I used to say that it wasn’t until I moved to Atlantic Canada over three years ago that I encountered marine life from the North Atlantic. But the truth is, it wasn’t until I made this move and started volunteering at the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium that I had a significant encounter with ocean life. This small-scale aquarium showcasing only local marine animals changed the course of my career and ignited a passion for ocean conservation. What was the difference between my experience at the Mini Aquarium and that of my previous encounters? The passionate, engaging and dedicated personnel that unveiled the magic of the sea to me. It is these people that can make or break a visit and who can turn the littlest snail into the most fascinating animal.
The first time I was up close to the animals that I now teach so passionately about was while I was completing my Master’s internship at the Montreal Biodôme. Within its walls, the Biodôme has recreated five ecosystems including the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Among the wildlife showcased here are sea cucumbers, anemones, sea stars, urchins and crabs, the very animals I now love to talk about the most. But at the time, I didn’t give these animals the time of day.
During the summer of my internship, the Biodôme was closed to the public. So while I spent many of my lunch breaks walking through the ecosystems, no interpretive staff was ever there to tell me about the small creatures that deserve our attention as much as the large ones. As I strolled through, my attention was mostly focused on the “blockbuster” animals – the sloths and golden lion tamarins of the tropical forest, the lynx of the Laurentian Maple Forest and of course the penguins from the Sub-Antarctic. If you had asked me at the time if an aquarium needs large, charismatic animals to capture visitors’ attention, based on this experience I probably would have said yes.
As you can guess, this is no longer what I think. My experience as a visitor, volunteer and a staff member of various scientific museum institutions has taught me otherwise. I have seen first-hand that not only tourists but those who grew up with the ocean as their backyard can be amazed and intrigued by the animals found in their ocean playground. And yet, although I know this, I had a moment of hesitation this past August when I was about to launch a series of events, the Touch Tank Days, under the umbrella of the Back to the Sea Society.
The Back to the Sea Society is a non-profit whose mission is to spark curiosity for marine life off the coast of Nova Scotia. The ultimate goal of our society is to open a seasonal, catch-and-release, small-scale aquarium within the Halifax Regional Municipality. The purpose of the Touch Tanks Days was to create an event that would allow us to obtain community feedback and serve as a proof of concept.
The Touch Tank Days consisted of two small tanks – one was filled with your typical touch tank animals (urchins, snails, mussels, sea stars, hermit crabs and rock crabs) and the other showcased a moon snail and scallop. The day before we held our first Touch Tank Day, I couldn’t help but worry. What if no one was interested? What if everyone mentioned that these were animals they had seen before? Would people wonder why our operation was so small?
As it turns out, not a single one of my worries was founded. Over the course of seven Touch Tank Days over 1500 people visited and the positive feedback was overwhelming. Just as I had observed in the past, children and adults alike were captivated by what we had to say about these small creatures. Our knowledgeable and passionate volunteer interpreters created a memorable experience for our visitors. When asked in a survey to indicate what was their favourite part of the Touch Tank Days, a majority of the respondents answered learning about the animals and talking with the knowledgeable volunteers.
Often times, we strive to inspire people with big, innovative ideas. I believe that we tend to forget that a small ideas executed right can have just as much of an important, long-lasting impact. Educating while entertaining goes a long way and the Back to the Sea Society will continue to do their best to deliver engaging activities that foster a desire to protect our ocean. If you have a small idea that you are hesitant to launch, I encourage you to do it! Don’t wait for it to be perfect; don’t wait for it to be world-class. The more activities we put out there that contribute to ocean literacy, the more people we will inspire!
Magali is an educator and museologist with a passion for ocean life. She completed her B.Sc. in Biology and Physics at McGill University followed by an M.A. in Museum Studies from UQÀM. Currently the Special Events Coordinator at the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Chair of Communications of the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society, Magali has close ties with environmental conservation and ocean sustainability in Nova Scotia. Magali is the founder of the Back to the Sea Society and is spearheading the project of bringing a catch-and-release aquarium model to Halifax.
My second day at the European Marine Science Educators Association conference at the Titanic Belfast museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland started with more amazing presentations. The rest of the day following was dedicated to an Open Space Session. Open Space is a time dedicated to allow conference participants a chance to discuss the topics and questions that have always wanted to discuss with fellow ocean educators. I think it is always the highlight of EMSEA and because I loved it so much last year, I added it to the conference program at the CaNOE conference in Halifax this past June.
Day 2 ended with a reception at the Belfast city hall with the Lord Mayor. The venue was gorgeous and there was lots of wine, but I turned in early to prepare for my presentation the next morning.
I got to the conference early on the last day to prepare for my presentation. I was presenting in the session showcasing TransAtlantic ocean education work and spoke about the successes and challenges of the Discovery Centre’s program to increase ocean literacy and ocean career literacy in Nova Scotia. The Discovery Centre is a science centre in Halifax and the Tide to Technology program provides hands-on learning to Grade 8-12 students about oceans and ocean technology careers through ROV operation, basic coding, and activities simulating concepts of marine acoustics and marine geomatics. The program is delivered for free all around Nova Scotia with sponsorship from the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia.
