by Jordan Marino and Val Perini, Northeastern University Marine Science Center
On November 15th & 16th the New England Ocean Science Collaborative (NEOSEC) hosted the seventh biennial Ocean Literacy Summit, at Northeastern University and UMass Boston. The Summit planning team, composed of marine scientists, educators, and ocean literacy leaders in New England, put together a two-day program that followed the theme of Ocean Literacy Principle 2: the ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth. Through presentations, lightning talks, and demonstrations, people came together to share best practices to promote ocean literacy by making marine science more accessible to public audiences. This year also included a special focus on creativity and science and using art and other non-traditional methods of science communication.
The event started with a splash on Thursday with morning workshops at Northeastern University in Boston, afternoon field trips hosted by local NEOSEC partner organizations, and an evening Science Café at the Boston Winery. The four workshops included topics of advancing ocean literacy with technology, using creativity and art to promote science communication, using citizen science to engage the public in ocean research, and an introduction to the Ocean Literacy Framework and its development. Each workshop started with presentations and introductions from a panel of presenters, followed by time for participants to ask questions, try out activities, and explore resources related to each topic. Workshop spaces were a buzz as attendees met presenters and colleagues, brainstorming about how to apply these resources to their work.
Diana Payne from Connecticut Sea Grant, and Sarah Schoedinger from NOAA Office of Education, led the workshop titled, “Ocean Literacy 101: How the Concept of What Everyone Should Know About the Ocean Changed the World”. Diana and Sarah, who contributed to the development of the Ocean Literacy Principles, discussed their conception, and how they have evolved to be included in education standards across the world. The National Science Education Standards have little content on marine science and with this void in mind, the goal of the Ocean Literacy Principles was to provide a framework for integrating ocean literacy into science education.
After these workshops, participants were able to choose a field trip to attend. Conference attendees toured labs, met researchers, and enjoyed spectacular ocean views at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center, met cuttlefish, sharks, and penguins at the New England Aquarium, visited Courageous Sailing and the USS Constitution in Charlestown Navy Yard, and learned about one of the country’s first metropolitan water systems at the Waterworks Museum.
After field trips, participants made their way to the Boston Winery, for some evening libations, pizza, and conversation. After an entertaining and informative tour by the grandson of the Winery’s founder, participants were treated to three short talks on living shorelines and coastal resilience in Boston. Local scientists, engineers, and landscape architects gave an overview of local work they are doing to prepare Massachusetts for sea level rise. Three chapters of NMEA sponsored the science café: Southeastern New England Marine
Educators (SENEME), Massachusetts Marine Educators (MME), and Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA). Each brought materials to share with attendees. Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management also shared valuable resources they’ve developed to help youth and the public better understand threats facing coastal habitats, and the path towards a more resilient coastline.
On day two of the Summit at UMass Boston, Jeff Donnelly, Senior Scientist and Director at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, kicked off the morning with the Keynote Address discussing his research on hurricane effects on coastal landforms and ecosystems. He shared how hurricanes have evolved over time, and what changes may come in the future. The keynote address was followed by a panel on Sea Level Rise, with a diverse group of panelists who fielded questions from education and outreach, to weather and climate change action plans. They provided several ways to educate the public on sea level rise, and how to stay optimistic about the future. There was a great conversation amongst audience members on successes and challenges of communicating climate change with the public.
The rest of the day included a science and education fair with hands-on demonstrations and activities, exhibitors of various organizations, lightning talks, and concurrent sessions.
At the science and education fair, a diversity of presenters showcased hands-on classroom activities, from oceanographic monitoring with drifters, to exploring erosion with model “coastlines” in paint trays. The concurrent sessions paired a scientist and educator to share their expertise on a variety of topics from earth’s recent geologic history, to the influence of ocean life on landforms, to seaweed art.
Just when folks might be feeling an afternoon slump, the learning and fun continued with a marine trivia hour over drinks and snacks, hosted by Edgar B. Herwick III from the WGBH Curiosity Desk. Teams wracked their brains through several rounds of tough questions and after an extremely close competition, team Nudi but Nice clinched the win by only ½ a point!
The Summit concluded with a marine art show: educators and artists showed and sold their art, inspired by their work with the ocean. Artwork ranged from photography, paintings, knit marine animals, algae pressings, and even pottery made with the shimmering purple sands found on local beaches.
Overall the 2018 Ocean Literacy Summit was a great success. Special thanks to the Summit Steering Committee, including Aimee Bonanno NEOSEC Program Manager, Heather Deschenes Summit Steering Committee Chair, and Val Perini NEOSEC Chair and to all summit sponsors, especially our ocean sustainers and explorers: The New England Aquarium, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Program, Maine Coastal Program, and NERACOOS.