Kasey Jacobs with Caitlyn McCrary and Mary Ella Allen, TCS Communications Committee Members
Two weeks ago, a satirical rant about the Mola mola or Ocean Sunfish spurred an online debate among science communicators, fish lovers, and scientists. And The Coastal Society became an unwitting contributor.
Shortly afterwards we received the following private message from a follower:
“Your post about Mola mola uselessness was uncalled for, and a bit odd, given TCS’s mission. I’ve unfollowed you.”
This sparked a discussion among a sub-group of the TCS Communications Committee. We analyzed internally whether the post we shared was inappropriate, which led to a larger discussion on the role of satire and humor in communicating ocean science. Turns out, we were not the only ones who were discussing this.
Around this same time, Deep Sea News removed the editorial and in its place embedded a Facebook post by the author that had the original content included.
The TCS Communications Committee welcomed this opportunity to have a healthy discourse about reaching for new, innovative ways to elicit discussion and debate on coastal issues among our members and followers. For decades, the TCS Bulletin and Biannual Conference were our chosen forums but in this age of social media we have been exploring other avenues like this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blue Room Interview Studio, and even Snapchat. Reaching out to the person who unfollowed us because of the post, we learned that the opposition to the editorial was that it was in “completely poor taste” specifically with regard to how it was written and the language used, but moreover that “we’ve got enough of a problem/challenge in the world of fish getting people to look at climate change, pollution, habitat loss and a host of other issues (including things like overfishing) without kicking species when they’re down.”
Alternative Ways to Use Humor to Inform
The follower also brought up good points about how to use the tactic of sarcasm and humor via social media in a better way. They mentioned that “from a social media perspective, there’s any number of ways to couch things like this so that sarcasm is clearer”.
We love that an example of another Mola mola post was given to show an alternative way to demonstrate the absurdity of the species without going negative or “bad-mouthing the critter”.
(Warning: Very Strong Language used…as in hundreds of curses. Do not click if you are at work or school!)
With a little investigation we found a variety of ways this footage has been used by local fishermen, the Boston Globe, Boston.com, and television outlets in the Boston area that inform the public on the Mola mola. The boaters in the video were even interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel! On the show they were able to discuss just what the fish was and how surprised they were to learn about the Ocean Sunfish.
While the TCS Communications Committee was reaching out to the Facebook follower, Deep Sea News wrote a response to the controversy as well. They went deeper and pulled out information from the scientific literature on the impacts of how we discuss deep sea organisms.
National Geographic and Animal Planet have become known for their presentations of certain fishes as “Monsters of the Deep” and “Sea Monsters” as a way to gain interest, but turns out this trend of using negative humor on social media platforms to further causes is not unique to science communications. Comedian Jon Stewart and The Daily Show cast and crew are well-known for using this tactic on television and online as ways to raise attention to political issues. But some assert there is a high cost to negative humor, principally creating an “insider” and “outsider” mentality in society.
What Do You All Think?
We want to hear from you! What are your views on the use of humor (positive or negative), sarcasm, and satire in science communications? Can you think of any other examples of its use that you thought were effective?
By Kim Hernandez, Coastal Resources Planner at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. This article is also published on Marine Science Today as part of a TCS-MST Collaboration initiated earlier this year.
In the tidal Potomac River, about 30 miles downstream from Washington D.C., lay the remains of the “Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay” – over 100 wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet as part of the nation’s engagement in World War I. Dozens of other historic maritime resources also rest in the Potomac River, as well as 12,000 year old archaeological artifacts dating back to some of the region’s earliest Native American cultures. The significance of the area was enough to warrant its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. Now, thanks to abundant community support, it is in the running to become Maryland’s first national marine sanctuary.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal agency with authority to designate an area as a sanctuary, for the first time in two decades has been seeking engagement from the American public to nominate areas with significant community support. As nominations are submitted, NOAA reviews each one in several steps and those that pass the review will be added to an inventory of areas NOAA may consider for potential designation as national marine sanctuaries.
The Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary nomination was submitted in September 2014 by the State of Maryland with a broad-base of local government and non-government support. The nomination itself included letters of support from over 60 community organizations and individuals. Sanctuary designation would allow NOAA programs to supplement and complement existing state and local programs that aim to protect, study, interpret, and manage this unique area.
In addition to protecting the fragile remains of the shipwrecks, the nomination also cites opportunities to expand public access, recreation, tourism, research, and education. The area is contiguous to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and the Lower Potomac Water Trail, allowing paddlers a unique glimpse into our Nation’s history. Below the water, the area offers important habitat for popular recreational fisheries, including Striped Bass and White Perch. Above the water, ghostly shipwreck hulls jut out and provide perches for migrating waterfowl and thriving populations of Bald Eagles. The middle Potomac River truly is a historic and ecological treasure.
Four months after the original nomination was submitted, NOAA announced it would add the area to the inventory of nominations that are eligible for designation. It is important to note that the original nomination in September 2014 did not designate anything; it only suggested that NOAA consider designation. The January 2015 announcement meant NOAA would now seriously consider a sanctuary in the Potomac River – a huge step forward for the dozens of community supporters.
Nationally, the designation process is a separate public process that, by law, is highly public and participatory and often takes several years to complete. Nominated areas go through four main steps with NOAA before it is determined whether they are designated or not: (1) Scoping: NOAA announces its intent to designate a new national marine sanctuary and asks the public for input on potential boundaries, resources that could be protected, issues NOAA should consider and any information that should be included in the resource analysis; (2) Sanctuary Proposal: NOAA prepares draft designation documents including a draft management plan, draft environmental impact statement that analyzes a range of alternatives, proposed regulations and proposed boundaries; (3) Public Review: The public, agency partners, tribes and other stakeholders provide input on the draft documents. NOAA considers all input and determines appropriate changes; and (4) Sanctuary Designation: NOAA makes a final decision and prepares final documents. Before the designation becomes effective, the Governor reviews the documents. Congress also has the opportunity to review the documents.
For Mallow’s Bay, NOAA considered the nomination action until October 2015 when they issued a formal “Notice of Intent” to designate. Along with the Wisconsin – Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary, which is going through this same designation process right now, the Potomac River has the potential to be the home of one of the first new national marine sanctuaries designated in nearly 20 years.
In early spring 2016, a federal, state, and local government committee formed to grapple with all of possible management questions a sanctuary designation could spark. Currently, that committee is developing the draft documents required for the sanctuary – including an environmental impact statement and management plan. If all goes as planned, drafts will be available for public comment sometime in late 2016 and designation of this World War I paragon will coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ entry into the world war, in April 2017.
If designated, the proposed sanctuary would be managed jointly by NOAA, the State of Maryland, and Charles County, Maryland. The original coalition of organizations and individuals at local, state, regional, and national levels that supported the nomination – including elected officials, businesses, Native Americans, environmental, recreation, conservation, fishing, tourism, museums, historical societies, and education groups – will continue to help mold the vision for the sanctuary and ensure effective protection and management moving forward.
Kim Hernandez is a Coastal Resources Planner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Coastal Service. She assists with the coordination of state and regional ocean planning, with the planning and implementation of the Mallows Bay – Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, and with programs that address coastal hazards and climate resiliency. She also serves as the agency representative on a number of planning bodies and stakeholder groups throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Editor’s Note: TCS members working on a national marine sanctuary nomination are invited to contribute a story on your proposed site and current efforts moving through the nomination process. Story ideas or full submissions can be sent to the TCS Communications Chair at kaseyrjacobs (at) gmail (dot) com.
