamental tools required to reverse the degradation of our environment and the biodiversity erosion. Currently coral reefs are part of the vulnerable ecosystems which are most threatened by human activities and climate change. Responding to these pressures demands decisions at multiple scales, based on solid knowledge of coral reefs but also on strengthened awareness to build adaptive management solutions. Here we evaluate the impact of an environmental awareness campaign for children using a teaching toolbox developed by scientists (MARECO “The Coral Reef In Our Hands”). To assess this impact before and after using the toolbox, we analyzed the evolution of children's representations of coral reefs through drawings. This study was carried out in New Caledonia, focusing on five elementary schools in different social and cultural contexts (urban, rural and coastal). Two hundred and forty-eight drawings were made by children. The drawings were analyzed quantitatively using multivariate statistical analyses which reveals a diversity of representations in children with diverse sociocultural profiles, but also between schools, emphasizing that relationships with nature and marine environment vary according to direct and indirect experiences related to reefs. Furthermore, our results pointed out relevant differences in coral reef representations before and after the use of MARECO, particularly regarding their knowledge of reef biodiversity associated with multicolored organisms and the connection of coral reef with environment, the number of colors being used as a proxy of this holistic vision developed by children. These results point out the performance of MARECO as a playful tool to transfer scientific knowledge to children. Coral reef conservation is intimately linked to an awareness in young generations of the environmental challenges of tomorrow. To be agents of change in a sustainable world, children must be engaged in a fun, rigorous, action-oriented and socially responsible learning process such as the ones developed in participatory approaches.
Mass media is a useful way to inform the public about marine conservation, however studies about its effectiveness are lacking. This research explores the role of mass media in the diffusion of marine conservation information. Coverage of marine environmental issues in the mass media are assessed for Chile using a diversity of sources, namely, newspaper and broadcast television. In addition, public interest about conservation topics was assessed using Google Trends for Chile. Results show that there is a relatively low coverage of marine news in broadcast television and in newspapers. During the last decade, internet searches show the interest in marine conservation issues decreased and the only conservation related term, whose search increased over time, is sustainability. There is a tendency towards an increase in the number of newspaper publications related to economic and business issues. There seems to be no strategy from the environmental ministry or research institutions focused on developing a storyline related to marine conservation news in the mass media. Results stress the need to develop a long-term communications plan in order to strengthen diffusion of marine environmental impacts and conservation issues through mass media
There is increasing interest in the use of serious games in STEM education. Interactive simulations and serious games can be used by students to explore systems where it would be impractical or unethical to perform real world studies or experiments. Simulations also have the capacity to reveal the internal workings of systems where these details are hidden in the real world. However, there is still much to be investigated about the best methods for using these games in the classroom so as to derive the maximum educational benefit. We report on an experiment to compare two different methods of using a serious game for teaching a complex concept in marine ecology, in a university setting: expert demonstration versus exploration-based learning. We created an online game based upon a mathematical simulation of fishery management, modelling how fish populations grow and shrink in the presence of stock removal through fishing. The player takes on the role of a fishery manager, who must set annual catch quotas, making these as high as possible to maximise profit, without exceeding sustainable limits and causing the stock to collapse. There are two versions of the game. The “white-box” or “teaching” game gives the player full information about all model parameters and actual levels of stock in the ocean, something which is impossible to measure in reality. The “black-box” or “testing” game displays only the limited information that is available to fishery managers in the real world, and is used to test the player's understanding of how to use that information to solve the problem of estimating the optimal catch quota.
Our study addresses the question of whether students are likely to learn better by freely exploring the teaching game themselves, or by viewing a demonstration of the game being played expertly by the lecturer. We conducted an experiment with two groups of students, one using free, self-directed exploration and the other viewing an expert demonstration. Both groups were then assessed using the black box testing game, and completed a questionnaire. Our results show a statistically significant benefit for expert demonstration over free exploration. Qualitative analysis of the responses to the questionnaire demonstrates that students saw benefits to both teaching approaches, and many would have preferred a combination of expert demonstration with exploration of the game. The research was carried out among a mix of undergraduate and taught postgraduate science students. Future research challenges include extending the current study to larger cohorts and exploring the potential effectiveness of serious games and interactive simulation-based teaching methods in a range of STEM subjects in both university and school settings.
Science communication is seen as critical for the disciplines of ecology and conservation, where research products are often used to shape policy and decision making. Scientists are increasing their online media communication, via social media and news. Such media engagement has been thought to influence or predict traditional metrics of scholarship, such as citation rates. Here, we measure the association between citation rates and the Altmetric Attention Score—an indicator of the amount and reach of the attention an article has received—along with other forms of bibliometric performance (year published, journal impact factor, and article type). We found that Attention Score was positively correlated with citation rates. However, in recent years, we detected increasing media exposure did not relate to the equivalent citations as in earlier years; signalling a diminishing return on investment. Citations correlated with journal impact factors up to ∼13, but then plateaued, demonstrating that maximizing citations does not require publishing in the highest-impact journals. We conclude that ecology and conservation researchers can increase exposure of their research through social media engagement and, simultaneously, enhance their performance under traditional measures of scholarly activity.
