Nurturing Innovation and Community Connection at UC Berkeley’s Gump Research Station

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In the heart of Moorea Island in French Polynesia, a recent workshop at UC Berkeley’s Gump Research Station set the stage for a potentially transformative endeavor. Hosted by Gump Station, this gathering was dedicated to fostering a dynamic collaboration between scientists and the local community. The goal? To inform the creation of an ‘Innovation Hub’ that bridges the gap between research and the people it ultimately serves.

The event brought together over 30 people from around the world with an interest in working with the environment and people of French Polynesia. Participants included an eclectic mix of scientists, funders, representatives from nonprofit and community outreach organizations, and prominent members of the local community. The Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer, Liz Thompson, attended and shared some ideas about what the Innovation Hub could be and how it could be structured to benefit both the people and the marine environment of Moorea. The workshop succeeded in bringing together diverse minds united by a shared passion for combining science and outreach for conservation…

Community Outreach in the Beqa-Yanuca Seascape

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A key component of the United Nations Endorsed Project Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics is outreach and community engagement. During the joint outreach and fieldwork campaign with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) and Pacific Blue Foundation (PBF), four villages were visited in the Beqa-Yanuca Seascape. Community engagement and outreach are both important cultural practices for the Chief’s blessing and permission to work on the reef surrounding the villages, but they are also important for visiting scientists to gain valuable local knowledge about the nearshore ecosystem. The final component of the outreach program was to teach several local community members the survey methods for collecting coral reef transect data.

The lagoon is surrounded by several villages, each with its own unique character and traditions. The KSLOF and PBF team worked with four of these communities: Naisomo, Raviravi, Rukua, and Yunuca. The most important first step for community engagement in the Fijian islands is meeting with the head Chief and other community elders to receive permission to work in the waters near to their village. The meeting is called a sevu sevu. The sevu sevu must be done before any work in the water or on shore is started. It is considered extremely disrespectful if this cultural practice is not followed by outside visitors.

During the meeting with the Chief and his advisors, it is customary to partake in a ceremonial drink called kava. It is traditionally prepared by pounding sun-dried kava root into a fine powder, straining it, and mixing it with cold water in a large bowl called a tanoa. Tanoas are carved out of a native hardwood and often have designs to reflect the history of the village. The kava mixture is then poured and drunk out of a bilo, which are small cups carved from coconuts. As the kava is shared amongst the villagers and visitors, the Chief asks what the purpose of the visit is and how it will benefit the community.

Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics

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The Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics project was developed by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation to help address the United Nations Ocean Decade Challenge to “understand the effects of multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems, and develop solutions to monitor, protect, manage and restore ecosystems and their biodiversity under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.”

Our project focuses primarily on conserving tropical marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests, as well as incorporating measurable actions that communities can use to reach their conservation goals.

The Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics project uses a co-design approach to help coastal communities improve ocean literacy and develop science-based solutions to conserve their tropical marine ecosystems…

Coral Reefs in the South Pacific: A Webinar with SPREP

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation recently hosted a webinar with our partners at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). SPREP is an organization established by the governments of Pacific Island nations to protect and manage the environment and natural resources of the Pacific. Their 21 member states (including many we studied on the Global Reef Expedition) work together to achieve healthy and resilient ecosystems and support sustainable development for Pacific communities. Our webinar with SPREP allowed us to share our research findings from the South Pacific directly with people who are actively working to conserve coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems in the region. This is one of the many ways we are sharing our knowledge and findings from the Global Reef Expedition with the countries and communities in which we worked.

