This paper evaluates the effectiveness of a public information campaign, which was conducted on a major Greek Island (Syros), aimed at reducing plastic waste - and specifically plastic bags - in the local coastal/marine environment. A choice experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects on individual preferences for reducing plastic waste pollution under different status of environmental awareness, after the information campaign. The evaluation process was quite independent of the information campaign. Two samples of respondents were taken; one consisting of participants in the environmental campaign and the other consisting of non-participants. The results show: (a) significant differences between the preferences of the two samples; (b) variations in the willingness to pay values between the two samples for protection of the coastal/marine environment, but; (c) not significant differences in their commitment to take action (i.e. in their willingness to alter their current plastic bag use behavior).
Communication and Education
In recent years, some scientists have expressed concern about the negative representation of the state of the oceans in the media. To examine this concern empirically, we analyzed the content of 169 articles in mainstream U.S. newspapers covering ocean-related research between 2001 and 2015. Content was categorized according to main issue, basis of evidence, causal attribution, presence of solutions and uncertainty, and coded for doom and gloom and optimistic language. Science journalism about ocean issues most commonly addressed climate change and the status of ocean species or populations. The majority of articles cited peer-reviewed research. Most articles attributed change to anthropogenic causes, although ocean science articles addressing climate change were less likely to do so. Uncertain language and solutions were observed in nearly half of all articles. Optimistic language outnumbered doom and gloom language across all categories. While doom and gloom language was identified in 10% of all articles, optimistic language was present in 27%.
Developing the workforce to meet the needs of the blue economy will require changing undergraduate marine science programs to provide a wider range of skills developed by “doing” rather than just “reading.” Students also need training on how to effectively work in a team, critically analyze data, and be able to clearly communicate key points. With that in mind, we developed a new undergraduate course (called Ocean Observing) focused on conducting research by analyzing data collected and delivered to shore in near real time from the growing global network of ocean observatories. The course structure is based on student teams that use data to develop a range of data products, many of which have been suggested by state and federal agencies as well as from maritime companies. Students can take the Ocean Observing course repeatedly throughout their undergraduate career. A complimentary second entry course (called Oceanography House) was developed to entrain freshmen first-term students into research on their first semester on campus. The Ocean Observing course has increased the number of marine science majors and the overall diversity of the marine science program and resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of independent student theses conducted each year. Over the last 10 years, student data profiles from the course emphasize the importance of conducting research in a public way so students can partake in the “adventure” of research before the outcome is known. To increase the public visibility of these “adventures,” collaborations between departments across the campus have developed nationally broadcast documentaries and outreach materials. Going forward, we seek to build on this success by developing an accelerated Masters of Operational Oceanography and link these undergraduate students with external companies through externships and coordinated research projects.
Social media has revolutionized how people communicate with one another. This has important implications for science, environmental advocacy, and natural resource management, with numerous documented professional benefits for people in each of these fields. Some fisheries management professionals have been wary of social media use, in no small part due to unfamiliarity. The goal of this paper is to summarize the professional benefits of social media usage that are applicable for fisheries science and management professionals and to provide a detailed guide for those who wish to get started. Though many Web 2.0 tools exist, this paper will focus on the use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.
Coverage of issues by news media is known to impact on both public perceptions and policy development aimed at addressing the featured issues. We examine the potential impact of news media coverage regarding the health and potential future of the World heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, which is under multiple pressures, both natural and anthropogenic. We draw on the extant literature regarding the impact of news media coverage of other complex issues, linking to relevant, albeit limited theoretical concepts that have been applied to previous media studies. We find that media coverage is predominately sensationalized and negative, with the potential to reinforce perceptions that mitigation attempts will be ineffective and thus likely to inhibit future policy development. We discuss the need for a review of existing science communication models and strategies to reduce the knowledge-practice gap between scientists and policy makers, together with proactive strategies to counter negative news coverage.
Modern zoos and aquariums aspire to contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation and research. For example, conservation research is a key accreditation criterion of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). However, no studies to date have quantified this contribution. We assessed the research productivity of 228 AZA members using scientific publications indexed in the ISI Web of Science (WoS) database between 1993 and 2013 (inclusive). AZA members published 5175 peer-reviewed manuscripts over this period, with publication output increasing over time. Most publications were in the zoology and veterinary science subject areas, and articles classified as “biodiversity conservation” by WoS averaged 7% of total publications annually. From regression analyses, AZA organizations with larger financial assets generally published more, but research-affiliated mission statements were also associated with increased publication output. A strong publication record indicates expertise and expands scientific knowledge, enhancing organizational credibility. Institutions aspiring for higher research productivity likely require a dedicated research focus and adequate institutional support through research funding and staffing. We recommend future work build on our results by exploring links between zoo and aquarium research productivity and conservation outcomes or uptake.
Science helps us identify problems, understand their extent, and begin to find solutions; it helps us understand future directions for our society. Scientists bear witness to scenes of change and discovery that most people will never experience. Yet the vividness of these experiences is often left out when scientists talk and write about their work. A growing community of practice is showing that scientists can share their message in an engaging way using a strategy that most are already familiar with: storytelling. Here we draw on our experiences leading scientist communication training and hosting science storytelling events at the International Marine Conservation Congress to share basic techniques, tips, and resources for incorporating storytelling into any scientist’s communication toolbox.
Environmental education has long been recognized as critical for achieving environmental awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour consistent with sustainable development and for effective participation in environmental decision-making. Since the Declaration of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment concerns about marine pollution and ecotoxicology, among other environmental challenges, should be included in environmental education. However, in the more than forty years since this significant environmental Declaration, marine education has struggled to find a place in the school curriculum of most countries, even though issues such as climate change, chemical contamination of marine environments, coastal eutrophication, and seafood safety continue to threaten human and other species' well-being. This viewpoint discusses how marine education is marginalized in school education, and how marine specialists need to embed school education in their action plans. Particular questions include: who should be educated, about what, where and with what goals in mind?
This article reports on new research that finds certain messages reduce fear of sharks, key to promoting conservation-minded responses to shark bites. Here it is argued that the sophistication in public feelings toward these highly emotional events has allowed new actors to mobilize and given rise to the ‘Save the Sharks’ movement. In a unique experiment coupling randomly assigned intent-based priming messages with exposure to sharks in a ‘shark tunnel’, a potential path to reduce public fear of sharks and alter policy preferences is investigated. Priming for the absence of intent yielded significant fear extinction effects, providing a viable means of increasing support for non-lethal policy options following shark bite incidents. High levels of pride and low levels of blame for bite incidents are also found. In all, this article provides a step towards improving our understanding of fear and fear reduction in public policy.
The marine world is, to many, remote and exotic. For city residents to fully embrace the wonder and beauty of the ocean world, and to actively work on its behalf, it will require emotional connection and caring. There are many different ways to do this and several of the more compelling and creative are described here: using social media to foster a sense of fascination and concern for the great white shark; taking children into the water and challenging them to find, look, touch and learn about the nature there; sending real-time video images from underwater divers to the surface; developing new long term institutions, such as a New York Harbor School and the Billion Oyster Project, to educate and engage residents of all ages. There are now compelling models that other cities can follow to foster this deep sense of emotional connection and caring for the marine realm.