2. The Basics of Ocean Literacy
– 2.1 Summary
– 2.2 Communication Strategies
3. Behavior Change
– 3.1. Summary
– 3.2. Application
– 3.3. Nature-Based Empathy
– 4.1 STEM and the Ocean
– 4.2 Resources for K-12 Educators
5. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
6. Standards, Methodologies, and Indicators
We’re working to translate ocean literacy into conservation action.
Read about our Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI).
One of the most significant barriers to progress in the marine conservation sector is a lack of real understanding of the importance, vulnerability, and connectivity of ocean systems. Research shows that the public is not well-equipped with knowledge about ocean issues and access to ocean literacy as a field of study and viable career pathway has historically been inequitable. The Ocean Foundation’s newest core project, the Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI), was established in 2022 to address this problem. COEGI is dedicated to supporting the development of marine education community leaders and empowering students of all ages to translate ocean literacy into conservation action. To support this program, this research page is intended to provide a synopsis of current data and recent trends regarding ocean literacy and behavior change as well as identify gaps that The Ocean Foundation can fill with COEGI.
What is ocean literacy?
While the exact definition varies among publications, in simple terms, ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on people and the world as a whole. It is how aware a person is of the ocean environment and how the health and well-being of the ocean can affect everyone, along with general knowledge of the ocean and the life that inhabits it, its structure, function, and how to communicate this knowledge to others.
What is behavior change?
Behavior change is the study of how and why people change their attitude and behavior, and how people may inspire action to protect the environment. As with ocean literacy, there is some debate about the exact definition of behavior change, but it routinely includes ideas that incorporate psychological theories with attitudes and decision-making toward conservation.
What can be done to help address the gaps in education, training, and community engagement?
TOF’s ocean literacy approach focuses on hope, action, and behavior change, a complex topic discussed by TOF President Mark J. Spalding in our blog in 2015. COEGI is dedicated to supporting the development of marine education community leaders and empowering students of all ages to translate ocean literacy into conservation action. More information on COEGI can be found on our initiative page, here.
2. Ocean Literacy
Marrero and Payne. (June 2021). Ocean Literacy: From a Ripple to a Wave. In book: Ocean Literacy: Understanding the Ocean, pp.21-39. DOI:10.1007/978-3-030-70155-0_2 https://www.researchgate.net/publication /352804017_Ocean_Literacy_Understanding _the_Ocean
There is a strong need for ocean literacy on an international scale because the ocean transcends country boundaries. This book provides an interdisciplinary approach to ocean education and literacy. This chapter in particular provides a history of ocean literacy, makes connections to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, and makes recommendations for improved communication and education practices. The chapter begins in the United States and expands the scope to cover recommendations for global applications.
Marrero, M. E., Payne, D. L., & Breidahl, H. (2019). The Case for Collaboration to Foster Global Ocean Literacy. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6 https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2019.00325 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 333941293_The_Case_for_Collaboration_ to_Foster_Global_Ocean_Literacy
Ocean literacy developed out of a collaborative effort between formal and informal educators, scientists, government professionals, and others who were interested in defining what people should know about the ocean. The authors emphasize the role of marine education networks in the work of global ocean literacy and discuss the importance of collaboration and action to promote a sustainable ocean future. The paper argues that ocean literacy networks need to work together by focusing on people and partnerships to create products, though more needs to be done to create stronger, more consistent, and more inclusive resources.
Uyarra, M. C., and Borja, Á. (2016). Ocean literacy: a ‘new’ socio-ecological concept for a sustainable use of the seas. Marine Pollution Bulletin 104, 1–2. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.02.060 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 298329423_Ocean_literacy_A_’new’_socio-ecological_concept_for_a_sustainable_use_ of_the_seas
Comparison of public perception surveys of marine threats and protection worldwide. The majority of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat. Pollution ranked highest followed by fishing, habitat alteration, and climate change. Most respondents support marine protected areas in their region or country. Most respondents want to see larger ocean areas protected than currently are. This encourages continued ocean engagement work as it shows that support for these programs is there even if support for other ocean projects has thus far been lacking.
Gelcich, S., Buckley, P., Pinnegar, J. K., Chilvers, J., Lorenzoni, I., Terry, G., et al. (2014). Public awareness, concerns, and priorities about anthropogenic impacts on marine environments. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science U.S.A. 111, 15042–15047. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417344111 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 267749285_Public_awareness_concerns_and _priorities_about_anthropogenic_impacts_on _marine_environments
The level of concern regarding marine impacts is closely associated with the level of informedness. Pollution and overfishing are two areas prioritized by the public for policy development. The level of trust varies greatly among different information sources and is highest for academics and scholarly publications but lower for government or industry. Results suggest that the public perceives the immediacy of marine anthropogenic impacts and is highly concerned about ocean pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. Eliciting public awareness, concerns, and priorities can enable scientists and funders to understand how the public relates to marine environments, frame impacts, and align managerial and policy priorities with public demand.
The Ocean Project (2011). America and the Ocean: Annual Update 2011. The Ocean Project. https://theoceanproject.org/research/
Having a personal connection to ocean issues is vital to achieving long-term engagement with conservation. Social norms typically dictate what actions people favor when deciding on solutions to environmental problems. The majority of people who visit the ocean, zoos, and aquariums are already in favor of ocean conservation. For conservation projects to be effective long-term, specific, local, and personal actions should be emphasized and encouraged. This survey is an update to America, the Ocean, and Climate Change: New Research Insights for Conservation, Awareness, and Action (2009) and Communicating About Oceans: Results of a National Survey (1999).
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. (2006, December). Conference on Ocean Literacy Report. June 7-8, 2006, Washington, D.C.
This report is the result of a 2006 meeting of the National Conference on Ocean Literacy held in Washington, D.C. The focus of the conference was to highlight the efforts of the marine education community to bring ocean learning into classrooms around the United States. The forum found that to achieve a nation of ocean-literate citizens, systemic change in our formal and informal education systems is necessary.
2.2 Communication Strategies
Toomey, A. (2023, February). Why Facts Don’t Change Minds: Insight from Cognitive Science for the Improved Communication of Conservation Research. Biological Conservation, Vol. 278. https://www.researchgate.net/publication /367764901_Why_facts_don%27t_change _minds_Insights_from_cognitive_science_for_ the_improved_communication_of_ conservation_research
Toomey explores and attempts to dispel myths about how to best communicate science for decision-making, including the myths that: facts change minds, scientific literacy will lead to enhanced research uptake, individual attitude change will shift collective behaviors, and broad dissemination is best. Instead, the authors argue that effective science communication comes from: engaging the social mind for optimal decision-making, understanding the power of values, emotions, and experience in swaying minds, changing collective behavior, and thinking strategically. This change in perspective builds upon other claims and advocates for more direct action in order to see long-term and effective changes in behavior.
Hudson, C. G., Knight, E., Close, S. L., Landrum, J. P., Bednarek, A., & Shouse, B. (2023). Telling stories to understand research impact: Narratives from the Lenfest Ocean Program. ICES Journal of Marine Science, Vol. 80, No. 2, 394-400. https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsac169. https://www.researchgate.net/publication /364162068_Telling_stories _to_understand_research_impact_narratives _from_the_Lenfest_Ocean_Program?_sg=sT_Ye5Yb3P-pL9a9fUZD5ODBv-dQfpLaqLr9J-Bieg0mYIBcohU-hhB2YHTlUOVbZ7HZxmFX2tbvuQQ
The Lenfest Ocean Program hosted a study to assess their grantmaking to understand if their projects are effective both inside and outside of academic circles. Their analysis provides an interesting view by looking at narrative storytelling to gauge the effectiveness of research. They discovered that there is great utility in using narrative storytelling to engage in self-reflection and to evaluate the impact of their funded projects. A key takeaway is that supporting research that addresses the needs of marine and coastal stakeholders requires thinking about research impact in a more holistic way than solely counting peer-reviewed publications.
Kelly, R., Evans, K., Alexander, K., Bettiol, S., Corney, S… Pecl, G.T. (2022, February). Connecting to the oceans: supporting ocean literacy and public engagement. Rev Fish Biol Fish. 2022;32(1):123-143. doi: 10.1007/s11160-020-09625-9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 349213591_Connecting_to_the_oceans _supporting _ocean_literacy_and_public_engagement
Improved public understanding of the ocean and the importance of sustainable ocean use, or ocean literacy, is essential for achieving global commitments to sustainable development by 2030 and beyond. The authors focus on four drivers that can influence and improve ocean literacy and societal connections to the ocean: (1) education, (2) cultural connections, (3) technological developments, and (4) knowledge exchange and science-policy interconnections. They explore how each driver plays a role in improving perceptions of the ocean to engender more widespread societal support. The authors develop an ocean literacy toolkit, a practical resource for enhancing ocean connections across a broad range of contexts worldwide.
Knowlton, N. (2021). Ocean optimism: Moving beyond the obituaries in marine conservation. Annual Review of Marine Science, Vol. 13, 479– 499. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-marine-040220-101608. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 341967041_Ocean_Optimism_Moving_Beyond _the_Obituaries_in_Marine_Conservation
While the ocean has suffered many losses, there is increasing evidence that important progress is being made in marine conservation. Many of these achievements have multiple benefits, including improved human well-being. Moreover, a better understanding of how to implement conservation strategies effectively, new technologies and databases, increased integration of the natural and social sciences, and use of indigenous knowledge promise continued progress. There is no single solution; successful efforts typically are neither quick nor cheap and require trust and collaboration. Nevertheless, a greater focus on solutions and successes will help them to become the norm rather than the exception.
Fielding, S., Copley, J.T. and Mills, R.A. (2019). Exploring Our Oceans: Using the Global Classroom to Develop Ocean Literacy. Frontiers in Marine Science 6:340. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00340 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 334018450_Exploring_Our_Oceans_Using _the_Global_Classroom_to_Develop_ Ocean_Literacy
Developing the ocean literacy of individuals of all ages from all countries, cultures, and economic backgrounds is essential to inform choices for sustainable living in the future, but how to reach and represent diverse voices is a challenge. To address this problem the authors created Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to offer a possible tool to achieve this goal, as they can potentially reach large numbers of people including those from lower and middle-income regions.