I also spoke about the momentum that is building in the province to increase ocean literacy as well. There are many organizations, in addition to the Discovery Centre working to increase ocean education such as Ocean School, the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise, and Oceans-NS to name a few. The Department of Education in Nova Scotia has also recently dedicated an entire day in November called the Ocean Education Day where over 700 students from all over the province came to participate in hands-on ocean education workshops that the Discovery Centre and the organizations mentioned above and others were involved in. I had a lot of great conversation with other educations following my presentation and I was proud to represent a small province across the pond doing amazing work in ocean literacy.
The last workshop session I attended at the EMSEA conference was also the most inspiring and amazing presentation for me. Dick Baldwin is the founder of Educational Passages, an amazing educational program that uses unmanned GPS-equipped miniboats to teach students about the ocean and connects people all over the world. Many miniboats have sailed across the Atlantic using just ocean currents and winds and students can track their boats in real-time with the GPS coordinates sent by the boat. It is an amazing way to teach about the interconnectedness of the ocean, ocean currents, weather, geography, different cultures, art, boat-building and much more.
To date, Educational Passages, have helped school students launch over 70 miniboats. Currently the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and other institutions are coordinating an Atlantic Regatta of miniboats launched by 22 elementary, middle and high schools from eight different countries around the Atlantic Ocean. The Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland and students at Mobile Central High School is part of the regatta and has sent the first Canadian miniboat into the Atlantic. Their boat, Mobile Goat (after a Newfoundland folk song) was launched in November. Check out where it is here. I think this is a fantastic program and I think we should get more Canadian school participating in the next international regatta of miniboats on all our coasts.
I had a fantastic time at EMSEA this year. I’ve listened to amazing success stories, discussed challenges with fellow ocean educators and was recharged and inspired to keep doing what I am doing. It was lovely to see people I met last year and I’ve made wonderful new connections. Next year, the EMSEA conference will be held in Malta. I hope to be fortunate enough to attend again, but maybe more CaNOErs can attend and share what we are doing to advance ocean education in Canada.
Sonya is a Science Educator at the Discovery Centre, a science centre in Halifax, NS. She delivers hands-on curriculum-based science workshops to students in Grades P-12 all around Nova Scotia. This is her second year on the Board of Directors of CaNOE. In 2015-2016, she co-chaired the Conference Organizing Working Group to organize the 2nd CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference in Halifax. This year, she hopes to use her experience in hands-on education to help steer an Education Working Group for CaNOE.
This past October, I attended the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference as a CaNOE representative. I was selected to present a poster about CaNOE and to speak on my work combining ocean technology and ocean literacy at the Discovery Centre in Nova Scotia. This was my second time attending the EMSEA conference, so I knew from the beginning that I was in for three days of amazing presentations, interactive workshops and meeting and reconnecting with inspiring individuals working in ocean education.
The conference was hosted by Titanic Belfast, in Belfast, UK. The museum has fantastic galleries that tell the story of the great industrial feat and tragic demise of the RMS Titanic. Titanic Belfast is also a centre of education and ocean literacy, especially of the deep sea, as the search for the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean brought deep sea exploration into the public eye. The museum was very impressive and it even had a ride that took you on a multi-sensory journey through the making of the Titanic.
I arrived a couple of days early to recover and explore a bit of Northern Ireland before diving into the conference. I made my way up to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (a Game of Thrones film location) and the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the north coast. The drive up the coast was very wind-y and narrow (not to mention on the left side of the road), but it was worth it for the breathtaking coastal views.
Day 1 of the conference started with the EMSEA president, Fiona Crouch, descending into the conference room down the Titanic’s iconic Grand Staircase. Following Fiona’s fun welcome, we heard from two keynote speakers. Ivan Conesa-Alcolea from the European Commission spoke on the progress of Horizon 2020’s ocean literacy initiatives, notably on SeaChange and ResponSEAble. David Cline from the US Aquaculture Society addressed the importance of moving away from capture fisheries into sustainable aquaculture for marine conservation and what educators can do to help.
The rest of the day was filled with parallel presentation sessions on bringing marine science into formal and informal education settings and workshops. I was inspired by presentations that highlighted amazing examples of hands-on activities at the Marine Biological Association, conservation communication from the Pitcairn Islands with the Zoological Society of London, and a study on barriers to teaching about the ocean in classrooms in the UK. During the workshop about aquaculture and education, there was an example of an education program by Ciimar in Portugal that used mini tanks in classrooms to show how molluscs in a multitrophic aquaculture system can improve water quality. It was interesting to hear different perspectives and discussions around aquaculture and education.
Starting on day one of the conference, I presented a poster on CaNOE. It was a great opportunity to speak to Europeans and Americans about ocean literacy in Canada and to share our achievements. It was a great first day as I caught up with fellow educators I had met last year, connected with new people and learned of their successes and challenges in advancing ocean literacy in their respective countries. Stay tuned to read about the next two days of the EMSEA conference!
Sonya is a Science Educator at the Discovery Centre, a science centre in Halifax, NS. She delivers hands-on curriculum-based science workshops to students in Grades P-12 all around Nova Scotia. This is her second year on the Board of Directors of CaNOE. In 2015-2016, she co-chaired the Conference Organizing Working Group to organize the 2nd CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference in Halifax. This year, she hopes to use her experience in hands-on education to help steer an Education Working Group for CaNOE.
