A Stewart in bamfield

This site celebrates the west coast marine environment and promotes ocean literacy in Canada.

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Transatlantic Ocean Literacy Workshop

This is a blog about the Trans-Atlantic Ocean Literacy (TOL) Workshop, held at the University of Gothenburg, September 30, 2014. The views here are my own, not the official report. In this blog you will find some of the back-story and context of the TOL workshop, including information on the organizations and individuals involved. This approach helps in understanding the complexities and challenges of advancing meaningful and substantive ocean literacy across the Atlantic and around the world.

I am grateful to the TOL Workshop organizing committee listed here.

  • Evy Copejans – Belgium
  • Diana Payne – USA
  • Fiona Couch – UK
  • Geraldine Fauville – Sweden
  • Peter Tuddenham – USA

This team, joined by presenters and facilitators accomplished a great deal in this a one-day, decision-making workshop. I was caught off guard by how fast the time flew, during this tightly packed and well orchestrated day.

The organizing committee stated that “the overarching goals of the workshop” were “to catalyze transatlantic collaborations in ocean science research and education and to advance our collective work in ocean literacy.”

The approach was to build on work done previously in:

  • Bruges, BE in October, 2012 at the First Conference on Ocean Literacy in Europe, hosted by the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA)
  • Ireland, May 2013 with the signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation by Canada, USA and EU.
  • Plymouth, UK in September, 2013, at the first TOL workshop and second EMSEA conference.
  • Annapolis, US in July 2014 at the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) conference and their International Committee’s pre-conference workshop on Ocean Literacy.

The work part of this workshop involved:

  • Preparation, dialogue, reflection and decision-making about the adoption and implementation of the Ocean Literacy Framework, (the focus of three workshops at EMSEA13 in Plymouth).
  • Learning more from national case studies in advancing ocean literacy
  • Identifying priority actions to increase transatlantic ocean literacy.
  • Making decisions leading to the creation of a draft action plan for TOL

We started with a round of delegate introductions. This international group of 27 participants came from 11 EU countries, plus the United States, Canada and for the first time, Brazil. There were also a few Americans attending through Skype. Before I dive into the workshop contents, I want to introduce you (with some help from their web-sites) to a few of the attendees and the organizations they represent, to help put their important contributions into context.

Francesca Santoro represented UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. The significance of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), is described on their web-site:

Established in 1960 as a functional autonomous body within UNESCO, it is the only competent organization for marine science within the UN system. The purpose of the Commission is to promote international cooperation and to coordinate programmes in research, services and capacity-building, in order to learn more about the nature and resources of the ocean and coastal areas and to apply that knowledge for the improvement of management, sustainable development, the protection of the marine environment, and the decision-making processes of its Member States.”

Francesca brought several important high-level, international events to our attention including IOC-UNESCO’s 2nd International Ocean Research Conference, One Planet One Ocean (IORC), Barcelona (ES) and the Marine Session at UNESCO’s World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, Aichi-Nagoya. She felt that these would be valuable venues to advance ocean literacy within already receptive and capable communities.

Gaelle Le Bouler, attended from the EUs’ Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, which is the body that “defines and implements European Research and Innovation (R&I) policy with a view to achieving the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy and its key flagship initiative, the Innovation Union”. The EU strategy explicitly includes achieving ocean literacy “by helping citizens understand the influence of seas and oceans on their lives and how their behaviour can have an impact on marine ecosystems.” The EU sees ocean literacy as a “pre-requisite to ecosystem-based marine management and the promotion of understanding/protection of marine ecosystem services.” Although the core of the EU strategy involves sustainable exploitation of marine resources and more jobs, it is balanced with good ocean environmental stewardship. It is understood that the “development of the new maritime economy can have important socioeconomic consequences in coastal and marine areas, with potential synergies and/or conflicts between old and new activities.” The EU sees that “these developments, together with pressures from human activities and climate change on the marine environment, make it crucial to engage with citizens and stakeholders about seas and ocean challenges.”
Gaelle brought the group up to speed on ‘la guerre de la mer’, and Blue Growth working groups. There are six teams that are up and running, including the marine working group, arctic, scientific, engineering, etc.. There is trilateral representation on the steering committee Paula Keener (NOAA), Gaelle (EU) and Fisheries & Oceans (Canada). She noted that work with Canada was less advanced and did not know who was the Canadian representative. Gaelle also talked about Horizon 2020 calls for proposals and reminded us of the upcoming late November announcement date for the competition for Blue Growth: Unlocking the potential of Seas and Oceans, BG-13-2014, Topic: Ocean literacy – Engaging with society – Social Innovation.

Ana Noronha was there from Portugal’s National Agency for Culture, Science and Technology, the Ciencia Viva, Conhecer os Oceanos (Knowing the Ocean) project and remarked on the successful route her country has followed. Portugal is a European leader in adopting the seven essential principles of ocean science and is years ahead of everyone in adapting the concepts of the Ocean Literacy Framework to the Portuguese reality. They have taken a consultative approach in collaboration with their research institutes of Marine Sciences and Education. The last few years have seen an expansion beyond marinating science curriculum to including history and geography and they are now moving on to art and culture to ensure that the ocean is at the heart of Portuguese cognizance. Portugal is a nation to look up to, for successful, efficient strategies in advancing ocean literacy.