Simmons, B., Archie, M., Clark, S., and Braus, J. (2017). Guidelines for Excellence: Community Engagement. North American Association for Environmental Education. PDF. https://eepro.naaee.org/sites/default/files/ eepro-post-files/ community_engagement_guidelines_pdf.pdf
The NAAEE published community guidelines and supporting resources offer insights into how community leaders can grow as educators and leverage diversity. The community engagement guide notes that the five key characteristics for excellent engagement are making sure that programs are: community-centered, based on sound Environmental Education principles, collaborative and inclusive, oriented toward capacity building and civic action, and are long-term investments in change. The report concludes with some additional resources that would be beneficial to non-educators people who are looking to do more to engage with their local communities.
Steel, B.S., Smith, C., Opsommer, L., Curiel, S., Warner-Steel, R. (2005). Public Ocean Literacy in the United States. Ocean Coast. Manag. 2005, Vol. 48, 97–114. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 223767179_Public_ocean_literacy_in _the_United_States
This study investigates current levels of public knowledge concerning the ocean and also explores the correlation of knowledge holding. While coastal residents say they are slightly more knowledgeable than those residing in non-coastal areas, both coastal and non-coastal respondents have trouble identifying important terms and answering ocean quiz questions. The low level of knowledge about ocean issues implies the public needs access to better information delivered more effectively. In terms of how to deliver information, the researchers found that television and radio have a negative influence on knowledge holding and the internet has a positive overall influence on knowledge holding.
3. Behavior Change
Thomas-Walters, L., McCallum, J., Montgomery, R., Petros, C., Wan, A.K.Y., Veríssimo, D. (2022, September) Systematic review of conservation interventions to promote voluntary behavior change. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.14000. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 363384308_Systematic_review _of_conservation_interventions_to_ promote_voluntary_behavior_change
Understanding human behavior is vital to developing interventions that effectively lead to pro‐environmental behavior change. The authors conducted a systematic review to assess how effective non‐pecuniary and non‐regulatory interventions have been in changing environmental behavior, with over 300,000 records focusing on 128 individual studies. Most studies reported a positive effect and the researchers discovered strong evidence that education, prompts, and feedback interventions can result in positive behavior change, though the most effective intervention used multiple types of interventions within a single program. Further, this empirical data shows the need for more studies with quantitative data is needed to support the growing field of environmental behavior change.
Huckins, G. (2022, August, 18). The Psychology of Inspiration and Climate Action. Wired. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/ the-psychology-of-inspiring-everyday-climate-action.html
This article provides a broad overview of how individual choices and habits can help the climate and explains how understanding behavior change can ultimately encourage action. This highlights a significant problem in which the majority of people recognize the threat of human-caused climate change, but few know what they can do as individuals to mitigate it.
Tavri, P. (2021). Value action gap: a major barrier in sustaining behaviour change. Academia Letters, Article 501. DOI:10.20935/AL501 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 350316201_Value_action_gap_a_ major_barrier_in_sustaining_behaviour_change
Pro-environmental behavior change literature (which is still limited relative to other environmental fields) suggests that there is a barrier called the “value action gap”. In other words, there is a gap in the application of theories, as theories tend to assume humans are rational beings who make systematic use of the information provided. The author concludes by suggesting that the value action gap is one of the major barriers to sustaining behavior change and that it is crucial to consider ways of avoiding misperceptions and pluralistic ignorance at the outset when creating communication, engagement, and maintenance tools for behavior change.
Balmford, A., Bradbury, R. B., Bauer, J. M., Broad, S. . . Nielsen, K. S. (2021). Making more effective use of human behavioural science in conservation interventions. Biological Conservation, 261, 109256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109256 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 353175141_Making_more_effective _use_of_human_behavioural_science_in _conservation_interventions
Conservation is predominantly an exercise in trying to change human behavior. It is important to note that the authors argue that behavioral science is not a silver bullet for conservation and some changes can be modest, temporary, and context-dependent, yet change can occur, though more research is needed. This information is particularly helpful for those developing new programs that take behavior change into account as the frameworks and even the illustrations in this document provide a straightforward guide of the proposed six phases of selecting, implementing, and evaluating behavior change interventions for biodiversity conservation.
Gravert, C. and Nobel, N. (2019). Applied Behavioral Science: An Introductory Guide. Impactually. PDF.
This introduction to behavioral science provides general background on the field, information on the human brain, how information is processed, and common cognitive biases. The authors present a model of human decision-making to create behavior change. The guide provides information for readers to analyze why people do not do the right thing for the environment and how biases hinder behavior change. Projects should be simple and straightforward with goals and commitment devices – all important factors that those in the conservation world need to consider when trying to get people engaged with environmental issues.
Wynes, S. and Nicholas, K. (2017, July). The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 12, No. 7 DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 318353145_The_climate_mitigation _gap_Education_and_government_ recommendations_miss_the_most_effective _individual_actions
Climate change is causing harm to the environment. The authors look at how individuals can take action to address this problem. The authors recommend that high-impact and low emissions actions be taken, specifically: have one fewer child, live car-free, avoid airplane travel, and eat a plant-based diet. While these suggestions may seem extreme to some, they have been central to current discussions of climate change and individual behavior. This article is useful for those looking for more detailed information on education and individual actions.