During the webinar, we were able to share information about the work the Foundation completed on the Expedition, including our extensive outreach and education initatives, as well as our scientific findings. We highlighted the programs our education team developed over the course of the Expedition, the many outreach events we held, and provided a comprehensive discussion of the results of our research in the South Pacific as well as our work in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

At the end of the presentation, we were able to share our ongoing partnerships and upcoming projects, including our ongoing partnership with the University of Miami to develop a reef resilience model, our partnership with NASA to map the world’s reefs, as well as our numerous education programs such as the Mangrove Education & Restoration Program, Coral Reef Ecology Curriculum, and Science Without Borders® Challenge. Lastly, we shared information about our endorsed UN Ocean Decade Project, Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics, which will use science, outreach, and education to engage local communities to protect their coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows. This project will allow us to build off of our work on the Global Reef Expedition using a co-designed approach to further conservation of tropical coastal marine ecosystems, such as those in the South Pacific.

The webinar was attended by numerous government officials, marine managers, and stakeholders from throughout the South Pacific. Some of the attendees were people we had worked with on the Global Reef Expedition, but many were new and this webinar was a great introduction to the Foundation and our work. There was a great Q&A session at the end where we were able to discuss the findings and share more information about future partnerships.

As we take the work from the Global Reef Expedition to the next level, we are always looking to develop new partnerships to help bring the UN endorsed Science Without Borders® project to communities worldwide. Webinars like this, and partnering with SPREP, are important first steps in the implementation of the Science Without Borders® project and connect us with a network of people who are also working to protect, conserve, and restore ocean health.

Meet the Interns: Joana Oliveira

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is hosting two interns this semester from the University of Ghent’s International Master of Science in Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea) program. This international program focuses on marine resource management and conservation, and provides students with the opportunity to conduct a professional practice in their field.

One of our interns, Joana Oliveira, will be helping the Foundation create StoryMaps to showcase the coral reef maps and geo-referenced data we collected on the Global Reef Expedition. Learn more about Joana and what brought her to the Foundation below.

What drew you to the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation?
For my internship, I wanted to put into practice my marine spatial planning and GIS competencies, but I also wanted to work on my science communication skills. The position at the Foundation was the perfect opportunity at the perfect time. At the Living Oceans Foundation, I have the chance to work with world-class scientists and learn about the biggest coral reef survey ever in history…

What We Learned: Collaboration with Local Communities has the Biggest Impact on Reef Conservation

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On the Global Reef Expedition, we prioritized using a collaborative approach to study and map coral reefs by partnering with scientific and local experts in each of the countries we visited. While the scientific team was conducting surveys underwater, we also implemented various outreach and education programs in parallel to improve ocean literacy and inspire the next generation of ocean advocates. The partnerships we formed allowed us to exchange knowledge and learn how local communities were using and managing their marine resources.

One of the biggest take-aways from the GRE was that nearly every community we worked with expressed, and continues to express, the want and need for conservation of their reef systems. Working directly with communities, sharing findings, using our education and outreach programs, and expanding on the current management efforts has proven to be the most successful in conserving the reefs visited on the GRE.

Watch the season finale of Our Living Oceans!

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Tune into EarthxTV tonight to watch the season finale of Our Living Oceans!

Our Living Oceans is a documentary series that explores the health of our living oceans, the threats they face, and what is being done to save them through conversations with scientists, conservationists, and local leaders from around the world. The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is proud to partner with EarthX to produce this remarkable series.

This week’s episode focuses on Ocean Optimism. In it, we share success stories of ocean conservation and the hope we have for preserving our oceans for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations. This episode features the renowned marine biologist and coral conservationist Dr. Nancy Knowlton, one of the founders of the #OceanOptimism movement. She talks about what gives her hope for our ocean’s future. This episode also features Her Deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earle, talking about how a TED prize made it possible for her to launch Mission Blue and create a global network of Hope Spots to help protect our living oceans. The season finale also includes our Education Director, Amy Heemsoth, who discusses the education and outreach work we did on the Global Reef Expedition and how the Living Oceans Foundation continues to inspire the next generation of ocean advocates.

Findings

The Global Reef Expedition (GRE) circumnavigated the world, using a three-pronged approach of science, education, and outreach to address the coral reef crisis. In the process, the Expedition collected an astonishing amount of data. Our findings from the Global Reef Expedition …