About Me

This blog is primarily geared toward staff at the zoos, aquariums, museums (ZAMs), and other conservation education organizations that are part of our growing global network. We aim to provide you with cutting edge, challenging, and creative information, ideas, and tools to become as effective as possible at communicating about and for conservation with your visitors and the public.

See our ongoing communications research, or join our growing network, at The Ocean Project's website.

July 16, 2009

Largest-Ever Environmental Survey Released

Just in case you missed it last month...In advance of World Oceans Day The Ocean Project released the results from a sweeping new national survey. America, the Ocean, and Climate Change: New Research Insights for Conservation, Awareness, and Action surveyed over 22,000 Americans on a comprehensive range of ocean- and environment-related topics. It is the largest environmental survey ever conducted.

Funding for the survey was provided through an Environmental Literacy Grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and through collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the National Aquarium.

The report indicates that Americans’ knowledge about the ocean is limited, and concern about environmental issues affecting the ocean is a low priority compared with issues such as the economy and national security. While the poll also finds that climate change is the single environmental issue of greatest concern to the public, people are largely unaware of the connection between climate change, carbon pollution and ocean health.

Despite low levels of ocean literacy, when asked, Americans say they support protecting the health of the ocean and the environment. In a significant shift from views expressed in a 1999 survey also commissioned by The Ocean Project, Americans now believe that their individual actions can have a positive effect on protecting the environment and improving the health of the ocean. They are ready to act but are not sure what to do. Likewise, the public expects zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs) to communicate solutions to environmental and ocean issues while advancing conservation.

The survey has important implications for how ZAMs can be more effective in achieving their goals. Significantly, the public looks to ZAMs to be leaders for conservation action. People are looking to ZAMs to suggest practical steps that will make a difference for the ocean and our environment. Clearly, the research shows that ZAMs have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference, and the time is now.

Additional tracking surveys have been commissioned by The Ocean Project to provide updates every six months. The first tracking survey results will be available in September. More information about the survey including the summary report is available at: www.TheOceanProject.org.

July 15, 2009

Oceans need policy action from ZAMs

Our world ocean suffers from a lack of international leadership, we in the United States still need a comprehensive national ocean policy, and according to our latest research and that of others, our society clearly lacks any sort of collective conservation consciousness.

Aggressive and strong conservation-minded policies are direly needed, and zoos, aquariums, museums (ZAMs), and our other Partners can help. President Obama's appointments of key leaders in his Administration who understand the gravity of climate change, including scientists like Dr. Jane Lubchenco who heads NOAA, the nation’s main agency focused on the ocean, is a very welcome change of pace.

Another promising development occurred when President Obama declared June as "National Oceans Month." He put some teeth into the proclamation by establishing an interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, which will be comprised of senior level officials who will draft several recommendations, as well as develop a much needed "comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem-based" framework for sustainably regarding US oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes. This will help achieve the vision of the two national ocean commissions that released their reports approximately five years ago.

Yet another positive development on the policy front includes the release – with much input from scientists essentially gagged during the Bush administration - of the most authoritative federal study yet on climate change, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States." This report documents how warming waters are killing coral reefs, increased acidity is dissolving the basic building blocks of life in the ocean, and sea level rise combined with intense storms is beginning to batter sensitive coastal ecosystems that are nurseries or homes to most species of fish, as well as most humans.

While our recent national market research found that Americans continue to have low levels of ocean literacy and revealed little indication of public knowledge of policy-based solutions to ocean threats, when asked, Americans say they support protecting the health of the ocean and the environment. ZAMs can tap into Americans' 'can do' attitude by providing them with a variety of solutions, from personal action to policy advocacy, to the pressing issues of climate change and ocean conservation. ZAMs can also lead by example, and play a significant role by targeting communications to key audiences who are most likely to take or influence action.

One example is to increase individual and collective lobbying and advocacy efforts by ZAMs with policymakers. For instance, ZAM board members are influential leaders in your community; they want to help in various ways and, if engaged, can help reach congressional and other policy leaders effectively.

ZAMs can also connect with youth to help in many ways including online mobilization for action. The research confirms, too, that youth also exert significant influence on their parents who believe their tween and teen children are better informed. The influence on parents may not be anything too new but the research does seems to show that parents are willing to follow their childrens' advice on matters concerning the environment and conservation.

July 14, 2009

World Oceans Day 2009 recap

Congratulations to all who participated in World Oceans Day 2009, the biggest celebration ever of our world's ocean! This year over 230 organizations and institutions organized events worldwide, with more than 70 in the US alone, including the public aquariums and national NGOs. From a Presidential proclamation and lighting of the Empire State building in blue, to thousands of volunteers participating in beach clean-ups, many people celebrated the ocean and participated in ocean stewardship.

The concept of a "World Ocean Day" was first proposed in 1992. What started as an idea has now grown into an officially designated day, recognized by the United Nations and celebrated by countless individuals all around the world. This day, June 8th, and its message of ocean education and conservation will continue to grow in popularity as word spreads on the importance of our oceans to all of us, no matter where we live.

As you may know, The Ocean Project launched a Wear Blue and Tell Two campaign this year. We urged our Partner ZAMs and other friends in the wider ocean conservation community to start to associate the color blue with World Oceans Day each year. The idea linking with the "tell two" is to multiply our reach by telling people two interesting facts about the ocean and easy ways one can take personal action to help.

The Ocean Project would like to thank everybody who participated in World Oceans Day 2009 and we hope you will continue your commitment to celebrating World Oceans Day in the future — it is not too early to start planning for June 8, 2010. Let us know your ideas!

Come learn and play in Portland!

Don't forget to register for the annual conference of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This year, the Oregon Zoo is hosting in Portland, Oregon, nicely situated between the mountains and the coast.

This year's conference for zoo and aquarium professionals promises some great programming and networking.

One panel that we are helping to organize will feature our main research consultant who will share the latest findings from the most extensive, ongoing public attitude and awareness survey about environmental topics ever conducted in the United States. We will have fresh data to present from the first of at least four semi-annual tracking surveys. This research, commissioned by The Ocean Project, has important implications for how aquariums and zoos can have greater impact and be more effective in communicating with the public about topics ranging from ocean conservation to climate change. Senior staff members of three major U.S. aquariums will share examples of how these results have influenced or supported the conservation work of their institutions.

The Ocean Project will also host a professionally-facilitated session for invited Partners to discuss the research findings, how they are being interpreted, successes in integrating the findings and any barriers in doing so, and more.

Our proposed panel on youth as drivers of environmental engagement was unfortunately not fully accepted this year although we will have one of the panelists from this session integrated into another session, and we will aim to bring this important information to AZA members at upcoming conferences.

In addition, we will be sharing a poster on the watershed-to-ocean initiative that we are developing for Partners to help do more in your local watersheds. Our prototypes demonstrate concepts our Partners will be able to use anywhere on the planet, allowing your visitors to visualize how they connect through their watershed to the ocean, learn about ecosystems and ecosystem-related issues in the community, get involved, and develop a better sense of their "eco-address."

By the way, Portland is an amazingly walkable, bikeable, and public transportable city with lots of great things to do and places eat, shop and play during the conference. The Zoo 'host committee' has developed a fun online resource, including how conference goers can be green. Check it out to make the most of your time there!