Schultz, P. W., and F. G. Kaiser. (2012). Promoting pro-environmental behavior. In press in S. Clayton, editor. Handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 365789168_The_Oxford_Handbook _of_Environmental_and _Conservation_Psychology
Conservation psychology is a growing field that focuses on the effects of human perceptions, attitudes, and behavior on environmental well-being. This handbook provides a clear definition and description of conservation psychology as well as a framework for applying theories of conservation psychology to various academic analyses and active field projects. This document is highly applicable to academics and professionals looking to create environmental programs that include engaging stakeholders and local communities over the long-term.
Schultz, W. (2011). Conservation Means Behavior Change. Conservation Biology, Volume 25, No. 6, 1080–1083. Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01766.x https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 51787256_Conservation_Means_Behavior
Studies have shown that there is generally a high level of public concern about environmental issues, however, there have not been dramatic changes in personal actions or widespread behavior patterns. The author argues that conservation is a goal that can only be achieved by going beyond education and awareness to actually change behavior and concludes by stating that “conservation efforts led by natural scientists would be well served to involve social and behavioral scientists” that go beyond simple education and awareness campaigns.
Dietz, T., G. Gardner, J. Gilligan, P. Stern, and M. Vandenbergh. (2009). Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:18452–18456. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 38037816_Household_Actions_Can _Provide_a_Behavioral_Wedge_to_Rapidly _Reduce_US_Carbon_Emissions
Historically, there has been an emphasis on the actions of individuals and households to address climate change, and this article looks into the veracity of those claims. The researchers use a behavioral approach to examine 17 interventions people can take to reduce their carbon emissions. Interventions include but are not limited to: weatherization, low-flow showerheads, fuel-efficient vehicles, routine auto maintenance, line drying, and carpooling/trip-changing. The researchers found that national implementation of these interventions could save an estimated 123 million metric tons of carbon per year or 7.4% of US national emissions, with little to no disruptions to household well-being.
Clayton, S., and G. Myers (2015). Conservation psychology: understanding and promoting human care for nature, second edition. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey. ISBN: 978-1-118-87460-8 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 330981002_Conservation_psychology _Understanding_and_promoting_human_care _for_nature
Clayton and Myers view humans as part of natural ecosystems and explore the way psychology influences a person’s experience in nature, as well as managed and urban settings. The book itself goes into detail on the theories of conservation psychology, provides examples, and suggests ways for increased care for nature by communities. The goal of the book is to understand how people think about, experience, and interact with nature which is crucial for promoting environmental sustainability as well as human well-being.
Darnton, A. (2008, July). Reference Report: An Overview of Behavioral Change Models and Their Uses. GSR Behaviour Change Knowledge Review. Government Social Research. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 254787539_Reference_Report_ An_overview_of_behaviour_change_models _and_their_uses
This report looks at the difference between models of behavior and theories of change. This document provides an overview of economic assumptions, habits, and various other factors that influence behavior, and also explains the use of behavioral models, references for understanding change, and concludes with a guide on using behavioral models with theories of change. Darnton’s Index to the Featured Models and Theories makes this text particularly accessible to those new to understanding behavior change.
Thrash, T., Moldovan, E., and Oleynick, V. (2014) The Psychology of Inspiration. Social and Personality Psychology Compass Vol. 8, No. 9. DOI:10.1111/spc3.12127. https://www.researchgate.net/journal/Social-and-Personality-Psychology-Compass-1751-9004
Researchers inquired into the understanding of inspiration as a key feature of spurring action. The authors first define inspiration based on an integrative literature review and outline different approaches. Second, they review the literature on construct validity then substantive theory and findings, emphasizing the role of inspiration in promoting the attainment of elusive goods. Finally, they respond to frequent questions and misconceptions about inspiration and offer recommendations about how to promote inspiration in others or oneself.
Uzzell, D. L. 2000. The psycho-spatial dimension of global environmental problems. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 20:307–318. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 223072457_The_psycho-spatial_dimension_of_global_ environmental_problems
Studies were undertaken in Australia, England, Ireland, and Slovakia. The results of each study consistently demonstrate that respondents are not only able to conceptualize problems at a global level, but an inverse distance effect is found such that environmental problems are perceived to be more serious the farther away they are from the perceiver. An inverse relationship was also found between a sense of responsibility for environmental problems and spatial scale resulting in feelings of powerlessness at a global level. The paper concludes with a discussion of various psychological theories and perspectives which informs the author’s analysis of global environmental problems.
Cusa, M., Falcão, L., De Jesus, J. et al. (2021). Fish out of water: consumers’ unfamiliarity with the appearance of commercial fish species. Sustain Sci Vol. 16, 1313–1322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-00932-z. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 350064459_Fish_out_of_water_ consumers’_unfamiliarity_with_the_ appearance_of_commercial_fish_species
Seafood labels play a key role in assisting consumers in both purchasing fish products and encouraging sustainable fishing practices. The authors studied 720 people across six European countries and found that European consumers have a poor understanding of the appearance of the fish they consume, with British consumers performing the poorest and Spanish ones doing best. They discovered cultural significance if fish had an effect, i.e., if a certain type of fish is culturally significant it would be identified at a higher rate than other more common fish. The authors argue seafood market transparency will remain open to malpractice until consumers make more of a connection to their food.