In my view, the Americans are the parents of Ocean Literacy, including the well-represented adoptive parents, the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) (Diana Payne, Susan Haynes, Meghan Merrero, Adam Frederick) and the god-parents Peter Tuddenham and Tina Bishop, (College of Exploration). There is much we can learn from the American experience and looking at the role of one individual may seem frivolous but certainly helped me understand the complexity of layers and the calibre of webs at the individual level.

Gail Scowcroft stood out in the American crowd, because of the passion and persuasiveness of what she had to say and the depth and breadth of her knowledge and commitment to ocean literacy. With further research I found out why. Gail is faculty at University of Rhode Island (URI) School for Graduate School for Oceanographic Studies, a Senior Fellow at the Coastal Institute and founder of the National Science Foundation funded Coordination Office for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance. She is also the Executive Director of the American Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE), which under Gail’s leadership COSEE is transforming from a National Science Foundation network to an independent and international consortium. Gail does all of this from the URI Office of Marine Programs where she is also the Associate Director of the Inner Space Center (ISC). I know it is a bit of a tangent from the workshop but lets just look at the tip of this one iceberg – ISC.

ISC is like ‘mission control’ for oceanographic expeditions and utilizes “telepresence technologies to bring oceanographic exploration to the world in real time”. A list of a few of the center’s partners read like a who’s who of American organizations and agencies advancing ocean literacy; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer, National Marine Sanctuaries, Ocean Exploration Trust, E/V Nautilus feed, Sea Research Foundation, National Geographic, COSEE and Smithsonian. Gail is doing really amazing work in advancing ocean literacy from training teachers in new marine technologies, to networking organizations to “increase adoption of effective, high quality educational programs and resources” Maybe you can see why I was impressed and how just a name on a list of participants doesn’t tell much of the story. My completely boiled-down, take-away messages from Gail were:

  • Include the scientists in science education
  • Include undergraduates in marine science education, k- 16 instead of k – 12

Matt Rockall and I were the only Canadian participants and represented the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE). CaNOE is a coast to coast, to coast, pan-Canadian network that is working to advance ocean literacy in Canada and abroad. I was completely humbled by the workshop participants and was honoured to be a part of it. Most amazingly, not only were they ocean literacy superheroes, they were also warm, funny and very approachable. I also guessed that for each name on the list of participants there is an amazing back-story that would fill many blogs. I will resist that urge and get on with the workshop.

John Parr (UK) of the Marine Biological Association (MBA) presented the results of previous TOL meetings including the published Vision Statement[1] and his colleague Fiona Crouch (MBA/EMSEA) and UK American Peter Tuddenham presented an overview of recent and up-coming TOL activities.

Ana Noronha and Evy Copejans facilitated the first workshop component on adapting and implementing the US Ocean Literacy Framework, by presenting national case studies from Portugal and Belgium. This was followed by discussion, reflection and a vote. In her presentation, Ana asked why the ocean is so important to Portugal and answered that “Portugal is more ocean than land, the ocean is at our heart and also is our future”. Portugal benefitted by adopting and adapting the Ocean Literacy Framework early and managing the project of adoption and adaptation, with clarity and purpose. The first step was consultation with Portuguese ocean scientists. The second piece was science education, seen as a platform between scientists, communicators, educators and the general public. Research revealed that the ocean was scattered around the curricula and sometimes missed: so working with experts, they did science education, and then moved on to history and geography education consultations. They wove the ocean into curriculum, did posters and mapping of the curriculum, teacher training, and set up a web-page with information and all the resources created since 2003, classified according to the seven principles. These successes included engagement at all levels of Portuguese society from media coverage of high-level politicians engaging and promoting ocean literacy to the empowerment of teachers and working at the community level. Using a project management approach, they made it their own, moved it forward and have considerably advanced ocean literacy in Portugal, providing a shining example of what can be done where there is a will.

Evy is the Senior Science Officer in the Communications Division, at the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). The VLIZ mission has “evolved into the central coordination and information platform for marine and coastal scientific research in Flanders. As a partner in various projects and networks VLIZ also promotes and supports the international image of Flemish marine scientific research and international marine education.” Evy and her colleagues Eggermont, Hoeberigs and Seys found Belgian geography and biology students learn most about the sea outside of school. There are some well-known, isolated facts but survey results indicated poor knowledge concerning oceans and seas with average scores of 52%. Evy made the point that the ocean is really integral to science literacy and one cannot be science literate without being ocean literate. As in many countries, making curricular changes is a challenging, long-term goal and lobby power is needed for changes at that level. In the meantime they are trying to help fill the gaps.

It is often too rough and cold to go out to sea in the North Sea, so the Flemish strategy has been to bring the ocean to classes by marinating the curriculum, creating teacher’s resources and creating booklets for teachers on topics already covered in class e.g. physics – waves; chemistry – ocean pH changes; biology – photosynthesis. Evy emphasized that effective, educational transformation requires motivated teachers, and she sees that investing in teachers is really important. VLIZ is working with the Flemish Science Teacher Association and they have invited curriculum developers, to Bruges, to work on topics such as the evolution of whales, chemosynthesis, enzyme labs, ocean ecology, sustainable issues regarding ocean plastic pollution etc.

In Belgium, there is a pragmatic viewpoint regarding adoption of the seven principles: why reinvent the world? Adopt and move on to the next level of the framework, the concepts. There are still some cultural issues to over-come conceptually, for example, Belgium does not have the culture of exploration but can reframe it into an approach of discovery. In the Belgian education system, there is a strong distinction between geography, biology, physics and chemistry so those need to be reflected in the concepts. A big working group was suggested in order to put curricular details into concepts, with large input from teachers.

Evy’s take home message in terms of transforming the public education system into a more ocean literate science education approach, was that personal contact with curriculum developers and teachers is crucial. Identify people and invite them to be part of the process, take them out on a ship, and let them hear from scientists and educators from around the world. Do a conference together with the science teachers. Get their opinions on the resources. Work with universities and colleges that prepare teachers.

Evy chaired the discussion that followed on adoption of the US Ocean Literacy Framework. Many voices echoed that adoption of the principals and adaptation of the concepts was the way to go. There are hurdles everywhere due to the process of science curriculum development. For example in British Columbia, Canada the K – 9 science curriculum has just been revised to focus on “big ideas” and the big ideas don’t include the big ocean but will make it more possible for individual teachers, schools and school districts adopt ocean literacy. The “big ideas” approach to science curriculum revision is also sweeping Europe. Luc Zwartes, Belgian educator and workshop participant, commented, that as Belgian science curriculum is rethought, the big ideas of ocean and seas need to be fundamental. It was noted that in Belgium, teachers need both a European platform and a proper translation. “Ocean geletterheid” just doesn’t have traction. Interestingly, translation of the word literacy into an appropriate word is a broader issue. A direct translation didn’t work in either case study and it is also an issue in French. Some favour just using the English word. As noted above, the Portuguese used the word ‘knowing’ which seems to be working well.

The vote that followed on the adoption of the seven essential principals of ocean literacy, for ocean sciences education, resulted in a resounding and unanimous YES from all attendees.

After lunch we rolled up our sleeves, divided into two groups, did two breakout sessions, reported back and then had a full group discussion of priority actions to increase trans-Atlantic ocean literacy. The objectives were to empower the collective vision for trans-Atlantic ocean literacy, identify a set of priority actions to achieve the vision and identify transnational complementarities on the theme of ocean literacy. Jans Seys (Belgium), Diana Payne (US), Ivo Grigorov (Denmark) and Susan Haynes (US) chaired and facilitated these whirlwind activities. It worked well because of the great people involved and because it built on the conversations that had been evolving for years.

What came out of this head-spinning exercise is elegantly and succinctly outlined in the TOL Workshop report and the TOL Strategy and Implementation Plan which came out of the workshop and which will soon be posted on http://oceanliteracy.wp2.coexploration.org/transatlantic-ocean-literacy/ . To sum up, short, medium and long-term priority actions were identified that advance the three objectives in the TOL Vision Statement listed below.

Vision Statement, Objective 1 Encourage cooperation and best practice exchange between Marine Educators Associations and all interested actors from both sides of the Atlantic, and seek to promote and apply ocean literacy globally.

Vision Statement, Objective 2: Raise awareness of the two-way interactions between the Atlantic Ocean and daily life, and empower citizens to adapt their everyday behaviour.

Vision Statement, Objective 3: Seek and apply innovative ways to make the future citizens ocean-literate citizens, so that they understand environmental challenges and policies, and make informed and responsible decisions on ocean stewardship.

Short-term, the conversation will continue to evolve through an inclusive on-line forum, including identified key players and cascading networks. A Global Ocean Literacy Guide will be developed, translated and disseminated. Collaborative activities will be organized for World Ocean Day, Global Ocean Literacy Day, and other existing initiatives. Large-scale events as were identified will be used as platforms to promote ocean literacy globally. Medium and long-term plans are outlined in the workshop report and will also continue to develop throughout the year with another boost at the 2015 NMEA conference and ocean literacy workshop in Rhode Island, the 2015 TOL workshop and EMSEA conference in Greece and the 2015 CaNOE Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

I had been asked to comment during the conclusion of the workshop with reflections on the importance the TOL workshop from a Canadian point of view. The highlight for me was the unanimous and enthusiastic yes vote, to adopt the seven principals of Ocean Literacy. Having consensus on the basic principles for science education will help unify communications and enable a more focused international campaign. Local, national, and international adoption and subsequent adaptation of concepts, specific to different regions, curricula and languages, will greatly assist in building comparable frameworks to help promote an active and successful transatlantic ocean literacy network.

From a Canadian point of view, I remarked that we have a lot of work ahead and thanked others who have blazed the way. Canada’s global ocean literacy challenges involve:

  • Fronting three ocean fronts with over 200,000 km of shoreline,
  • A diversity of language, culture, and regional geography/oceanography.
  • Multiple jurisdictions for both education and ocean
  • Vast space

The first principle of ocean literacy is that there is one ocean, which makes attaining ocean literacy daunting in the face of the physical size of the ocean. The scale and scope of the ocean and societal challenges in implementing ocean literacy nationally and internationally are huge. The Galway Statement signed by the EU, US and Canada includes one bullet point on ocean literacy and it simplifies the more global task by focusing in on the North Atlantic basin (and its arctic interactions). This reduces Canada’s challenges, to a shorter shoreline, only five provinces, two languages, fewer indigenous nations and foundation that has already been built through a long history of trade and cooperation with Europe and the United States. As CaNOE works to advance ocean literacy in Canada from coast to coast to coast, I have confidence that TOL will provide an international model for cooperation and collaboration, which will ultimately set the course towards global ocean literacy. I came away from TOL more motivated and more determined to help further ocean literacy in Canada. The organizers, facilitators, participants, methods and achievements of the workshop were all inspiring.