There have been strong calls for scientists to share their discoveries with society. Some scientists have heeded these calls through social media platforms such as Twitter. Here, we ask whether Twitter allows scientists to promote their findings primarily to other scientists (“inreach”), or whether it can help them reach broader, non-scientific audiences (“outreach”). We analyzed the Twitter followers of more than 100 faculty members in ecology and evolutionary biology and found that their followers are, on average, predominantly (∼55%) other scientists. However, beyond a threshold of ∼1000 followers, the range of follower types became more diverse and included research and educational organizations, media, members of the public with no stated association with science, and a small number of decision-makers. This varied audience was, in turn, followed by more people, resulting in an exponential increase in the social media reach of tweeting academic scientists. Tweeting, therefore, has the potential to disseminate scientific information widely after initial efforts to gain followers. These results should encourage scientists to invest in building a social media presence for scientific outreach.
Citizen science projects can empower students as science learners and practitioners by enhancing students’ understanding of science content and process, exposing them to science careers, and increasing their awareness of environmental issues on local and global scales. A citizen science program invites members of the public to collaborate with professional scientists on scientific research. Citizen science offers a highly motivating project for many marine science students. Both in a formal and informal educational environment, citizen science can yield benefits to teachers and students. By examining the successful youth-based citizen science program LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students), this chapter discusses why and how to incorporate citizen science into marine science learning.
Previous research on the outcomes of environmental/marine education programmes has focused primarily on changes in knowledge and attitudes. However, students’ knowledge and attitudes do not necessarily directly predict outcomes of education programmes but rather serve as a proxy. Instead of focusing on content knowledge, this chapter shares findings from a study on environmental identity and discusses how the finding can be applied to marine education programmes to foster a strong ocean identity. An ocean identity is how people view themselves specifically in relation to an ocean environment. A student’s ocean identity takes into account non-traditional variables in education such as how students talk about relationships with non-human species, how values and life goals relate to the environment, and emotions expressed related to environmental fears and threats. Implications for practice and exemplary methods for fostering a strong ocean identity are shared. Examples include evaluating curriculum for potential biases related to values, focusing on self-transcendent reasons for behaviour change rather than monetary rewards, highlighting similarities between humans and other species rather than focusing on only differences, taking students outside to learn about the ocean, and learning to recognize when students are using coping strategies to deal with fears and threats related to the ocean.
Art-science collaborations are proliferating as the benefits of bringing artists and scientists together are increasingly recognised and supported. This paper documents an example of an artist and scientist with overlapping (as opposed to the more usual mutually exclusive) practices, in terms of artistic and scientific approaches to the research material. It illustrates how a collaboration between a marine social scientist (the author) and a visual artist within a specific art-science methodological framework helped to inspire a different approach to a marine protected area dispute between the Scottish Government and the small Scottish island community of Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The art-science collaboration resulted in Sea Stories, an interactive, online, cultural map of the sea around the island of Barra. The participatory mapping process to create the Sea Stories map involved visions and expressions of marine space being constructed through constant interaction between the research team and research participants. It revealed different ways of knowing the marine environment, hitherto not visible or acknowledged within the marine policy environment where the protection of biological diversity was the focus. The acknowledgement of a rich and diverse cultural heritage bound up with the marine biological diversity opened up possibilities for the design of a community-led and government-supported co-management process that recognises the social relations which form part of the island’s social-ecological system.
Recreational scuba diving is rapidly increasing, and the negative impacts to marine reef biota are of conservation concern. Educational approaches have been tested to mitigate diver damage to benthic organisms, but logistical constraints impede their implementation in many locations. We investigated the behaviors of scuba divers in terms of their contacts with benthic organisms, and assessed how an educational video-briefing caused changes in diver behavior. The video provided environmental information to divers, and enhanced their use of low-impact diving techniques. Divers who received the video-briefing exhibited significantly lower rates of contact with and damage to the benthos, than did divers who did not receive a briefing. The level of diving experience did not correlate with the rate of benthic contact in either group of divers. Male divers and photographers both contacted the benthos significantly less, and female divers and photographers both caused significantly less damage when they viewed the video-briefing prior to diving. Our findings highlight the importance of easily implemented, standardized educational approaches such as the use of video-briefings to mitigate the impacts of scuba diving. This study adds to the framework of tested strategies available to support the sustainable use of marine areas by the diving tourism industry.