By Karen Anspacher-Meyer, Sarah Lockman & Jennifer Buffett
If you are an educator who also loves marine life and the ocean – and sharing that love and passion with students and others – then British Columbia is a pretty neat place to explore. From estuaries and rivers, to fjords and tidal flats, to a vast array of species and the people who call coastal communities home – there is so much to learn about using this ‘living case-study’ in your teaching practice and engaging students in marine and ocean literacy.
The Great Bear region of British Columbia’s North Pacific Coast is one of Canada’s unique ecological treasures. It is home to islands, wild rivers, cold-water seas, and one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests. This region of British Columbia’s coast is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, has enormous cultural significance to the people who live here, and contains important resources for BC’s economy. The Great Bear Sea – a new name used to describe this marine area – encompasses the waters that surround the Great Bear Rainforest and extends from Campbell River on Vancouver Island to the border of BC and Alaska. It covers a large area – 103,000 square kilometers in total – and extends from the high tide line to the edge of the continental shelf.
The film the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future, by Green Fire Productions, is a journey through the Great Bear Sea region, home to First Nations for thousands of years. The film explores this unique area – an expanse of ocean where whales, wolves, bears, fish, seabirds, other marine life and humans thrive in rich coastal ecosystems. The Great Bear Sea is also a place where worlds collide – a place full of historic conflicts and looming battles over ocean resources. Now 18 First Nations and the Province of British Columbia, through a government-to-government process, have created marine plans for the Great Bear Sea to both protect their home and to build sustainable coastal economies through the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP). Through the film, we meet people and communities along the coast of BC who are working to implement BC’s marine plans, particularly in the four sub-regions outlined in the MaPP: Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, North Coast and North Vancouver Island.
These ideas and perspectives provide a great opportunity for inquiry and place-based learning in schools and other settings, and thus the Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum was born! The Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum currently consists of an elementary cross-curricular unit for Grades 4-7 and secondary units for Social Studies Grades 11-12 and Environmental Science Grades 11-12. Using film segments, research data, local knowledge and place-based stories, the curriculum explores themes such as collaborative science, marine planning, Indigenous Knowledge, biodiversity, sustainable resource management and marine stewardship. All resources are connected to the revised BC curriculum and include full lesson plans and supplementary resources, as well as film clips to support classroom learning. Although linked to the BC curriculum, these resources are applicable to any educator looking to explore these themes in their classroom or in other learning contexts.
For instance, the film clip below allows students to experience the bounty & other-worldly beauty of the intertidal zone with Trevor Russ, Vice President, Council of the Haida Nation, as he harvests traditional foods in Haida Gwaii and talks about the role of Traditional Knowledge as the foundation for the Haida Gwaii marine plan. This clip is then tied to lessons that look more specifically at traditional knowledge through seasonal rounds or seasonal use cycles, which map the traditional knowledge of an area, displaying the when and what of harvesting around the seasons for a specific place.
All curriculum resources are available free of charge and include printable resources, links to film segments, and supplementary materials. These can be accessed and downloaded from www.greatbearsea.net.
In the coming months, we will also be launching a resource for the post-secondary setting. This resource will fit a variety of teaching contexts, including marine biology, environmental studies, resource management, Indigenous studies, etc., and will provide film clips, supplementary materials and pedagogical resources.
Curious to learn more about this area and see more of the film? You can watch the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future trailer, or view the full length (75 minute) film to learn more about the region and the Marine Planning Partnership.
To join the mailing list to be notified of new resources, or if you are interested in arranging a workshop for teachers at your school to explore how to use these resources in practice, please visit the website: www.greatbearsea.net or contact us at email@example.com.
Green Fire Productions, a non-governmental organization, specializes in producing documentaries on sustainability and conservation of natural resources. The Great Bear Sea is part of the Ocean Frontiers film series on ocean stewardship in North America. www.ocean-frontiers.org Founded in 1989 by Karen Anspacher-Meyer and Ralf Meyer, Green Fire films are used in classrooms worldwide and screened in community events, for decision-makers and on public television. www.greenfireproductions.org.
Sarah Lockman and Jennifer Buffett have worked in formal and informal educational settings, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary classrooms, non-profit organizations, municipal and provincial educational organizations in BC and Ontario. Together, they have over 30 years of curriculum development, teaching and educational leadership experience, with specialization in innovative approaches to hands-on, inquiry and place-based learning. (They also love the ocean!) Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to work as a Bilingual Programming Assistant at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC). The CNSC is an independent non-profit organization that facilitates research and education in western Hudson Bay and is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year. Working in the Educational Programming Department I’ve had the chance to participate in and support facilitating a number of the CNSC’s Learning Vacations (LV). A LV is a unique model of educational tourism that allows the participant the chance to be entrenched with experts on the subject of their choice throughout a one-week immersive, informative and participatory experience. The topics include Beluga Whales, Polar Bears and the Aurora Borealis.
The very first LV that I had the chance to participate in was titled Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens. The extremely knowledgeable and talented Kristin Westdal and Chris Paetkau led the LV. Kristin is a Marine Biologist who has worked extensively in the arctic, and she was keen to share her vast knowledge of belugas with us throughout the week both on the water and in the classroom. Chris, a videographer by trade and co-founder of Build Films spent hours with participants leading and coaching us in a wide range of photography concepts that spread from basic intro ‘point-and-shoot’ techniques and then into much more complex underwater photography skills while keeping all participants engaged whether they were simply equipped with a cell phone camera, GoPro or loaded with lenses and a Digital SLR. With Kristen teaching us all about the whales that we were seeing around us and Chris taking photos of it all, it was a truly magical experience to be out on the water with them both. In addition to our time spent on boat excursions exploring the Churchill River estuary and Hudson Bay, we also had the chance to tour the town of Churchill and the surrounding area. A highlight for me was visiting the Prince of Wales Fort. As a National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada, we were treated to a captivating interpretation of the deeply rooted history of the Fort and the broader Churchill area from our Parks Heritage Presenter Duane. Understanding the history of the area allowed for a more profound understanding of the cultural and historical significance of this plot of land at the mouth of the Hudson Bay. The history of Churchill is further punctuated with a visit to the Itsanitaq Museum (formerly Eskimo Museum) located in the town of Churchill. The museum creates a clear timeline of the history of the Churchill area and allows visitors the chance to witness the progression of the Dene Indigenous culture as well as the Inuit cultures from further north of Churchill. Additionally the museum exhibits arctic marine mammal artefacts like baleen from a bowhead whale and a few examples of a narwhal tooth.
As a photographer, I was attracted to this LV because of its name, but what this opportunity allowed me to do was gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Churchill beyond just being the Polar Bear Capital of the World. When you peel back the layers of Churchill, and dig deeper, you start to realize just how culturally, socially, and historically significant this small little humble town on Hudson Bay really is. Your sense of identity as a Canadian starts to strengthen as you walk within the walls of the Prince of Wales Fort. Your sense of adventure and wanderlust peaks as a Beluga Whale breaches for air right in front of your kayak, and you snap the perfect photo. Your knowledge broadens as experts guide you on Beluga age and gender identification with whales that are right beside you. In short, this LV was undoubtedly the springboard to a life-changing summer.
Churchill Northern Studies Centre is an independent non-profit charitable organisation dedicated to supporting research and education initiatives in Churchill. The Centre is open year-round to provide logistical services to scientists working in the Western Hudson Bay region. In addition to supporting world-class research, we are also proud to offer a wide variety of educational programs to the general public through our Learning Vacations as well as custom trips for school and youth groups. Participants in CNSC programs have the unique opportunity to learn more about their chosen topic directly from renowned scientists and naturalists. Our upcoming dates for this featured Learning Vacation- Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens will happen from June 22 – 27, 2017. To learn more about this program and others visit our webpage www.churchillscience.ca/events with online booking available to reserve your spot as a participant!
Evan Roberts is a student at the Universtiy of Winnipeg completing a double-major in Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Evan is a passionate photogapher, mediocre hockey player, and a cycling enthusiast.
Note from CaNOE:Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s whale-watching guidelines applied in other regions suggest that boaters use a slow speed if within 400 m of whales and idle when they come within 100 m of them. Current beluga tourism operators have developed selfregulating rules of conduct that attempt to minimize disturbance.
About a year ago I started the Science Communication Graduate program at Laurentian University. Previously I completed a BSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph and have been working in education at various aquariums and wanted to be more involved in ocean education. My time in the Science Communication program helped me connect with numerous informal education networks in Canada, but found few focused on ocean education. In the past I worked in Florida, and became well acquainted with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA). I hoped to find an equivalent organization, where a Canadian network of individuals who are passionate about sharing their love of the oceans with fellow Canadians. This is what brought me to the Canadian Network for Ocean Education, a group of like minded individuals I was eager to learn from.
At the end of my program this spring I chose to complete an internship in Halifax, where CaNOE happened to be holding their 2016 Ocean Literacy Conference: Ocean Optimism. I figured there couldn’t be a better way to become involved with CaNOE than start volunteering at their conference. Being able to interact with people who love learning and teaching about the ocean during this conference inspired me to continue my involvement with CaNOE. I decided to do this by becoming involved with the organization’s working groups – the hardest part was choosing which one to join! I had to review my options:
What better way to help CaNOE than to plan their next conference? In 2015, this Working Group put together a stellar inaugural conference jam-packed with workshops in Vancouver. In 2016, the conference sailed across the country to Halifax where it was once again filled with great workshops, lectures, and our first ever Open Space where we were able to explore and discuss topics with our fellow colleagues. What’s to come to come at our next conference in 2018? Join the group and be the first to find out!
If you are more interested in the smooth functioning of CaNOE, then this is the group for you! The first couple years were focused on setting up the society and creating the CaNOE governance documents, but there’s still lots of work to be done. The future of this group entails bylaw compliance and review, the BC Societies Act, Board elections, and internal matters. Pull up a chair and lend your administrative advice!
Finances and Fundraising
As a not-for-profit group, we require funding to achieve our mission. It is very important to have a group to keep our finances in check, and search and apply for grant opportunities. Here you will hone your skills in finding the perfect grant and even writing a perfect grant proposal, critical skills to have in our field.
Now you know CaNOE has a blog, but did you know we also have a Facebook page? A Twitter? A monthly newsletter? All our posts and updates on the various communication platforms are written by the Communications group. If you are interested in spreading the word about CaNOE and love sharing awesome ocean education news, this is the group for you. Plans for the coming year include creating a communication strategy and increasing CaNOE website traffic. Give us a hand and learn the ins and outs of social media!