Back at home I am helping to build the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE), increasing membership, making sure that scientists are onboard and helping organize the first conference and AGM (in conjunction with MEOPAR Annual Science Meeting) in Vancouver, June 17, 18, 2015. Please join us.

Over the next three years I hope to be involved as an international adviser on ocean literacy, working with some of the people attending TOL workshops and EMSEA conferences. I have also joined the Galway Canadian Marine Working Group as co-lead on ocean literacy. I will report back on this activity in blogs throughout the year. All the best to you, your family and friends in 2015.


The following will help link to organizations and websites mentioned in the blog.

European Marine Science Educators Association – http://www.emsea.eu

National Marine Educators Association (US) http://www.marine-ed.org

Canadian Network for Ocean Education http://www.oceanliteracy.ca

Galway Statement on Atlantic Cooperation – http://www.innovation.ca/sites/default/files/Rome2013/files/Canada-EU-US Galway Statement on Atlantic Research Cooperation 2013.pdf

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – http://www.ioc-unesco.org/

EU Directorate of Research and Innovation – http://ec.europa.eu/research/

EU Horizon 2020 Research & Development Grants – http://www.2020-horizon.com/

Ocean Literacy in Portugal – http://www.cienciaviva.pt/

College of Co-exploration – http://www.coexploration.org/

University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography – http://omp.gso.uri.edu/ompweb/

URI Coastal Institute – http://web.uri.edu/coastalinstitute/

Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence – http://www.cosee.net

Inner Space Center – http://www.innerspacecenter.org/

Coordination Office for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance – https://www.collectiveip.com/grants/NSF:1331592

Flanders Marine Institute – http://www.vliz.be/en/mission

TOL Strategic Implementation Plan (Draft) – http://www.coexploration.org/oceanliteracy/atlantic/taolworkshop

Vision Statement on Ocean Literacy, and Atlantic Ocean Cooperation between European Union, United States of America & Canada – 10.5281/zenodo.11864


[1] DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.11864



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Move elevator pitch into dialogue.

I started this blog when asked to give my elevator speech[1] about the Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE Society). Thanks Aliza, it really made me think.

Elevator speeches depend on to who listens and how long the ride. This one is for CaNOE members and I hope it starts a discussion about CaNOE, where it is heading and how. This is my view. What is yours?Henricia_relaxed

CaNOE’s core message is about bringing a balance between the pull of how important the ocean is; blue planet, every 2nd breath, 90% of trade, last frontier, 97% of water etc. and the general lack of ocean inclusion in education and learning. As anyone who has been in a canoe knows, stability is paramount.

CaNOE is pulling people together across Canada and from all the coasts, to celebrate and connect ocean learning for all ages. The primary goal is to advance ocean literacy in Canada starting with ocean sciences (including traditional science knowledge) and ocean education outreach. CaNOE helps share and accelerate best practices nationally and internationally, through organizations like the European Marine Science Educators Association and the National Marine Educators Association. CaNOE helps Canada keep up its part of the Galway Statement which includes a bullet-point on ocean literacy(also signed by the EU and US).

yellow hat

The CaNOE Society has a membership of over 160 and is growing rapidly. The interim board is organizing the first conference and AGM for June 17-18, 2015 in Vancouver. Other short term goals include:

  • adopting the seven principles of ocean science by Canadian ocean scientists
  • accelerating for common messaging within regional differences
  • assessing levels of ocean literacy amongst specific populations (such as new teachers and graduating students)
  • connecting scientists with professional educators and communicators


Acceleration of collaboration between experts doing experiential ocean learning and in-nature learning is already expanding to provide ocean learning inspiration and will gain more momentum as more people come onboard.


Long-term goals include regionally adapting and adopting the ocean literacy framework concepts, expanding the incorporation of ocean learning into the arts, geography and history.

Making room in CaNOE for diverse strengths and voices, such as the blue economy, and indigenous people will help stabilize and propel this CaNOE of hope for the blue planet.

What your thoughts? Please comment and transform this pitch into a dialogue.

Anne Stewart

ohiat it copy

[1] I assumed this elevator ride was going up to the 75th floor of the Haeundae building in Seoul, on a slow day, with a full load of heavy people. Yes, I am working toward being more succinct. Editorial comments also welcomed ; – )

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European Marine Science Educator’s Association Conference (EMSEA), October 1 – 3, 2014

#EMSEA14 was held at Gothenburg University, a centre of marine science, in the medieval heart of the old city of Gothenburg. Gothenburg is a lovely city on the west coast of Sweden. The Swedes there are friendly, with a relaxed graciousness and their attitude, along with the city’s many parks, canals, walking, biking and well-organized public transport system, make it an easy and enjoyable place to navigate.

Gothenburg boasts Sweden’s biggest science centre as well as a wonderful aquarium and maritime museum. Lobster season was open as the conference began and so were the hearts and minds of attendees from around the world, ready to be inspired about ocean literacy and best practices in marine science education.