By: Tom Bigford, American Fisheries Society Policy Director and TCS Past President, with Erin J. Bryant, Assistant Professor of Ocean and Coastal Policy, Sea Education Association, and Kimberly Hernandez, Coastal Fellow with Maryland Department of Natural Resources*, (TCS Communications Subcommittee Members)
The Best of The Coastal Society (TCS) 2015: community conservation events, career opportunity announcements, networking; TCS does it all for current and future coastal professionals.
#1 The New TCS Blog! Addressing legal issues, legislative action, international events, and coastal management strategies
The Coastal Society has celebrated 40 wonderful years of the Bulletin since Volume 1, Issue 1 in May 1976. The blog is meant to fill the space of the Bulletin in an updated format. Members have the opportunity to write about their work, students can write about their research, and Board members can use it as a forum to make Society announcements. Please reach out to Caitlyn McCrary with blog topics.
#2 TCS hosted Coastal Career Day November 14, 2015 at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA
Coastal employers and other professionals met and talked with students about jobs in marine and coastal industry, government, science, and conservation.
The annual Neuse RIVERKEEPER™ Foundation Sprint Triathlon in Beaufort, NC, raises money to help keep the Neuse River basin clean and pollution free. And the organizers and athletes have a pretty good time.
#10 Your favorite chapter events! Send us your news!
Student chapters of the Coastal Society actively pursue coastal management innovation and career advancement activities at Duke University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Oregon State University, Eckerd College, and the University of Rhode Island
TCS has run its Annual Giving Campaign since 2012, and is now considering a shift from an end-of-the-calendar-year event to a continuous opportunity. The idea has been under consideration since this past Valentine’s Day when we announced our “I Love/Heart the Coast” effort. Additional inspiration was provided by the family of Mo Lynch, our current Treasurer, a very long-time TCS member (since 1976, perhaps the longest membership streak of anyone), a past TCS President, the program lead for TCS16 in 1998 in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia, and an extremely fine gentleman and professional friend to many.
“…an extremely fine gentleman and professional friend to many.”
His family recognized his good deeds and commitment to TCS, so when his 80th birthday approached during our 2015 Annual Giving Campaign, siblings and others sent a flurry of donations to TCS in his name. At last count, TCS had received eight generous donations based on multiples of Mo’s age, all now destined for a good cause. Once again, Mo has provided leadership. Let us all live to 100 and have family members so inclined to donate to our Society!
By: Erin J. Bryant, Assistant Professor of Ocean and Coastal Policy, Sea Education Association, and Kimberly Hernandez, Coastal Fellow with Maryland Department of Natural Resources*, (TCS Communications Subcommittee Members)
Coastal management took some big leaps forward in 2015 in many regions and sectors. Here are a few inspiring highlights, from Washington state to the Caribbean, and from climate change resilience and marine protected areas to green infrastructure technology and citizen science.
What else happened? Send TCS a message so we can pass along your coastal management news. What Was Green in 2015 … in the World of Coastal Management? Or at least noteworthy?
*TCS Leadership and Committee Chairs contributed to this article
#1 Sea Grant Tools Help Communities Become More Resilient
In January 2015 Sea Grant launched the National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit. The toolkit is a compilation of tools and resources that have been developed over the years by the Sea Grant Network to help local communities become more resilient.
Restore America’s Estuaries and the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation held the first gathering of the living shorelines community after NOAA’s Living Shorelines guide outlined how to promote living shorelines as a shoreline stabilization technique to preserve and improve sheltered coastline habitats and the benefits they provide. New research finds that wetlands, marshes, and other natural barriers are more effective than concrete at protecting coasts.
#5 Rhode Island’s Block Island offshore wind farm set to be first in nation
The first offshore wind farm in the United States, the 30 megawatt, 5 turbine Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island is scheduled to be online in 2016. Soon, the Block Island Wind Farm will not only supply most of Block Island’s power, but also reduce air pollution across southern New England for years to come.