Sánchez-Jiménez, A., MacMillan, D., Wolff, M., Schlüter, A., Fujitani, M., (2021). The Importance of Values in Predicting and Encouraging Environmental Behavior: Reflections From a Costa Rican Small-Scale Fishery, Frontiers in Marine Science, 10.3389/fmars.2021.543075, 8, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 349589441_The_Importance_of_ Values_in_Predicting_and_Encouraging _Environmental_Behavior_Reflections _From_a_Costa_Rican_Small-Scale_Fishery
In the context of small-scale fisheries, unsustainable fishing practices are compromising the integrity of coastal communities and ecosystems. The study looked at a behavior change intervention with gillnet fishers in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, to compare antecedents of pro-environmental behavior between participants who received an ecosystem-based intervention. Personal norms and values were significant in explaining management measures’ support, along with some fishing characteristics (e.g., fishing site). The research indicates the importance of education interventions that teach about the impacts of fishing in the ecosystem while helping participants to perceive themselves as capable of implementing actions.
McDonald, G., Wilson, M., Verissimo, D., Twohey, R., Clemence, M., Apistar, D., Box, S., Butler, P., et al. (2020). Catalyzing Sustainable Fisheries Management Through Behavior Change Interventions. Conservation Biology, Vol. 34, No. 5 DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13475 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 339009378_Catalyzing_ sustainable_fisheries_management_though _behavior_change_interventions
The authors sought to understand how social marketing may increase perceptions of management benefits and new social norms. The researchers conducted underwater visual surveys to quantify ecological conditions and by conducting household surveys across 41 sites in Brazil, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They found communities were developing new social norms and fishing more sustainably before the long-term ecological and socioeconomic benefits of fisheries management materialized. Thus, fisheries management should do more to take into consideration the long-term experiences of communities and adapt projects to areas based on the lived experiences of communities.
Valauri-Orton, A. (2018). Changing Boarter Behavior to Protect Seagrass: A Toolkit for Designing and Implementing a Behavior Change Campaign for Seagrass Damage Prevention. The Ocean Foundation. PDF. https://oceanfdn.org/calculator/kits-for-boaters/
Despite efforts to reduce seagrass damage, scarring of seagrass due to boater activity remains an active threat. The report is intended to provide best practices for behavior change outreach campaigns by providing a step-by-step project implementation plan that emphasizes the need for providing a local context, using clear, simple, and actionable messaging, and utilizing theories of behavior change. The report draws from previous work specific to boater outreach as well as the broader conservation and behavior change outreach movement. The toolkit includes an example design process and provides specific design and survey elements that can be reused and repurposed by resource managers to suit their own needs. This resource was created in 2016 and was updated in 2018.
Costanzo, M., D. Archer, E. Aronson, and T. Pettigrew. 1986. Energy conservation behavior: the difficult path from information to action. American Psychologist 41:521–528.
After seeing a trend of only some people adopting energy conservation measures, the authors created a model to explore psychological factors that refer to how an individual’s decisions process information. They found that the credibility of the source of information, understanding of the message, and the vividness of the argument to conserve energy was the most likely to see active changes where an individual will take significant action to install or use conservation devices. While this is energy focused-rather than ocean or even nature, it was one of the first studies on conservation behavior that reflects the way the field has progressed today.
3.3 Nature-Based Empathy
Yasué, M., Kockel, A., Dearden, P. (2022). The psychological impacts of community-based protected areas, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 10.1002/aqc.3801, Vol. 32, No. 6, 1057-1072 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 359316538_The_psychological_impacts_ of_community-based_protected_areas
Authors Yasué, Kockel, and Dearden looked at the long-term effects of the behavior of those in proximity to MPAs. The study found that respondents in communities with medium-aged and older MPAs identified a wider range of MPA positive effects. Further, respondents from medium-aged and older MPAs had fewer non-autonomous motivations to engage in MPA management and also had higher self-transcendence values, such as caring for nature. These results suggest that community-based MPAs may encourage psychological shifts in communities such as greater autonomous motivation to care for nature and enhanced self-transcendence values, both of which may support conservation.
Lehnen, L., Arbieu, U., Böhning-Gaese, K., Díaz, S., Glikman, J., Mueller, T., (2022). Rethinking individual relationships with entities of nature, People and Nature, 10.1002/pan3.10296, Vol. 4, No. 3, 596-611. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 357831992_Rethinking_individual _relationships_with_entities_of_nature
Recognizing variation in human–nature relationships across different contexts, entities of nature, and individual people are central to equitable management of nature and its contributions to people and to designing effective strategies for encouraging and guiding more sustainable human behavior. The researchers argue that considering individual‐ and entity‐specific perspectives, then conservation work can be more equitable, especially in approaches to managing the benefits and detriments people derive from nature, and assist the development of more effective strategies for aligning human behavior with conservation and sustainability goals.