This blog is just a sketch of the conference, it only includes a few of the presentations and the view is my own. I also tweeted at the conference, (@AnneinBamfield) and you can find everyone’s tweets by looking at #emsea14 on Twitter. I also invite you to comment, tweet, retweet and mention. If you are interested in more detail and want to learn more, go to the EMSEA web-site and link to the conference site where all the presentations will be posted.
A big shout out goes to the organizers of this conference including the EMSEA team, the University of Gothenburg and their friends at the Maritime Museum & Aquarium, Universeum, Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Science at Kristineberg and the upper secondary sailing school, Öckerö Gymnasieskola. I thank the organizers for allowing me to do a five-minute, dance-along presentation on ‘Canadian progress in Ocean Literacy with the Voices of Youth’ in the closing ceremonies. I am personally grateful to the American organization, National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) for a scholarship that helped me to attend. I hope that my tweeting and blogging goes a little ways towards showing my deep gratitude for that assistance to participate in the great conference that was EMSEA14. Thanks to Peter Tuddenham for the Creative Commons attribution on his  photos.

Gaelle Le Bouler opened the conference, addressing the audience from the perspective of the European Commission, where she is the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Gaelle put the importance of the conference into the context of current affairs in the European Union (EU) and emphasized the high-level, political will to advance ocean literacy in Europe. She spoke about the Galway Statement signed by EU, Canada and US and explained the structure and progress of working research groups. She shared her surprise with us at receiving thirteen proposals from consortiums responding to the EU Horizon 2020 call “BG-13-Ocean Literacy”. The results of that competition will be announced November 21st.

Lisa Emelia Svensson, was the keynote speaker and as Sweden’s Ambassador for Oceans, Seas and Fresh Water, provides advice and expert guidance to the Swedish Minister for the Environment on the action needed to move forward on Sweden’s international ocean and water agenda. She is part of the Foreign Service and spoke knowledgeably about ocean issues, the different sectors, sustainability, politics and ocean literacy. She inspired all of us to view potential challenges as opportunities, by thinking outside of the box for a blue economy that is integrated with the green.

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson, keynote speaker. Photo courtesy of EMSEA Conference Handbook.

Dr. Lisa Emelia Svensson, keynote speaker. Photo courtesy of EMSEA Conference Handbook.

Lisa Emelia reminded us that new approaches, such as ecosystem-based management, must be explained to people with language that they understand. Sweden has committed to an ecosystem approach by 2018 and people need to understand the benefits. Ocean governance is also a challenge as there are 576 bilateral and multi-lateral frameworks.
The Ambassador spoke about a broad range of topics from maritime spatial planning, to maritime transportation, to innovations for a healthy planet, new consumerism and social media. The Ambassador made the case for science and passion to work together and emphasized the importance of cross-sector work within government. She reminded us that Ocean literacy is also needed within the government and she reported that on a global level, there are a lot of events and activities that can raise awareness about the ocean.
The Ambassador brought the audience back to self and the importance of individuals at the end of her talk, reminding us that ideas and leadership come from individual people. She suggested facilitating dialogue between scientists and policy makers, by starting at a local level and then scaling up. It was a complete treat to experience the Swedish Ambassador’s presentation. In my view, the creation of ambassadorships for oceans and water in more countries would help further global ocean literacy faster than any action, especially if the ambassadors could measure up to Lisa Emelia Svensson.

John Parr (MBA) takes over from Geraldine Fauville.Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

John Parr (MBA) takes over from Geraldine Fauville.Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

The first session presenter was Joachim Dengg from GEOMAR in Germany. He questioned whether school outreach in marine research was a welcome addition or an extra effort and concluded that scientists needed to be able to choose. He demonstrated the positive difference to the efficacy of outreach efforts that a judicious coordinator could make and how he plays this role himself. He also acts to protect scientists so that they can do their jobs. There are about 500 scientists at GEOMAR working on topics such as ocean circulation and climate dynamics, marine bio-geology, deep sea, natural hazards, resources from the sea and plate tectonics.
There is a need and desire for outreach – training teachers etc. but scientists lack time and often lack experience: how do you talk to non-specialists? GEOMAR’s school programmes focus on projects ranging from a couple of days to couple of months in schools and at the institute, fostering an interest in natural sciences. Joachim and his team create nice symbioses between schools and the institute by:
• Capacity building among teachers
• Direct contact between scientists and teachers
• Public visibility – public outreach, challenge communication skills of students by having them produce videos etc.
• Website resources for teachers
• Writing outreach proposals that are linked into science proposals
• Training young scientists
• Working directly with the scientists (30 – 40 scientists a year)
In answer to questions, Joachim pointed out that the amount of time scientists put into outreach varies from zero to less than five percent and there is nothing prescribed, it depends on the principle investigator. He said that PhD students are favourite “victims” except in their last year when they are writing up and he stressed that this experience is invaluable in improving their communications skills with people who are not in their speciality.

