By Sonya Lee, Andrea Moore, and Haley Guest
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: