First impressions based on facial appearance predict many important social outcomes. We investigated whether such impressions also influence the communication of scientific findings to lay audiences, a process that shapes public beliefs, opinion, and policy. First, we investigated the traits that engender interest in a scientist’s work, and those that create the impression of a “good scientist” who does high-quality research. Apparent competence and morality were positively related to both interest and quality judgments, whereas attractiveness boosted interest but decreased perceived quality. Next, we had members of the public choose real science news stories to read or watch and found that people were more likely to choose items that were paired with “interesting-looking” scientists, especially when selecting video-based communications. Finally, we had people read real science news items and found that the research was judged to be of higher quality when paired with researchers who look like “good scientists.” Our findings offer insights into the social psychology of science, and indicate a source of bias in the dissemination of scientific findings to broader society.
Food for Thought
Expanding human populations favors a few species while extinguishing and endangering many others (Maxwell et al., 2016; Pimm et al., 2014). Understanding how animals perceive and learn about dangers and rewards can aid conservationists seeking to limit abundant or restore rare species (Schakner and Blumstein, 2016; Greggor et al., 2014; Angeloni et al., 2008; Fernández-Juricic and Schulte, 2016). Cognition research is informing conservation science by suggesting how naïve prey learn novel predators (Griffin et al., 2000; Moseby et al., 2015; Schakner et al., 2016; Blumstein, 2016), the mechanisms underlying variation in tolerance of human disturbance (Bostwick et al., 2014), and when natural aversions and fear learning can be leveraged to humanely control predators (Nielsen et al., 2015; Colman et al., 2014; Norbury et al., 2014; Lance et al., 2010; Cross et al., 2013). Insights into the relationships between cognition and adaptability suggest that behavioral inflexibility often presages species rarity (Amiel et al., 2011; Reif et al., 2011; Sol et al., 2008; Zhang et al., 2014; but see Kellert, 1984). Human compassion and restraint are ultimately required to conserve species. Cognitive science can therefore further inform conservation by revealing the complex inner worlds of the animals we threaten and, in partnership with environmental psychologists, explore how such newfound knowledge affects our empathy for other species and ultimately the public’s actions on behalf of species in need of conservation (Collado et al., 2013; Zhang et al., 2014).
Marine litter from lightweight plastic bags is a global problem that must be solved. A plastic bag tax was implemented in February 2015 to reduce the consumption of plastic grocery bags in Portugal and in turn reduce the potential contribution to marine litter. This study analyzes the effect of the plastic bag tax on consumer behavior to learn how it was received and determine the perceived effectiveness of the tax 4 months after its implementation. In addition, the study assessed how proximity to coastal areas could influence behaviors and opinions. The results showed a 74% reduction of plastic bag consumption with a simultaneously 61% increase of reusable plastic bags after the tax was implemented. Because plastic bags were then reused for shopping instead of garbage bags, however, the consumption of garbage bags increased by 12%. Although reduction was achieved, the tax had no effect on the perception of marine litter or the impact of plastic bags on environment and health. The majority of respondents agree with the tax but view it as an extra revenue to the State. The distance to the coast had no meaningful influence on consumer behavior or on the perception of the tax. Although the tax was able to promote the reduction of plastics, the role of hypermarkets and supermarkets in providing alternatives through the distribution of reusable plastic bags was determinant to ensuring the reduction.
The objectives of conservation science and dissemination of its research create a paradox: Conservation is about preserving the environment, yet scientists spread this message at conferences with heavy carbon footprints. Ecology and conservation science depend on global knowledge exchange—getting the best science to the places it is most needed. However, conference attendance from developed countries typically outweighs that from developing countries that are biodiversity and conservation hotspots. If any branch of science should be trying to maximize participation while minimizing carbon emissions, it is conservation. Virtual conferencing is common in other disciplines, such as education and humanities, but it is surprisingly underused in ecology and conservation. Adopting virtual conferencing entails a number of challenges, including logistics and unified acceptance, which we argue can be overcome through planning and technology. We examined 4 conference models: a pure-virtual model and 3 hybrid hub-and-node models, where hubs stream content to local nodes. These models collectively aim to mitigate the logistical and administrative challenges of global knowledge transfer. Embracing virtual conferencing addresses 2 essential prerequisites of modern conferences: lowering carbon emissions and increasing accessibility for remote, time- and resource-poor researchers, particularly those from developing countries.
Marine conservation actions are promoted to conserve natural values and support human wellbeing. Yet the quality of governance processes and the social consequences of some marine conservation initiatives have been the subject of critique and even human rights complaints. These types of governance and social issues may jeopardize the legitimacy of, support for and long-term effectiveness of marine conservation. Thus, we argue that a clearly articulated and comprehensive set of social standards - a code of conduct - is needed to guide marine conservation. In this paper, we draw on the results of an expert meeting and scoping review to present key principles that might be taken into account in a code of conduct, to propose a draft set of foundational elements for inclusion in a code of conduct, to discuss the benefits and challenges of such a document, and to propose next steps to develop and facilitate the uptake of a broadly applicable code of conduct within the marine conservation community. The objectives of developing such a code of conduct are to promote fair conservation governance and decision-making, socially just conservation actions and outcomes, and accountable conservation practitioners and organizations. The uptake and implementation of a code of conduct would enable marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective, thereby contributing to a truly sustainable ocean.