NMEA has fun. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

NMEA has fun. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Sam Dupont presented on a case study of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute’s Facebook page and ocean literacy. The question was: can Facebook be used to increase scientific literacy? Sam started with a quote from Tim Minchim, “the main problem is a failure to communicate” and made the point that FaceBook has over 1.3 million users. Geraldine Fauville, the PI, was at MBARI for ten weeks and had access to their amazing stories and materials (photos and video). She was looking at how to optimize the posting strategy to engage and interest and was evaluating this using quantitative (#fans, etc.) and qualitative (Interviews around – Does it increase OL?) techniques. Findings indicate that strategy doesn’t seem to change number of fans. The numbers reached were very variable 50 to zero per day whether there was a post or not. She found that there are more hits if there are photos and videos. The FaceBook model created by the genius, billionaire was cracked at 89% with the researcher team’s own algorithm and the conclusions were: use visuals, post as often as possible and when does not matter. They found that fan-fan interactions were superficial and that the fan-friend level was a little less superficial and more interesting because you discuss with people you know on your own page. They found that the type of fans were mostly from the US, connected to MBARI or had visited, with lots of marine scientists and students. The authors felt that there was a lot of investment of time and energy for a potentially limited rewards since it was a little like “singing to the choir”. A tweet by Jim Wharton, Seattle Aquarium was a good reminder that “singing to the choir” is not in vain as it supports them in communicating to their networks which adds to the ripple effect that can ultimately have the most impact.

Next we jumped to Malta where Alan Deidun is setting up an ocean literacy hub. The International Ocean Institute (IOI) was started in 1972, has special consultative status at the United Nations and although centred in Malta, is now also found in 25 countries around the world. The Malta centre is working towards:

Spot the Jellies map of Malta.

Spot the Jellies map of Malta

• Ocean literacy and advocacy
• Training and education
• Research and collaboration

Alain talked about several IOI citizen science projects such as Spot the Jellyfish, which involves a range of ages from school children, to mobile phone users at sea, who photograph jellies and send them in along with location data. The program has produced posters, waterproof jelly guides, GIS jelly apps for iPhone and android, and postcards. IOI has also produced three popular under-water documentaries on Marine Protected Areas as well as YouTube videos. They assist in video production and video screening for pupils in schools. IOI is interested in taking this maritime hub further and is seeking partners on possible projects. They will be hosting the PERSEUS conference in November 2015. A question about divers had Alain pointing out that Malta has about 100,000 SCUBA divers visit annually so the potential for “citizen” science is great and already happening with invasive species.

Portuguese youth with their teacher. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Portuguese youth with their teacher. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

The flash (one minute) poster presentations were a really great way for everyone to hear from all of the poster presenters and helped inform later discussions at the posters. Portuguese high school students and their teacher presented my favourite EMSEA poster. It outlined their original research on beach micro-plastics from clothing and gave us all a reason for ocean optimism. The integrity, passion and excitement of youth, certainly gives me hope for the future.

Annie Russell and Susan Gebbels, spoke about two of the different types of programs to create young coastal guardians at the Dove Marine Laboratory, of Newcastle University and in the local communities. The first uses a pedagogy that is student-led and includes topics such as marine ecology, maritime heritage, shipping and renewable energy. The questions that the students ask, actually leads where the session will go and yes, for many educators that is a scary idea. The learning then follows a truly enquiry based approach, which is both interactive and provides access to things (objects, tools, artifacts) that promote learning not available to the students everyday. Susan and Annie have to be incredibly flexible, and aware that the children may learn things other than pre-set goals. Some examples follow:

Litter surveys – Learn about data crunching and discussion.

How are local animals are effected? Learn about basic biology.

The second type of program Annie and Susan presented was a five day program culminating in a multi-school event and it involved, raising awareness about ocean litter through art – music, poetry and posters. On the final day (day 5) all five schools got together on Oceans Day. There was a marine mammal talk (plastics effects), sand sculpturing, a poster competition, they created huge collage, made a giant plastiki boat, sang sea shanties, wrote a messages in a bottle with what they learned and a pledge of what they would do to help. Susan and Annie reported that the student buy-in is instant: they get to be creative, they gain confidence, and the legacy is that they become the teacher. Children and teachers were absolutely ‘hooked’ and all the resources are free on-line. Advice for the audience: Make it relevant, achievable and fun. Support for this program, was provided by external funding from a pharmaceutical company.

One of my favourite sessions at EMSEA was a hands-on lab led by Mirjam Glessemer. Mirjam took her learners, on adventures in oceanography and teaching right in the classroom. Her methodologies advance learning speed and depth through enquiry, peer-to peer learning, building on prior knowledge and understanding prior misconceptions. This was a busy, noisy, engaged workshop where everyone was talking, manipulating water, salt and ice and reasoning. It was a whole lot of fun. The foundation of the session’s lesson plan was based on a seemingly simple prediction question: which will melt faster, an ice-cube in fresh water or in saltwater?

Mirjam has her students make a prediction to force them to commit to one choice so they are more invested in the outcome of an experiment (or even explanation) later on. We were all invested and delighted to see the oceanographic connections made as well as the increased understanding of oceans and climate that can come from such a deceptively simple experiment. This is a great reminder about the power of doing science instead of just reading about it.
It took me quite a long time to get around to writing this blog, so this last comment is definitely dated. Check out Mirjam’s December 1, 2014 blog-post for teaching ideas and resources and respond to her challenge. Set me a challenge: What ocean/climate topic would you like to see a demonstration on?