Fox N, Marshall J, Dankel DJ. (2021, May). Ocean Literacy and Surfing: Understanding How Interactions in Coastal Ecosystems Inform Blue Space User’s Awareness of the Ocean. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Vol. 18 No.11, 5819. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115819. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 351962054_Ocean_Literacy _and_Surfing_Understanding_How_Interactions _in_Coastal_Ecosystems _Inform_Blue_Space_ User%27s_Awareness_of_the_Ocean
This study of 249 participants gathered both qualitative and quantitative data focused on recreational ocean users, specifically surfers, and how their blue space activities may inform understanding of ocean processes and human-ocean interconnections. The Ocean Literacy Principles were used to assess ocean awareness through surfing interactions to develop further understanding of surfer experiences, using the social-ecological systems framework to model surfing outcomes. The results found that surfers indeed receive ocean literacy benefits, specifically three out of the seven Ocean Literacy Principles, and that ocean literacy is a direct benefit many surfers in the sample group receive.
Blythe, J., Baird, J., Bennett, N., Dale, G., Nash, K., Pickering, G., Wabnitz, C. (2021, March 3). Fostering Ocean Empathy Through Future Scenarios. People and Nature. 3:1284–1296. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10253. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 354368024_Fostering_ocean_empathy _through_future_scenarios
Empathy for nature is considered a prerequisite for sustainable interactions with the biosphere. After providing a summary of the theory of ocean empathy and likely results of actions or inaction in regard to the future of the ocean, called scenarios, the authors determined that the pessimistic scenario resulted in greater empathy levels compared to the optimistic scenario. This study is notable in that it highlights a decrease in empathy levels (returning to pre-test levels) only three months after ocean empathy lessons were given. Thus, to be effective in the long-term more than simple informative lessons are needed.
Sunassee, A.; Bokhoree, C.; Patrizio, A. (2021). Students’ Empathy for the Environment through Eco-Art Place-Based Education. Ecologies 2021, 2, 214–247. DOI:10.3390/ecologies2030014. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 352811810_A_Designed_Eco-Art_and_Place-Based_Curriculum_Encouraging_Students%27 _Empathy_for_the_Environment
This study looked at how students relate to nature, what affects a student’s beliefs and how behaviors are influenced, and how students’ actions are affected can provide an increased understanding of how they can contribute meaningfully to global objectives. The goal of this study was to analyze educational research papers published in the area of environmental art education to find the factor with the greatest effect and illuminate how they can help to improve the measures implemented. The findings show that such research can help to improve environmental art education based on action and take future research challenges into account.
Michael J. Manfredo, Tara L. Teel, Richard E. W. Berl, Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Shinobu Kitayama, Social value shift in favor of biodiversity conservation in the United States, Nature Sustainability, 10.1038/s41893-020-00655-6, 4, 4, (323-330), (2020).
This study found that increased endorsement of mutualism values (seeing wildlife as part of one’s social community and deserving of rights like humans) was accompanied by a decline in values emphasizing domination (treating wildlife as resources to be used for human benefit), a trend further visible in a cross-generational cohort analysis. The study also found strong associations between state-level values and trends in urbanization, connecting the shift to macro-level socioeconomic factors. Results suggest positive outcomes for conservation but the field’s ability to adapt will be critical to realizing those outcomes.
Lotze, H. K., Guest, H., O’Leary, J., Tuda, A., and Wallace, D. (2018). Public perceptions of marine threats and protection from around the world. Ocean Coast. Manage. 152, 14–22. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2017.11.004. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 321274396_Public_perceptions_of_marine _threats_and_protection_from_around_the _world
This study compares surveys of public perceptions of marine threats and protection involving more than 32,000 respondents across 21 countries. Results indicate that 70% of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat from human activities, yet, only 15% thought the ocean’s health was poor or threatened. Respondents consistently ranked pollution issues as the highest threat, followed by fishing, habitat alteration, and climate change. Concerning ocean protection, 73% of respondents support MPAs in their region, conversely most overestimated the area of the ocean currently protected. This document is most applicable to marine managers, policymakers, conservation practitioners, and educators to improve marine management and conservation programs.
Martin, V. Y., Weiler, B., Reis, A., Dimmock, K., & Scherrer, P. (2017). ‘Doing the right thing’: How social science can help foster pro-environmental behaviour change in marine protected areas. Marine Policy, 81, 236-246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2017.04.001 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 316034159_’Doing_the_right_thing’ _How_social_science_can_help_foster_pro-environmental_behaviour_change_in_marine _protected_areas
MPAs managers have reported that they are caught between competing priorities that encourage positive user behavior to minimize impacts on marine ecosystems while allowing recreational use. To address this the authors argue for informed behavior change strategies to reduce problem behaviors in MPAs and contribute to conservation efforts. The article offers new theoretical and practical insights into how they can assist MPA management to target and shift specific behaviors that ultimately support marine park values.
A De Young, R. (2013). “Environmental Psychology Overview.” In Ann H. Huffman & Stephanie Klein [Eds.] Green Organizations: Driving Change with IO Psychology. Pp. 17-33. NY: Routledge. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 259286195_Environmental_Psychology_ Overview
Environmental psychology is a field of study that examines the interrelationship between environments and human affect, cognition, and behavior. This book chapter takes an in-depth look into environmental psychology covering human-environment interactions and its implications in encouraging reasonable behavior under trying environmental and social circumstances. While not directly focused on marine issues this helps set the stage for more detailed studies into environmental psychology.