#10 Georgia Sea Grant Uses New Smartphone App to Map King Tide Flood
The Sea Level Rise app, created by Norfolk, Virginia-based Wetlands Watch and developer Concursive, is being pilot tested to capture tidal flooding events up and down the East Coast, including by Sea Grant programs in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
#11 Smart Coastal Management in Washington: Coastal Hazards Resilience Network and Marine Spatial Planning Move Forward
The Washington Coastal Program’s new regional partnership boosted coastal community resilience by helping local planners find tools for disaster response and recovery. Washington moved toward a comprehensive marine spatial plan by mapping seabirds, mammals, and seafloor features.
#12 California Sea Grant and the California Coastal Commission produced Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance
California’s Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document briefs the best available science on sea level rise for California and tells the Coastal Commission how to plan and regulate for sea-level rise. The guidance document makes general recommendations intended to be adapted to the needs of specific geographical areas. Sea Grant and CCC will periodically revise the guidance document to address new sea level rise science, information and approaches to sea level rise adaptation, and new legal precedent.
#13 Planners prioritized resiliency in 2015’s Florida Transportation Plan as leaders saw projections of 6-10 inches of sea-level rise by 2030
Climate resilience features prominently in the December 2015 update of the Policy Element of the Florida Transportation Plan, which defines goals and objectives for the next 25 years and establishes the policy framework for expenditure of state and federal funds. Included in the plan’s seven policy goals is “Agile, Resilient, and Quality Infrastructure,” with the objective to “increase the resiliency of infrastructure to risks, including extreme weather and other environmental conditions.” Southeast Florida Climate Compact’s projection guideline now includes a long term planning horizon to the year 2100 and local sea level rise rates due to local processes.
#14 Climate Central announces America’s Preparedness Report Card
The States at Risk report found that Florida and Louisiana face enormous coastal flooding threats, far greater than any of the other 22 coastal states. Florida alone has 4.6 million people projected at risk (living in the 100-year coastal floodplain) by 2050. Louisiana has 1.2 million. Overall, states are more prepared for coastal flooding than for any other threat. Florida, however, is not among them. Florida earned an F for coastal flood preparedness, due to its average level of readiness in the face of enormous current and future risks. Louisiana, which is far better prepared, earned a B-.
#15 Identifying Virgin Islands Areas Most Vulnerable to Climate Change
The Nature Conservancy with help from multiple agencies and organizations like the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CLCC) – one of a network of private-public sector LCC groups created by the U.S. Department of the Interior – identified areas in the Virgin Islands that researchers agreed are most likely to feel the greatest negative impact of global warming and possible ways to mitigate the situation.
It’s been a busy couple weeks for me as I pursue new relationships for TCS, with an eye toward strategic partnerships with some of our more prominent partners. That sounds fuzzy but the intent is clear. Our mission is to address emerging coastal issues by fostering dialogue, forging partnerships, and promoting communications and education.
Since Matt Nixon relieved me of my duties as TCS President, I have shifted my energies to pursuing existing or new partners who share our vision. Here are some of the doors I opened this month (with help from many others):
Social Coast Forum 2016 – I had the honor of moderating the closing plenary session on “It Ain’t All Bad: Promising Programs and Techniques to Address Changing Ocean Conditions.” Thanks to Matt Nixon for organizing the session and the ~30 TCSers I passed in the halls of the Hotel Francis Marion in Charleston, SC. I plan to contact each registrant as we discuss possible roles for TCS in the social science realm.
Coastal States Organization Winter Membership meeting in Washington, DC – Attending this event was a nice bonus since I had to bow out of my planned trip to the CSO fall meeting last September in Florida. CSO Executive Director Mary Munson was especially gracious, offering me time to open their meeting with a few words about TCS, our history in coastal communications, and commitment to nurturing young professionals. I plan to write these attendees, too, as TCS needs to have a stronger connection to the state coastal leaders.
National Estuarine Research Reserves Association meeting in Washington, DC – Thanks to TCS Director Erika Washburn for her help in explaining how TCS interests intersect with this program, a place-based subset of coastal management. The reserve community is revisiting how it communicates and partners with others so it was nice for TCS to be present and engaged.