Nia Half Jone presents. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Nia Half Jone presents. Photo by Peter Tuddenham Citation: VLIZ events / Tuddenham Peter This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Nia Haf Jones presented on the Nautilus Exploration Program, which uses tele-presence technology to inspire the next generation in real-time. Nia is a very passionate Science Communication Fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust, when not working with north Wales Conservation Fund. The Science Communication Fellows are trained at NOAA’s Inner Space Station at the University of Rhode Island, the site of next year’s National Marine Educators’ conference. They also go to sea aboard the Nautilus for three week expedition and engage learners in events over the year. As a marine educator you can apply for this awesome experience. Everything done on NOAA Explorer is on-line including lesson plans created as part of graduate credit for teachers, and footage from NOAA. During the lunch break we had a brief but really great tele-presence connection with the Nautilus crew as they did a deep dive in the Caribbean. That was an unplanned but awesome addition to the program.

Portugal stands out as a maritime nation that takes ocean literacy really seriously and Canada is looking to the Portuguese experience as well as the Americans for inspiration. I was in awe of the work presented on the importance of maps to Portuguese national identity. Portugal – wanted to change the idea of Portugal just being a strip of land in southwest Europe, with their Atlantic islands as an inset. They designed a map for youth to help change their view of their country and extend their perspective out to sea. They didn’t wait for the UN to finalize the extension of the continental shelf and went ahead internally.

The new map of Portugal gives new view. Map from http://kitdomar.emepc.pt/outros-mares/mapa-portugal-e-mar/

The new map of Portugal gives new view. Map from http://kitdomar.emepc.pt/outros-mares/mapa-portugal-e-mar/

The beautiful new map, places the outer limit of the continental shelf and Portugal on the right side, with the map centered on the sea. It was validated pedagogically and maps went to all the schools. Politicians (even the President) and the media got involved and there was lots of coverage by the press. The educational team created teacher’s resources for geology, economy, ecology, pulled together lists of hands-on and minds-on activities, and the mapping team made maps of living and non-living resources, which all help in learning through discussion and debate. Workshops and teacher training was carried out to satisfy teacher’s needs for information, resources and access to the teams. Further links were made between the policy makers and educators/schools. I really like the way Portugal tackles Ocean Literacy and identifies itself as a maritime nation. Check out the map web site even if you don’t speak Portuguese: Kitdomar.emepc.pt it is pretty inspirational and you can always click on translate.

The last session I am going to cover is that of Luc Zwartjes: this amazing Belgian geography teacher led a great open source GIS workshop that demonstrated how creating and manipulating maps can increase ocean literacy. In brief, he had a group of GIS neophytes making and saving ocean maps of wind-farms and shipping routes in no time at all. We can all be thankful that Luc also trains teachers amongst his many other contributions and accomplishments.

Before signing off here I have to add just one more tantalizing link and that is Discovery of Sound in the Sea This is thanks to Gail Scowcroft’s thought provoking presentation on ‘The science of underwater sound: merging research, education, and policy.” Yes, keep the scientists involved for good outreach.

If you want more, check-out the EMSEA conference web-site links.

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What does the ocean mean to you?

What does the ocean mean to you?


This wordle was created from the answers to the title question. The overwhelming answer was that the Ocean means life.

Eighty four people of all ages stopped to give their answer at the CaNOE booth at  World Oceans Day in Sidney, BC, Canada. CaNOE is the Canadian Network for Ocean Education.

Lost in the wordle creation were a few quotes that I would like to share here.

From an elderly woman: The Ocean gives you the rhythm of life.

From a  girl: The Ocean is something very special. We have more ocean than land. I like the sea creatures, they are my favourite animals and whales are my favorite sea creatures. If I could work at the Shaw Discovery Centre, I would be really pleased to be working with the sea creatures.

Ninety four year old woman: It is peaceful. If you are stressed out, come and look at it. Keep it clean.

Young man: The Ocean is like a natural air conditioner: in the winter it is warm and in the summer – cool.

Man quoting Charles Wesley: depth of wisdom, where I can get lost in wonder, love and awe.

Woman: A mysterious, wondrous kind of place.

Boy: The source of life.

Man: It is dark and unknown.

Young man: It is a big, vast expanse of water to explore.

Young woman: One of my favourite things.

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BC Nature Alive and Well in Victoria

BC Nature is a large network of people who know nature in BC and work hard to keep it worth knowing. The BC Nature Conference was in Victoria this week and as I am teaching marine science at nearby Pearson College, I went in for the Saturday sessions.

Coastal biodiversity, marine invertebrates and whales are all favourite topics of mine and I had the chance to see Brian Starzomski, John Ford and David Denning do fabulous presentations on those topics. Each speaker inspired the audience with stunning photography and video, astonished and humbled us with new and exciting information about the complexity and sophistication of nature and reminded us about our responsibility to ensure that this incredible life-support system (aka nature) is strong and resilient for future generations.

There was a feeling of hope as we saw students making a difference at Hakai, heard about the recovery of the Humpback Whale and the first BC sightings of the north Pacific Right Whale since 1951. Youth was in the forefront as we learned about Salt Spring Island Secondary School’s ambitious plans for solar power.  Lunch was next and I was lucky to I reconnect with friends David and Margaret, both passionate about nature for future generations.

The sound of bagpipes heralded a grand entry, befitting BC’s Lieutenant Governor, BC’s vice-regal representative, the down to earth, Judith Guichon. She spoke, opening the BC Nature AGM and shared insights about her role, projects, and background in holistic management, which resulted in environmentally sound ranching practices in BC. Best of all she reminded us of the importance of being positive.