A key part of any organization is coming up with a plan and missions you wish to achieve. This group helps keep CaNOE on course as we continue to grow across Canada. Even though in 2016, our Directors approved a 5 year Strategic Plan, the work is not done. Continuing on, this group will work towards CaNOE’s long term goals by setting short term goals and annual work plans.
International Efforts and Activities
Perhaps you would like to use your camaraderie skills and build relationships with other similar organizations who share our passion for ocean literacy. For example, Canada has committed to advancing transatlantic ocean literacy, with the EU and the USA in the Galway Statement. What better way to grow as an organization then to learn from other amazing organizations around the world? Help us build and maintain these relationship where we can share each other’s resources!
Education and Outreach
As of 2016, the Canadian Network for Ocean Education has started a group that focuses on the latter part of our organization’s name – education! As one of the newer working groups, the Education and Outreach team hopes to build a database of ocean science learning resources. A special invitation is extended to teachers from this group.. If you know of other organizations doing great marine and freshwater outreach or are a teacher wishing to help spread ocean education across the country, then this just might be the group for you.
The final, newly added group, will be looking into CaNOE membership options, including fees, categories, and benefits. In addition, this group will be helping Regional chapters get going. Regional groups will set their own goals, have a regional perspective and support members locally . We hope to increase membership among those who are not based directly on the east or west coasts. If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of then we’d love to have you!
Phew! Now that I know all my fin-tastic options it has come time for me to choose a group. Maybe writing this blog post is a dead giveaway, but I chose to join the Communications Working Group! But because I could not choose just one of the amazing working groups, I also joined the Education Working Group! I hope my past experience will be an asset to these teams and I can’t wait to learn from my fellow CaNOE colleagues.
If you wish to join us then please do! If you’re not a CaNOE member yet – fill out our online form – then volunteer to join a working group! Shoot an email over to email@example.com, let us know what group you are interested in, and we will get back to you as soon as possible! I hope to work with you soon!
Lucija is a marine science educator who has in the past worked at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation. Upon completing her Science Communication graduate program at Laurentian University she decided to continue exploring more informal science institutions. Twitter: @LucijaRose
Surrounded by the ocean on three of its four borders, and with an economic exclusive zone (EEZ) spanning some 2.9 million km2, Canada plays a major role in the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment. For the 7 million people that live in Canada’s coastal areas, the ocean is a significant feature in their lives. Be it for the extractive uses on which so many coastal communities depend on, or for the non-extractive uses that provide benefits to human health and wellbeing. Alongside most of the world’s ocean, Canada’s marine waters have seen degradation from human activities such as overfishing, coastal habitat modification, upstream contamination and air and noise pollution.
Fostering understanding and stewardship of the ocean among the Canadian public is vital part of establishing and maintaining a healthy ocean. There is a dire need for better marine education for the 28 million Canadians who live inland and in remote locations. But how can we help Canadians learn about their influence on the ocean and the ocean’s influence on them? How can we increase ocean literacy in Canada? We want people to learn about the ocean in a way that inspires and motivates positive action to better protect this major Canadian ‘ecosystem’ as well as the global ocean.
Since we cannot bring every Canadian to the ocean, we must bring the ocean to them. CaNOE Communications Working Group members Samantha Andrews and Kat Middleton recently tackled this topic at the 2016 OceansOnline Conference held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. They co-led a facilitated discussion on behalf of CaNOE about the role of the internet in increasing ocean literacy in Canada with participants from around the world.
The importance of connection
Sam and Kat are from very different backgrounds. Sam grew up on a small Island (Jersey, Channel Islands) where the ocean and coast were a part of her everyday life. Her decision to work in Marine Conservation was no surprise. Kat, on the other hand, grew up on a Canadian Great Lake. The ocean was not a part of her life, but thanks to some wonderful books put out by OWL magazine in the early 1990s, she felt a connection to the ocean and the creatures that lived there. Thanks to this connection, she is now a marine scientist – and pursuing a career in ocean education.
Kat wasn’t the only person in the room who had grown up away from the ocean, but she was unique in never having visited the ocean before deciding that marine science was for her. Some participants shared that they grew up in Ontario and Quebec, but had parents who loved to sail, giving them a personal connection and first-hand experience with the ocean. Another attendee noted that at a university in the coastal city of Pittsburg, USA, there are an increasingly large number of marine science majors and interns from inland locations rather than coastal areas.
From the continued discussion, it seemed that a personal connection to the ocean played a significant role for most participants in fostering their interest in the ocean. Interestingly, one attendee from the Island of Puerto Rico noted that being close to the ocean might only habituate people to it. She continued to explain that, contrary to our discussion, living by the ocean may not necessarily mean people are more aware of the importance of the coast or their environmental impacts.
The power of the Internet in connecting people to the ocean in a way that educates and fosters a sense of stewardship
Attendees were in little doubt that the Internet could be a powerful way to connect people to the ocean in a meaningful way. With significant global reach, the Internet has a bigger audience than books and television documentaries, as well as a huge variety of media and flexibility of outreach tools online. The group discussed potential ways we could connect the public online to the world of ocean science.