McKinley, E., Fletcher, S. (2010). Individual responsibility for the oceans? An evaluation of marine citizenship by UK marine practitioners. Ocean & Coastal Management, Vol. 53, No. 7,379-384. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 245123669_Individual_responsibility _for_the_oceans_An_evaluation_of_marine _citizenship_by_UK_marine_practitioners
In recent times, the governance of the marine environment has evolved from being primarily top-down and state-directed to being more participatory and community-based. This paper proposes that an extension of this trend would be indicative of a societal sense of marine citizenship to deliver the sustainable management and protection of the marine environment through enhanced individual involvement in policy development and implementation. Among marine practitioners, higher levels of citizen involvement in the management of the marine environment would greatly benefit the marine environment, with additional benefits possible through an increased sense of marine citizenship.
Zelezny, L.C. & Schultz, P.W. (eds.). 2000. Promoting environmentalism. Journal of Social Issues 56, 3, 365–578. https://doi.org/10.1111/0022-4537.00172 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 227686773_Psychology _of_Promoting_Environmentalism_ Promoting_Environmentalism
This issue of the Journal of Social Issues focuses on the psychology, sociology, and public policy of global environmental issues. The goals of the issue are (1) to describe the current state of the environment and environmentalism, (2) to present new theories and research on environmental attitudes and behaviors, and (3) to explore obstacles and ethical considerations in promoting pro-environmental action.
4.1 STEM and the Ocean
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (2020). Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Ocean Sciences for Learners of All Ages. Washington, DC. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/ literacy.html
Understanding the ocean is essential to comprehending and protecting this planet on which we all live. The purpose of the Ocean Literacy Campaign was to address the lack of ocean-related content in state and national science education standards, instructional materials, and assessments.
4.2 Resources for K-12 Educators
Payne, D., Halversen, C., and Schoedinger, S.E. (2021, July). A Handbook for Increasing Ocean Literacy for Educators and Ocean Literacy Advocates. National Marine Educators Association. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 363157493_A_Handbook_for_ Increasing_Ocean_Literacy_Tools_for _Educators_and_Ocean_Literacy_Advocates
This handbook is a resource for educators to teach, learn, and communicate about the ocean. While originally intended for classroom teachers and informal educators to use for educational materials, programs, exhibits, and activity development in the United States, these resources can be used by anyone, anywhere, who seeks to increase ocean literacy. Included are 28 conceptual flow diagrams of the Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K–12.
Tsai, Liang-Ting (2019, October). Multilevel Effects of Student and School Factors on Senior High School Students’ Ocean Literacy. Sustainability Vol. 11 DOI: 10.3390/su11205810.
The main finding of this study was that for senior high school students in Taiwan, individual factors are the primary drivers of ocean literacy. In other words, student-level factors accounted for a larger share of the total variance in the ocean literacy of students than did school-level factors. However, the frequency of reading ocean-themed books or magazines were predictors of ocean literacy, whereas, at the school level, school region and school location were the crucial influencing factors for ocean literacy.
National Marine Educators Association. (2010). Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12. The Ocean Literacy Campaign Featuring the Ocean Literacy Scope & Sequence for Grades K-12, NMEA. https://www.marine-ed.org/ocean-literacy/scope-and-sequence
The Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K–12 is an instructional tool that provides guidance to educators to help their students achieve a full understanding of the ocean in ever more complex ways across years of thoughtful, coherent science instruction.
5. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
Adams, L., Bintiff, A., Jannke, H., and Kacez, D. (2023). UC San Diego undergraduates and the Ocean Discovery Institute collaborate to form a pilot program in culturally responsive mentoring. Oceanography, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2023.104. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 366767133_UC_San_Diego _Undergraduates_and_the_Ocean_ Discovery_Institute_Collaborate_to_ Form_a_Pilot_Program_in_Culturally_ Responsive_Mentoring
There is a serious lack of diversity in ocean science. One way this can be improved is through the implementation of culturally responsive teaching and mentoring practices throughout the K–university pipeline. In this article, researchers describe their initial results and lessons learned from a pilot program to educate a racially diverse group of undergraduates in culturally sensitive mentoring practices and provide opportunities for them to apply their newly acquired skills with K–12 students. This supports the idea that students through their undergraduate studies can become community advocates and for those running ocean science programs to prioritize diversity and inclusion into consideration when working on ocean science programs.
Worm, B., Elliff, C., Fonseca, J., Gell, F., Serra Gonçalves, A. Helder, N., Murray, K., Peckham, S., Prelovec, L., Sink, K. (2023, March). Making Ocean Literacy Inclusive and Accessible. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics DOI: 10.3354/esep00196. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 348567915_Making_Ocean _Literacy_Inclusive_and_Accessible
The authors argue that engagement in marine science has historically been the privilege of a small number of people with access to higher education, specialized equipment, and research funding. Yet, indigenous groups, spiritual art, ocean users, and other groups that are already deeply engaged with the ocean could provide a variety of perspectives to enrich the ocean literacy concept beyond an understanding of marine science. The authors suggest that such inclusiveness could remove the historic barriers that have surrounded the field, transform our collective awareness of and relationship with the ocean, and help support ongoing efforts to restore marine biodiversity.