In the 2010s, the ‘Blue Economy’ has been widely advocated by a spectrum of interests as a strategy to save the world’s oceans and water. This article explores what the Blue Economy moment is and how geographers can engage with it. It acknowledges recent efforts by geographers to understand Blue Economy but goes further by outlining the European Union’s Blue Economy programmes and by discussing these in relation to recent agenda setting in marine science. We argue that in spite of apparent convergence on this goal, the Blue Economy imaginary disciplines disparate knowledge for economic projects, when the planetary reality is that every economic project is axiomatically a biological project, with some economic aspects. In this context, the article outlines how assemblage thinking could be relevant to a human geography engagement with Blue Economy and what this could like, and how a relational conception of Blue Economy helps advance understanding. Finally, we discuss the difficulties and potential for human geographers to be genuinely enactive given the disciplinary framings that have already been assumed or imposed through Blue Economy. This last is highlighted by discussing engagement in a particular New Zealand Blue Economy initiative. Rather than either promoting or critiquing Blue Economy, we encourage informed and critical engagement with Blue Economy by geographers.
Among the many threats that can be recorded on sandy beaches, plastic litter represents a serious problem for these complex and endangered ecosystems. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is increasingly abundant as a form of plastic litter in natural environments, particularly along shores and waterways. Nevertheless, despite the great number of scientific articles concerning the impact of litter on animal species, there are still no research focusing on the interaction between this type of beach litter and other biodiversity components. In this work, we reported the first evidence of interactions between EPS and living plants along a sandy beach of Tyrrhenian central Italy. We sampled 540 EPS items, mainly deriving from fishery activities (>75%). We obtained evidence for an interaction between EPS and plants: about 5% of items resulted perforated or have roots of three species (Phragmites australis, Spartina versicolor, Anthemis maritima). Apparently, we did not observed a relationship between plants and EPS items size. More research is needed to assess if the plant assemblage growing on EPS is random or if peculiar substrate exerts some sort of selection on the plant community.
Perceived changes in the culture of sponge science and sponge conferences served as motivation for an evaluation of the sponge science community and research, over time and at present. Observed changes included a decrease in proceedings publications on sponge fossils and freshwater sponges, sponges from temperate environments, review papers and data syntheses, frequency of aquarium studies, and number of species investigated per publication. Publications on recent sponges, hexactinellids, calcareans, marine, Indo-Pacific and warm-water sponges increased, as well as the number of authors per publication and the proportion of field studies. Studies at the level of specimens and ultrastructure were gradually replaced by molecular approaches, but studies at the community level remained stable. The five sub-disciplines morphology/taxonomy, phylogeny/evolution, physiology, ecology and faunistics also retained about equal proportions over time. Conference publications related to taxonomy, phylogeny and biodiversity prevailed, whereas those on management and conservation were rare, possibly because studies on sponge recovery, survival and mortality were also scarce. The community of sponge scientists has grown and become more diverse over time, presently representing 72 nations. The gender distribution evened out since the first sponge conference and presently favours women at early and men at late career stages. Although stated research interests are generally dominated by physiology and ecology, taxonomy and evolution are favoured after retirement. Sponge science has become more dynamic, but maybe also more competitive and less inclusive. We now face the dual challenge of safeguarding against the loss of some sub-disciplines, and fostering the collaborative, helpful culture characteristic of sponge science.
The deep-sea is a large source of marine genetic resources (MGR), which have many potential uses and are a growing area of research. Much of the deep-sea lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), including 65% of the global ocean. MGR in ABNJ occupy a significant gap in the international legal framework. Access and benefit sharing of MGR is a key issue in the development of a new international legally-binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ. This paper examines how this is relevant to deep-sea scientific research and identifies emerging challenges and opportunities. There is no internationally agreed definition of MGR, however, deep-sea genetic resources could incorporate any biological material including genes, proteins and natural products. Deep-sea scientific research is the key actor accessing MGR in ABNJ and sharing benefits such as data, samples and knowledge. UNCLOS provides the international legal framework for marine scientific research, international science cooperation, capacity building and marine technology transfer. Enhanced implementation could support access and benefit sharing of MGR in ABNJ. Deep-sea scientific researchers could play an important role in informing practical new governance solutions for access and benefit sharing of MGR that promote scientific research in ABNJ and support deep-sea stewardship. Advancing knowledge of deep-sea biodiversity in ABNJ, enhancing open-access to data and samples, standardisation and international marine science cooperation are significant potential opportunity areas.
Despite its recognised importance for species’ persistence, integrating genetics into conservation management has proved problematic, creating a “conservation genetics gap”, which could widen with the advent of advanced genomic techniques. Bridging this gap requires a clear understanding of the barriers to use of genetics by conservation practitioners, but few (if any) papers on this topic involve direct consultation with practitioners themselves. We surveyed 148 conservation practitioners in New Zealand’s Department of Conservation regarding their attitude to, knowledge of, and experiences with genetics for conservation. Although practitioners were largely receptive to using genetics for conservation management, access to expertise and funding remains a barrier to use. Practitioners would like to collaborate with geneticists at universities or other institutes, but do not necessarily know who to talk to or fully understand how genetics might benefit them. We contend these barriers or similar likely exist at an international level, suggest ways they might be overcome, and emphasise the need for clearer communication between geneticists and practitioners.