Social media is for everyone
All social media platforms received unanimous support from the group as a useful way to connect people with the ocean in their daily lives. The ability to quickly and easily bring people together was identified as one of the key strengths of social media, since users are often already familiar with their platform of choice. “They know how to act, how to engage”, one attendee noted. The ease of access and intuitive nature of social media makes dissemination of knowledge possible and allows for greater interaction between users. With NGOs, scientists, marine management bodies, industry groups, and the “public” on one social media platform or another, the importance of these online platforms for professionals as well as non-professionals was also highlighted.
Blogging builds on knowledge
Using the Internet to connect inland populations to the ocean doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. People have relied on the written word through books, magazines and newspapers, long before the World Wide Web. Like digital personal newspapers, blogging platforms have surged in popularity online, and can be an excellent tool for ocean science communication. Attendees noted that different styles of writing can appeal to different audiences, each with their own demographic makeup. However, perhaps more so than social media, blogs are typically sought-out, and specifically searched for by those already interested in a chosen subject matter. So, blogs may not necessarily create an initial ocean connection, but they can certainly build upon it.
Educational digital media
Most of us know how captivating television can be – especially for young children who crave content filled with larger than life characters. Attendees noted a couple of educational kids shows that can be found online – ‘The Octonauts’: a group of animal cartoon characters who explore the ocean while encountering real animals in lifelike settings, and the upcoming ‘Splash and Bubbles’: a digital puppetry show produced by Jim Henson, in conjunction with marine biologists and educators. The most successful engagement from these shows, one attendee thought, will likely come from following a simple formula: have a good plot, make it fun, and then sneak in the learning. Whilst young children may be happy to sit and watch one program online for 15 or 20 minutes, if the content is any longer, young teenagers may not. Many young teenagers are often seen flicking from one stream to next on their digital devices. But this doesn’t mean visual content is less useful for this age group, one attendee noted. It’s important to tailor educational videos to the shorter teenage (and sometimes adult) attention span. It is essential to connect each audience with the styles of entertainment they are already engaged in.
Interactive live dives
“The Internet can do more than distribute visual or written media”, an attendee noted. The Fish Eye Project has a simple mission – entertain, engage, and educate by connecting people to the world’s ocean through interactive Live Dives. Having already been broadcast to IMAX, science centres, and classrooms, The Fish Eye Project not only shows people what is happening under the waves, but does so in real-time, and with a diver audiences can interact with! This live, in-situ, interaction the attendee highlighted, is key for going beyond education – it creates a connection to the ocean, and to the animals that live there. For people who never get to go into the ocean, this is a unique and immersive opportunity.
With engagement being key, another tool that could prove useful in ocean education and stewardship initiatives are online games. Just like children’s programs, engaging games should also have a plot, be fun – and have a healthy dose of education thrown in – even if it’s not obvious to the gamer. A few ocean science gaming ideas were given by the group:
Simulation games – imagine being a salmon, from the moment you hatch to the moment you spawn
Hungry sharks – but with a healthy dose of stealth education
Plastic pollution – look at how it may impact an ocean animal
Gamers thrive on nuances, and there are plenty of those in the natural world, one attendee emphasised. Other suggestions looked to games already in development. Attendees questioned: “If movies can have scientific consultants, why not games? They should include marine scientists!”
Working together – connecting coastal and inland communities for improving ocean literacy
What became clear from the facilitated discussion was that the variety of tools available on the Internet are valuable in engaging all communities with the ocean, whether they live on the coast or not. Overall, the group agreed that the Internet provides an incredible opportunity to show coastal and inland communities just how linked they are to each other and the ocean.
Online tools can be used to engage school groups in different parts of the country – and even overseas – to gather in one (virtual) space. Interaction can go beyond just talking, it can involve hands-on learning. Participants noted that a school located near the coast could launch an Open ROV into the ocean, with operators located inland, and work together with another school across the country to explore the unknown ocean depths. Another idea discussed was for those living along watersheds with migratory species, such as salmon. School groups could tag and track individual fish as they migrate from their natal rivers and back again. Youth involved in the project would learn about the impacts of inland restoration or restocking efforts along with a partner coastal community, who may follow the same salmon at ocean entry. Classes could go see salmon on either end of the migratory pathway and broadcast their experiences back to the partnering community. Other participants pitched ideas about following human actions and our impact on the ocean – such as littering and plastic pollution.
Seafood was decided as a major way in which inland communities may connect with the ocean. Thanks to smartphones, scanning barcodes and QR codes is a straight-forward process, and tracking is sometimes done as part of the seafood processing chain. By tapping into these technologies, inland communities can see where their seafood has come from, how it was caught, and even who caught it. Some organizations, such as SeaChoice, already offering such services, but there may be room to expand to show the whole process – from fisher right through to fork. In a similar vein, the Internet also offers a way to connect fishers to consumers who live far away. This connection offers a human dimension and the potential for interaction between those providing the food and those eating it. Food provenance is becoming increasingly important for consumers and fishers who wish to demonstrate the sustainability of their practices. These interactions could be created through physical events such as seafood tastings with celebrity chefs and scientists. “What about dine-in theatres, with live streaming?” one attendee added. Participants also noted that the opportunity to connect fishers to professionals, managers, scientists, and NGOs for example, to promote discussion and understanding would only be a good thing!