Zelezny, L.C.; Chua, P.P.; Aldrich, C. New Ways of Thinking about Environmentalism: Elaborating on Gender Differences in Environmentalism. J. Soc. Issues 2000, 56, 443–457. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 227509139_New_Ways_of_Thinking _about_Environmentalism_Elaborating_on _Gender_Differences_in_Environmentalism
The authors found that after reviewing a decade of research (1988–1998) on gender differences in environmental attitudes and behaviors, contrary to past inconsistencies, a clearer picture has emerged: women report stronger environmental attitudes and behaviors than men.
Bennett, N., Teh, L., Ota, Y., Christie, P., Ayers, A., et al. (2017). An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation, Marine Policy, Volume 81, Pages 411-418, ISSN 0308-597X, DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.03.035 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 316937934_An_appeal_for _a_code_of_conduct_for_marine_conservation
Marine conservation actions, while well-intentioned, are not held to any one governance process or regulatory body, which can lead to significant variance in the degree of effectiveness. The authors argue that a code of conduct or set of standards should be instituted to ensure correct governance processes are followed. The code should promote fair conservation governance and decision-making, socially just conservation actions and outcomes, and accountable conservation practitioners and organizations. The goal of this code would allow marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective, thereby contributing to a truly sustainable ocean.
6. Standards, Methodologies, and Indicators
Zielinski, T., Kotynska-Zielinska, I. and Garcia-Soto, C. (2022, January). A Blueprint for Ocean Literacy: EU4Ocean. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 357882384_A_ Blueprint_for_Ocean_Literacy_EU4Ocean
This paper discusses the importance of the efficient communication of scientific results to citizens across the world. In order for people to absorb information, the researchers sought to understand the Ocean Literacy Principles and apply the best available means to facilitate the process of increasing global awareness of environmental changes. This explicitly applies to the verification of how to appeal to people with respect to various environmental issues and, hence, how people can modernize the educational approaches to challenge global change. The authors argue that ocean literacy is key to sustainability, though it should be noted this article promotes the EU4Ocean program.
Sean M. Wineland, Thomas M. Neeson, (2022). Maximizing the spread of conservation initiatives in social networks. Conservation Science and Practice, DOI:10.1111/csp2.12740, Vol. 4, No 8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 361491667_Maximizing_the_spread _of_conservation_initiatives_in_social_networks
Conservation programs and policies can preserve biodiversity and boost ecosystem services, but only when widely adopted. While thousands of conservation initiatives exist globally, most fail to spread beyond a few initial adopters. Initial adoption by influential individuals results in sharp improvements in the total number of adopters of a conservation initiative network-wide. The regional network resembles a random network composed mostly of state agencies and local entities, while the national network has a scale-free structure with highly influential hubs of federal agencies and NGO entities.
Ashley M, Pahl S, Glegg G and Fletcher S (2019) A Change of Mind: Applying Social and Behavioral Research Methods to the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Ocean Literacy Initiatives. Frontiers in Marine Science. DOI:10.3389/fmars.2019.00288. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 333748430_A_Change_of_Mind _Applying_Social_and_Behavioral_ Research_Methods_to_the_Assessment_of _the_Effectiveness_of_Ocean_Literacy_Initiatives
These methods allow for the assessment of changes in attitude which is key to understanding a program’s effectiveness. The authors present a logic model framework for the assessment of educational training courses for professionals entering the shipping industry (targeting behaviors to reduce the spread of invasive species) and educational workshops for school students (aged 11–15 and 16–18) on problems related to marine litter and microplastics. The authors found that assessing changes in attitude can help determine a project’s effectiveness at increasing participants’ knowledge and awareness of an issue, especially when specific audiences were targeted with tailored ocean literacy tools.
Santoro, F., Santin, S., Scowcroft, G., Fauville, G., and Tuddenham, P. (2017). Ocean Literacy for All – A Toolkit. IOC/UNESCO & UNESCO Venice office Paris (IOC Manuals and Guides, 80 revised in 2018), 136. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 321780367_Ocean_Literacy_for_all_-_A_toolkit
Knowing and understanding the ocean’s influence on us, and our influence on the ocean, is crucial to living and acting sustainably. This is the essence of ocean literacy. The Ocean Literacy Portal serves as a one-stop shop, providing resources and content available to all, with the goal of creating an ocean-literate society able to make informed and responsible decisions on ocean resources and ocean sustainability.
NOAA. (2020, February). Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences for Learners of All Ages. www.oceanliteracyNMEA.org
There are seven Ocean Literacy Principles and the complementary Scope and Sequence comprises 28 conceptual flow diagrams. The Ocean Literacy Principles remain a work in progress; they reflect efforts to date in defining ocean literacy. An earlier edition was produced in 2013.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #1: The Earth has one big ocean with many features.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #2: The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #4: The ocean made the Earth habitable.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #6: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #7: The ocean is largely unexplored.