As a volunteer involved in a smaller, younger non-profits, (NAME, CaNOE and BCSA) I attended the AGM to learn how a venerable and well-respected organization like BC Nature conducts its business.  Simply, respectfully and efficiently describes the process.

We finished 35 minutes early so I made a dash for the door and headed out to the end of the breakwater. En route, I had a bird’s eye view from the top of two undisturbed Black Oystercatchers feeding on limpets (Lottia spp.). It was all the more interesting to watch since my first year classes had just been using population ecology techniques to estimate limpet numbers across the water in Pedder Bay and we had seen Black Oystercatchers at Race Rocks.

Going back, I took the lower route to get a better view at the water’s edge. The new bull kelp was sprouting up all fresh and gorgeous. Fishermen were casting for lingcod and losing their lures and people were enjoying being out at sea without leaving land. Drifting along past the huge rock slabs, there were smacks of cross jellies feeding on smaller plankton.

As I rounded the last bend heading for shore, a grandmother, daughter and grandson were staring into the water, astounded by what they saw. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were looking at. In the low evening light these creatures looked like giant sperm with bioluminescent heads and metallic orange flashers. They were swimming amongst the surf grass and feather-boa kelp. Were these some sort of new, weird invertebrates introduced in ballast water? As I got closer, I recognized them as tube-snouts Aulorhynchus flavidus, a common species of fish in BC.

Now I have seen tube-snouts, their eggs and developing babies, on docks all my life but I had never seen them like this. Tube-snouts look a bit like pipefish but a little more stout, without that straightened out, sea-horse look. Male tube-snouts don’t get “pregnant” like male pipe fish do and female tube-snouts glue their yellow-orange eggs onto seaweed or other things (like docks) in the water.

The remarkable fish in front of us were male tube-snouts strutting their stuff. Their density was high, probably 20 fish per square meter and they were right at the surface flashing and pulsing. As they say on the Vancouver Aquarium blog, they were “at it again”. It was wild to see, almost alien, like deep-sea fish, flashing at potential mates and competitors. But we were not in the abyss, it was right there on the surface in a busy urban setting. BC nature at its best….right in front of us. Lets keep it that way. 

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Marbled Murrelets in Breeding Plumage

MaMu territory in the heart of Huu-ay-aht First Nation.

I am loving teaching Marine Science at Pearson College in Metchosin but went home and spent Easter weekend in Bamfield where brilliant bioluminescence and the constantly shifting season inspired me once again. Many seabirds are looking pretty snappy in their new feathers. Pelagic Cormorants are super easy to identify with their big flashy white patches. Pairs of Pigeon Guillemots whistle and zoom together doing synchronized flights and swims with their bright red feet steering their path. Even the gulls look exotic in their breeding plumage.
My favourite of all time though is the Marbled Murrelet (MaMu). Its’ breeding plumage is cryptic, a marbled brown more suitable for an owl than a seabird. The thing is, MaMu nest in the forest on big, moss covered branches, high in the canopy and far from the forest edges. They need to look like tree bark in the summer months. They are still the best seabirds around, in my opinion. I see them paired up and calling for each other, doing their little dance, side by side bills in the air together. Ah, spring is in the air and the ocean.

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Spring is moving up the west coast of North America.

As the days grow longer and sometimes warmer, bright pink blossoms shout out that spring is on the way. 


So are the Gray Whales on their way.  Big pregnant females are leading in this more than marathon swim, the greatest mammalian migration on the planet. These newly pregnant females will go all the way up to the Bering and Chukchi Seas from Mexico’s warm water lagoons in order to feed during the 24 hour daylight hours of the northern summer. They have a lot of weight to put on in order to produce a healthy calf and enough milk to nurse that baby and help it on its first migration next year. Moms with calves are the slowest and generally last to pass on this mega-migration to the seas of the midnight sun. The calves are weaned where summer food is plentiful in the north.

The Gray Whales are ecologically very important to their summer feeding grounds and act almost like farmers by plowing the seabed where ‘disturbance communities’ of bottom invertebrates dwell. Little crustacean creatures called amphipods (like beach-hoppers) build mats of tiny tubes where they feed on food drifting down from the surface. As the whales rise up, they sieve out the sediment and sand from the bottom gulp, releasing nutrients for phytoplankton growth and tiny amphipods that re-seed the disturbed seabed. The phytoplankton is of course the powerhouse in this system converting the sun’s energy into food for everyone. It is pretty amazing how it is all connected.

The Gray Whale migration is beautifully timed to take advantage of another amazing spring event, the herring spawn. On the west coast, tons of herring move inshore during the winter and as spring moves northward up the coast they have mass spawning events in shallow water. The rich little eggs are tiny power packets of fuel that energize many species in their migrations and spring activities. By the time the herring larvae are swimming and feeding, there are nice oily diatoms (phytoplankton) and tiny crustaceans called copepods for them to fatten up on. 

Herring are important food for people too and recent archaeology studies have clearly demonstrated that herring bones have been consistently and importantly present in human middens (soil made in old scrap heaps) here on the west coast coast for at least ten thousand years. Here is a link to the article by senior author Iain McKechnie et al,  http://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/E807.long 

Even if you don’t usually read scientific papers try this one. It is an amazing sustainability story that we could learn from.

Whether it is a long migration, a long time or looking for a long and sustainable future, lets try to take the long look in trying to understand our place on the coast. It is the long look that people have, who have lived here a long time and intend to stay for a long time.