Facilitated discussion participants noted that not everyone has access to the Internet, and if they do, that connection may not be good enough to use some applications. One solution may be to ensure there are shared community events where people can attend an online event at one location that has a reliable Internet connection. But the importance of a good connection at the receivers end can be paramount. Fish Eye Project’s live dives, for example, would not work so well where Internet is poor. In terms of collaborative learning partnerships between inland and coastal communities, poor internet on either end presents challenges. “Can’t we just combine the Internet with more traditional methods?” one attendee asked. Suggestions focused around using the postal system, sending ‘love-letters’ to the ocean (“the sounds you make relax me”), or ‘guilty-letters’ – an everyday action that someone did that contributes towards poor ocean health (“I threw a can into to estuary”), which can be put online, and linked with marine science and/or conservation actions, both inland and on the coast.
A number of attendees also noted that there are ways to boost Internet signals such as using cell phone data – an approach that can work just as well, if not better, than the average Internet connection in some remote areas.
Regardless of these barriers, facilitated discussion attendees agreed that online tools for ocean science communication are an essential contributor towards improving ocean literacy in Canada and around the world. The ideas and contributions of participants at OceansOnline will go towards a growing list of ocean education resources from CaNOE’s Education and Outreach Working Group. CaNOE members are invited to join the Education and Outreach Working Group, as well as several others that you can find on our website.
We would like to thank all of the attendees of this facilitated discussion. We hope it was as useful – and as inspirational – to you as it was to us.
Sam is a marine conservation biologist/ecologist and marine science communicator. When she is not talking to people about the ocean, its inhabitants, or its importance to us, she can be found at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she is doing a PhD. Her research focuses on population connectivity, dispersal, and metapopulations, and their application to marine protected area networks, right here in Canada. Twitter: @hobosci
Kat is a marine biologist and science communicator who is just completed the Science Communication graduate program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Her research project focused on how immersive social media campaigns can contribute as effective online science communication tools, especially for improving ocean literacy in inland populations. Kat has been studying and working in aquatic and ocean conservation over the last decade and now works as a communications specialist at Laurentian University. Twitter: @katmidds
Celebrated on June 8 each year, World Oceans Day provides a great opportunity to promote the importance of the ocean to our daily lives, and to learn more about the diverse creatures and habitats in our waters and how our actions affect them. On June 4, 2016, the Newfoundland and Labrador World Oceans Day Committee1 held the seventh annual World Oceans Day Family Event in St. John’s. This free event, hosted by the Marine Institute, included lots of fun and educational activities such as touch tanks, ROV demos, crafts and many interactive displays. Over 20 organizations set up booths or displays and over 1400 children and adults attended!
Visitors making sea creatures from up-cycling cardboard trays!
The committee also coordinated the annual World Oceans Day Art and Essay Contests for schools across the province. Grades K-6 students were invited to submit a drawing illustrating the World Oceans Day theme “Healthy Oceans-Healthy Planet.” Grades 7-9 students were asked to write an essay about how they will make a difference and commit to protecting the ocean. To see the winners, visit http://www.fishaq.gov.nl.ca/education/index.html
Visitors learning about local sea critters at the interactive touch tank.
*The NL world Oceans Day committee members include representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada-Newfoundland Region, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Fish Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)-Newfoundland Chapter, and Wild Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada
Up-close and personal with some tiny green crabs at the DFO AIS booth.
Whether you missed it because you were out and about being an ocean educator, or whether you took in every single session and field trip, the tide of the 2016 CaNOE conference has come and gone. From June 9th to 11th, CaNOE hosted their second Ocean Literacy conference, this time at Dalhousie University during Halifax’s Oceans Week, a celebration and recognition of the province’s ocean connections. Nova Scotia is called Canada’s “ocean playground” for good reason. Most of the population lives on the coast, and the culture, history and economy are inextricably linked to the ocean. There are many people in the Maritimes doing great work in Ocean Education and Ocean Literacy and we were incredibly fortunate to have a full slate of amazing presenters and enthusiastic attendees at the conference. Wish you could have been there? Were there but want to re-live the glory? Here’s a recap!
Dr. Elin Kelsey speaks about ‘Epic Wins’ (outcomes so extraordinarily positive, you had no idea they were even possible) and she’d like to see more of that with #OceanOptimism. Photo: Sonya Lee
The theme of the conference was “Ocean Optimism (#OceanOptimism for all you tweeters!), and we kicked off the action with an evening keynote address from Dr. Elin Kelsey (check out her blog post here!). All too often, stories about the ocean are presented from a “doom and gloom” perspective – “the ocean is in trouble and there is nothing you can do it about it.” Instead of inspiring action, this can actually prompt a feeling of hopelessness for the public as well as ocean educators and conservation scientists. This growing sense of hopelessness led Dr. Kelsey and others to launch an initiative to infuse hope into ocean communication. #OceanOptimism was created as a way for marine conservationists, scientists and educators to share positive messages and success stories. Since its launch in 2014, #OceanOptimism has been used more than 56 million times to highlight hopeful ocean stories and present a better future for the ocean. So the next time you’re feeling doomy and gloomy, check out #OceanOptimism on Twitter for a dose of the warm and fuzzies.
