Scientists active on sandy beach research were involved in a two-step process to depict the current status, highlighting critical points as well as strengths related to education on sandy beaches performed outside the academic environment. Firstly, an online questionnaire was submitted to the participants at the VIII International Sandy Beaches Symposium. The results were discussed and integrated by experiences at personal and institutional levels brought together by participants at the Symposium during a plenary workshop. Results highlighted a group of researchers engaged in education and outreach activities, willing to establish a dialogue which included the targets of education activities. Scientific literacy was seen as a necessary background for such a dialogue, in which specific gaps related to knowledge about sandy beaches could be addressed and rectified. A long-term vision and the establishment of a continuous path rather than one-off actions (as those related to specific, time-limited projects) was also seen as much needed for the implementation of effective actions. Main constraints preventing researchers from carrying out education activities outside academia were clearly identified as (in order of relevance): lack of recognition in terms of publications; lack of recognition in the academic environment; and lack of time. Considering these outcomes, the ideal dimension to establish effective solutions was identified at the national level. As a first step to counteract the constraints found, it is proposed to: target the collection of publishable data, e.g. basic indicators of success of education and outreach activities; and the use of “outreach” as an additional pillar for personnel evaluation. The provision of literacy principles should finally be the backbone of long-term actions.
Communication and Education
Sustainable management of coastal ecosystems requires engaged communities—communities that support sustainable management policies and are willing to adopt behaviours that promote waterway health. Information provision is a common component of engagement practices, yet little is known about what type of information will most effectively motivate engaged communities. We conducted an experimental study (N = 702) examining the effectiveness of different messages about benefits of sustainable coastal management. We examined two messages about cultural ecosystem services (economic benefits and lifestyle benefits), messages focused on conservation benefits, and a ‘control’ message, which mentioned threats to coastal ecosystems but no benefits of management. We also compared the effect of factual and moral arguments on engagement outcomes. Overall, economic messages generated lower intentions to adopt household behaviours, and reduced information seeking across the whole sample. Moral arguments were not more effective than messages using factual arguments. In fact, factual arguments were associated with greater policy support and behavioural intentions. We also examined the role of participant values, political orientation and knowledge on message effectiveness. Participants with a conservative political orientation exhibited poorer responses to framed messages, compared with the control message. These findings highlight the importance of considering message content when communicating with communities. Specifically, messages about ecosystem services may not be superior to environmental messages when communicating about local issues. Recommendations for effective communication commonly suggest aligning messages with audience values. While our findings do not contradict this, they do serve as a reminder to avoid simple assumptions about what these values may entail, and that groups less supportive of conservation goals are likely to require more specific strategies to enhance communication effectiveness.
Marine environments are complex and dynamic social-ecological systems, where social perceptions of ocean stewardship are diverse, resource use is potentially unsustainable, and conservation efforts rely strongly on public support or acceptance. Decreasing trust in science in recent years has led to weakened social acceptance and approval of marine conservation science. Social licence is a concept that reflects informal, unwritten public expectations about the impacts and benefits of industry and government practises, including research, on natural resources, including the ocean. Working toward improving social licence may provide opportunity to bolster support for marine conservation, by allowing communities to engage with marine issues and marine science, and voice their concerns and views. Here, we argue that marine conservation requires social licence and we highlight science advocacy, accomplished through outreach, as a means to achieve this. We identify a role for marine conservation science to engage with the public through advocacy to improve understanding and perceptions of conservation. Drawing from the literature, we describe how science advocacy can enhance social licence for marine conservation research and outline four steps that can advise marine conservation scientists to achieve and promote social licence for their research and the wider marine conservation community.
This article discusses the tendency within environmental communication to homogenise diverse situations. Utilising the case of whale conservation it describes how actors on both sides of the whaling debate utilise the ‘super-whale’ – a homogenised discursive construct. The article argues that there are pragmatic advantages to such framing of environmental situations but also costs. In the case of whale conservation, the super-whale maintains focus on whaling rather than other, arguably more pressing, threats to whale species. More generally, utilising such framing tactics arguably prevent the voicing of new narratives about the global social order.
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.
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.