#IESTurningTheTide - Ocean Literacy: how to change humanity's relationship with the ocean

View from the sea floor looking up towards a ray of light at the surface. Overlaid with text reading "IES Forum. Ocean Literacy: how to change humanity's relationship with the ocean. 16th March 12pm - 1:30pm | Online. #IESTurningTheTide"
Thursday, 16 March 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Challenge 10 of the UN Ocean Decade calls for us to 'Change humanity’s relationship with the ocean'. Achieving this behavioral change will come about through giving everyone the opportunity to learn and understand how our individual and collective actions are linked to the ocean, building emotional connections that lead people to act in ways that are positive for the ocean.

Contributing to these goals, in this Forum we will hear from three experts on ocean literacy who will share their insights and approaches to communicating knowledge about the ocean, followed by a Q&A session:

  • Ocean literacy: an evolving concept
    Dr Emma McKinley, Research Fellow at Cardiff University

First introduced in the early 2000s, the concept of ocean literacy has evolved in recent years, not least since its inclusion as a mechanism for change within the United Nations Ocean Decade's goals. Building on early definitions of ocean literacy, there has been increasing recognition of a range of additional dimensions which contribute to an individual or collective sense of ‘ocean literacy’. Drawing on existing research from the UKRI funded Diverse Marine Values project on ocean literacy, as well as on parallel and supporting concepts, this talk will present 10 dimensions of ocean literacy. It recommends expanding previously recognised dimensions, such as communication and knowledge, in a bid to ensure that ocean literacy encompasses diverse knowledges, values and experiences, whilst suggesting new dimensions to ensure the full complexity of societal relationships with the ocean are recognised.

  • Ocean literacy in action
    Nicola Bridge, Head of Ocean Advocacy and Engagement at the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT)

The talk will cover the future of ocean literacy, as well as the current work being undertaken in the UK to understand societal perceptions of the ocean and how we can use this information to encourage people to find their ocean connection and take action to protect it.

  • Building a successful ocean literacy outreach programme
    Scott Xavi Gudrich, Founder of Plover Rovers

Scott will talk about the Plover Rovers' 4-level approach to ocean literacy and how this approach was a helpful tool to build a successful outreach programme. He will also talk about the 'blue-print' approach that was used for the 'Talking the Coast' project, in which all activities were easily replicable and scaleable both upwards and downwards, depending on available resources. They all required either no or minimal budget and could be done with little to no extra materials. Due to Covid-19, many activities were hosted online as well as in-person events, thus creating a joint digital and 'real-life' experience under one project headline.

This event is being organised as part of our Turning the Tide: systems thinking for a sustainable ocean project. Join our dedicated mailing list to stay up to date on future project activities and hear about ways to collaborate.  




Our speakers

Headshot of Emma McKinley


Dr Emma McKinley is a Research Fellow at Cardiff University. Her research focuses on understanding the complex relationships between society and the sea, taking account of diverse perceptions, attitudes and values held by different communities and audiences, and considers how this insight can be used to support effective ocean governance. Recent projects include the INTERREG Ireland-Wales funded project, Coastal Communities Adapting Together (CCAT – www.ccatproject.eu), which focuses on understanding public perceptions of climate change, building on models of ocean literacy and marine citizenship to explore the notion of climate citizenship; the GCRF Catalyst funded project Transforming Resilience across Food and Water Systems, including an assessment of social, economic and cultural impacts of algal blooms; and, the recently funded SMMR project, Integrating Diverse Values into UK Marine Management, leading work on ocean literacy.

Emma is the founder of the Marine Social Science Network, a global, interdisciplinary community of marine social science researchers and practitioners and is Chair of the Royal Geographic Society’s Coastal and Marine Research Group. She is the Co-Chair of the UK’s Marine Social Science Task Group, sits on the UK’s National Decade Committee for the UN Ocean Decade, the International Science Advisory Group for MEOPAR and the IOC-UNESCO’s Ocean Literacy Research Community as well as being involved in other groups.

Headshot of Professor Mike Elliott

Nicola Bridge is the Head of Ocean Advocacy and Engagement at the Ocean Conservation Trust (OCT). Nicola is a Conservation Biologist with over 16 years of experience in both formal and informal environmental education and engagement and science communication, specifically linked to the marine environment. In the UK Nicola is a member of the Defra Ocean Literacy Working Group, chaired by the OCT. She is a founding member of We Are Ocean, a grassroots network of Ocean literacy practitioners and Chair of the Conservation Education Committee for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Further afield, Nicola is the current President of EMSEA, the European Marine Science Educators Association.  Leading the organisation in its mission to act as a hub for the European marine education community, promoting Ocean literacy across society and working with scientists, teachers, policy makers and the public.

Headshot of Emma McKinley

Born in 1977, Scott Xavi Gudrich is an environmental scientist, artist, entrepreneur and Latin language teacher. In 2020, he founded the Plover Rovers, and ran "Talking the Coast", a successful grass-roots project, which brought the marine science community together with coastal artists and citizens with the aim to increase both ocean literacy and ocean empathy. Through enabling people to better understand their surroundings, we aimed to empower them, encourage them to take ownership of their communities and develop a sense of self-pride by increasing positive identification with their region's social and natural local heritage. Through utilising an interactive artistic approach, we aimed to increase or even discover and unlock the emotional connection people feel to their coastal surroundings. 

Scott has now turned his attention once again to his art - with his band the Lürxx he plays "Nature Warrior Rock", following up on the idea to emotionally connect people to nature through music.