Charged up with hope and optimism, we tackled the next day of the conference with smiles and energy. In the morning, presenters showcased their hard work with presentations on creative ways to educate, connecting science and people through ocean literacy, sustainable seafood choices and ocean literacy, and coastal stewardship. All of the presentations were engaging and generated a lot of discussion, everything from sea turtles to beach trash to sustainable seafood start-ups!
Laurenne Schiller from the Vancouver Aquarium speaks about the Ocean Wise program during the presentation session on “What’s in your fridge? Educating consumers to make better seafood choices.” Photo: Sonya Lee
(By the way… The lunch catered by Dalhousie University conference services was amazing! We had a choice between vegetarian sushi, butter chicken, cabbage rolls, and a decadent chocolate mousse! Thanks, Dalhousie Food Services!)
In the afternoon, we circled round to start an “Open Space” session facilitated by Peter Tuddenham and Tina Bishop of the College of Exploration. Open Space is a creative, flexibly-structured strategy for generating authentic and spontaneous discussion about issues or topics of the attendees’ choosing. Conference participants proposed and facilitated discussion topics, and we had enthusiastic discussions on the difference between, and intersection of, ocean education and environmental education; how to engage inland Canadians in Ocean Education; and how to get students interested, engaged, and excited about ocean data. Some people were skeptical of the Open Space concept but it ended up being their favourite part of the conference!
Day 3 started with the CaNOE AGM led by Michelle Lloyd, CaNOE’s outgoing board Chair. Michelle gave an update on what CaNOE has been up to for the past year and what CaNOE’s strategic plan will bring over the next few years. The new Board of Directors was voted in and the “paddle was passed” to our amazing new Co-chairs Anne Stewart and Heather Murray.
The conference concluded with workshops on creating “your dream aquarium,” connecting communities to real-time ocean data, creating “ah ha” moments through storytelling, learning about an example of an outdoor classroom on McNabs Island, and thinking about ocean action in a global arena.
This year’s CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference was exciting and inspiring, and there was a feeling of closeness and connection felt by participants. We were thrilled to meet talented ocean educators and learn about the incredible work happening across Canada. Thank you to everyone who attended, and we hope to see you at the next Ocean Literacy conference!! The conference co-chairs would like to send a big thank you out to our Conference Planning Working Group members and conference volunteers. Also, a big thank you to our sponsors who helped make our conference possible:
Laura Barrett is the Education Program Assistant at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, St. Andrews, New Brunswick. She loves introducing people of all ages—children, students, teens, families, and lifelong learners—to the amazing creatures that live in the Bay of Fundy. Since working at the Huntsman she has noticed that people know more about species from away such as sting rays and sea lions then they do the creatures in their own marine backyard. Her passion is engaging people with their local ocean by getting their hands wet and their rubber boots dirty. She also strives to get Grade 6 girls to say “cool” instead of “gross”.
You arrive eager but unsure about what is going to happen during a Huntsman field course. During the planning stages, words such as boat and beach have been mentioned but these words can mean very different things to different people. No the beach we are exploring does not have white sand or sunbathers and the boat is equipped with such devices as a benthic drag and plankton tow; not your everyday pleasure craft. Your attire for your boat trip on the bay, rubber boots, rain gear, hat and wooly mitts. The bay is cold, even in summer.
Your first day on the Huntsman campus involves a trip in the research vessel and a plankton lab. The first exclamation of awe comes from the view as you walk to the boat, the second while onboard when pulling the plankton nets from the water and there are “bugs”, “things”, plankton jumping about in the collection jars, the third when pulling the benthic drag from the bottom and animals are spilled onto the sorting table. “Seastars!” “Crabs!” “A fish!” “WHAT IS THIS?!”
You look over the vast surface of the ocean and it can be hard to imagine all of the living creatures that are in this water, that rely on this as their home and how much you rely on these creatures to be able to survive on this planet.
In the lab, placing a drop of water from the plankton jar under the microscope creates a whole new set of excitement. Those little “things”, “bugs”, plankton jumping about in the sample are brought to life at 40x magnification. The microscope introduces you to a whole new world. You hear groans when it is time to put away the microscopes. This new world is fascinating and everyone wants to explore more now that their appetite has been whet. You find it hard to fathom that phytoplankton really provide over 50% of the world’s oxygen and that 17-metre-long endangered whales eat tiny zooplankton.
The week progresses with similar moments when the behaviour of the amazing animals you have collected from the bottom of the bay—sea stars, rock crabs, blood stars, hermit crabs—are studied in the lab. You never would have imagined that a sea star could hold 12 times its own weight or that they have eyes on the tip of each arm. Amazing!
The beaches may not have white sand and sunbathers but under the rocks and seaweed you find fish, sea stars, urchins, sea slugs, and in the muddy sediment worms with fangs and ones that are four feet long.
Programs at the Huntsman allow us to introduce people to the ocean, which is so much more than white sand and sunbathers. It is intrinsically a part of us from the oxygen we breathe (thank you, phytoplankton), to the food we eat (thank you, seaweed, for making my ice cream smooth and creamy), and the water we drink (thank you, for supplying 90% of the evaporated water that goes into the water cycle).
Exploring the ocean is like a whole new world waiting to be discovered.