|Jean and Chrissy observe pteropods in the Ocean |
Acidification lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center was awarded a grant in the summer of 2013 for Jean Walat, program director, and Chrissy McLean, marine program coordinator, to participate in a six month study circle with the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI).
“Through the program, we are grappling with how to help the general public not only better understand the issues, but also how to communicate what can be done through collective action,” said Walat. Their first session was at the New England Aquarium in September, then Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in October and for the final piece, they will travel to Salt Lake City’s Hogle Zoo in December.
Between these travel sessions, Walat and McLean have been working on applying new interpretation strategies to PTMSC exhibits with the goal of engaging visitors in civic action to support collective climate change solutions.
“It’s been exciting to participate in the NNOCCI study circle with zoos, aquariums, and science centers from across the country,” said McLean. “I am inspired by the cutting edge information we are learning about climate change science and the most effective ways to share this information with the thousands of students, guests and volunteers who come to PTMSC each year.”
A NNOCCI Study Circle is a cross-disciplinary learning group made up of peers with expertise from fields of professional interpretation, climate and ocean sciences and communications and cultural sciences. Through a series of facilitated in-person meetings, webinars, conference calls and practical activities, participants build knowledge of ocean and climate science and communications and cultural sciences. They apply lessons learned to communications or educational opportunities in the context of their work environment through several cycles of development, practice, sharing and reflection.
“NNOCCI has provided so much feedback about the ways people react to environmental information that we’re looking at all of our programs and exhibits with new eyes, and this will definitely inform our programming in the future,” Walat said. “But probably the most valuable insight that we gained is matching the scale of the environmental solution to the environmental problem. For large scale issues like climate change, collective action at the community, regional, national and international levels is essential.”
McLean added, “Port Townsend is an amazing place and we are really innovative when it comes to supporting climate change solutions in our community. From our robust farmers market to our walkable and bike-able town—we have the perfect platform to inspire responsible stewardship and civic action in so many people who come to visit. Together we can make a big difference.”
NNOCCI is a collaborative effort led by the New England Aquarium with the Association for Zoos and Aquariums, the FrameWorks Institute, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the New Knowledge Organization in partnership with Penn State University and the Ohio’s Center for Science and Industry. With support from the National Science Foundation Climate Change Education Partnership program, NNOCCI’s goal is to establish a national network of professionals who are skilled in communicating climate science to the American public.