American Shore and Beach Preservation Association – I met with their new Executive Director last summer and followed up by attending portions of their annual meeting. This presented another opportunity to talk about shared interests, especially right on the sandy interface between our upland and seaward interests. Attendees included some familiar faces but also some new friends. We can expect to see ASBPA at the RAE-TCS Summit in New Orleans.
Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation – CERF just welcomed a new Executive Director (Susan Park), along with their new President (Robert Twilley) from last fall. Wearing my TCS hat (nice, from Zazzle; see our website for info) and my American Fisheries Society hat (my employer), CERF invited me to help them shape what might be a policy effort that extends beyond research and toward our arena. These discussions could lead to partnerships down the road, building on our work with the CERF society and their New England affiliate in 2015.
Water Environment Fund – This huge group focuses on water delivery, infrastructure, quality, quantity, and more. They are developing an increasing interest on coastal issues. Thanks largely to efforts by TCS Treasurer Mo Lynch and TCS Director Lewie Lawrence, I have had several calls with their Executive Director, President, and senior staff. We’ll meet again soon. I have high hopes WEF will get involved in the 2016 Summit and perhaps other TCS activities.
So I’m keeping busy with TCS work, and would love to hear from you about opportunities with these groups or other partners to approach.
Note, I didn’t even mention the Coastal Career Day event in Beaufort, NC on March 5 – I’ll leave that to my TCS colleagues who are leading the way on that event. I hope to see many of you there!
This fall promises to be busy as I spread messages from TCS and seek partnerships to strengthen our future. My primary destination this fall is Oregon and Washington. I hope to see some of you at each of these events. Please notify me of similar opportunities in a state near you. Your society needs your help as we reach out to partners, potential members, and sponsors.
I’ll begin my Pacific Northwest trek on November 8-12 where I will moderate a technical session at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s biennial meeting on “Fish as Integrators of Estuarine Health.” Speakers will use their experience with fish to assess the health of select coasts and estuaries. Check out the conference website for the latest program information. Hopefully our presence will be strong, as it was in 2013 in San Diego under the leadership of Megan Bailiff, Leigh Taylor Johnson, and Mike Orbach. While there, I will join Green Fire Productions to show their inspiring “Ocean Frontiers” films. Each features stories of citizens joining to make a difference along our coasts. If you haven’t seen their work, go here. You’ll enjoy the films and be inspired by the shared accomplishments of citizens and professionals from coast to coast.
While in Portland for CERF 2015 I’m planning a trip down I-5 to Oregon State University, home of the newest TCS university chapter. I’m working with faculty advisor Michael Harte and student president Chelsea Duke to arrange a small event to talk about our Society, learn about their interests, and talk about how they can engage. The opportunities are huge so I expect many great ideas from the OSU crowd.
I’ll also be headed north from Portland to Grays Harbor on the Washington coast. TCS has partnered with the Coastal States Organization (CSO), National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), and the Washington coastal zone management program to convene a “Coastal Connections” event to help local citizens and community planners understand and improve community resilience along their coast. This gathering will be in the home district of Rep. Derek Kilmer, a strong advocate for coastal issues. CSO, NERRA, and TCS may partner with other states for similar events in the coming months. There’s no set date for this event yet but hopefully it will coincide with my early November trip to Portland.
Finally, on a sad note, my plans will not include a visit with Maurice “Herb” Schwartz, the first president of TCS (1976-77). Herb passed away in late July at 97 years old. We have lost a true visionary, the person who noticed our coasts needed a voice and the leader behind the movement to create our society. Past TCS Director Rebekah Padgett and I visited Herb in 2013 to convey an honorary TCS membership; I visited him again last year to solicit his sage advice on the coastal future. This year, my unanswered emails were punctuated with the sad news from his family. I have shared our condolences . He will be missed.