All delegate travel to be offset with community mangrove project


By Edd Hind-Ozan


You are packing your bags ready to travel to the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5). Some of you are already in the air. Most of you are flying to Kuching via Singapore, Hong Kong, or Kuala Lumpur. Some of you are flying from other countries in Asia. Others much further. Many of you are flying from the Americas. That is more than a ton of carbon produced from your flight! As far as our oceans our concerned, that’s not great. Actually, that’s terrible. But conferences matter and stopping attending them may be even worse news for the oceans!

We are more than conscious of the need for low impact conferences at IMCC5 HQ, and that is why we have continued the policy we set out in stone for IMCC4. Rather than asking you to “opt in” to a carbon offset program, we have simply included a compulsory offset fee in your registration costs. For us, there is simply no other choice. Fortunately, we have great delegates, and not one of you complained about this policy at IMCC4. Not surprisingly, many of you totally embraced it and were very positive with your feedback. Thank you dearly for your support!

Carbon Credits Offset.png

Our certificate for the carbon credits we purchased for IMCC5!

So, we are really excited to share that we are continuing the official partnership we formed at IMCC4 with the Mikoko Pamoja mangrove offsetting project in Kenya. Mikoko Pamoja is a community-led mangrove conservation and restoration project in Gazi Bay, Kenya. It involves community-based policing of illegal mangrove harvesting, as well as the application of local expertise in mangrove planting. The project recently won the Equator Initiative Prize for community solutions to climate change in 2017. Mikoko Pamoja is accredited by Plan Vivo, an independent charity that specializes in community-based forestry projects. You can learn more about the project and how it is benefiting local communities in this great video:

We’re also happy to share some great news. IMCC4 delegates’ support of Mikoko Pamoja project is part of the success that has allowed the project organizers to expand their great work. They are currently launching a second site called Vanga, south of Mikoko Pamoja, which is four times the size of the original site. Hopefully some of you will be supporting this new site as part of your IMCC6 registration fee!

Safe travels and see you very very shortly in Kuching!



OceansOnline Plenary Speaker Danielle Brigida: Social Media Maven

By Keni Rienks

With such accolades as “one of 10 People to Follow Who are Saving the World” and “Social Media MVP”, Danielle Brigida is the perfect addition to OceansOnline. As one of the plenary speakers for the special IMCC 5 add-on day, Danielle’s experience with promoting conservation through social media has led her through a decade of successful outreach and communication.

I asked Danielle to paint us a larger picture of her career path and strategies before we have the pleasure of hearing her speak next month:

How do you use social media to communicate your research?

I’ve been using social media to engage people around conservation issues for the past 12 years, and I’m always learning and meeting fascinating people. While the platforms and techniques have changed, some of these tactics still help me day to day:

  • Listen. All. The. Time. We often strategize how much to post when we’re talking about social media. But the truth is, I think a lot of social media success can come from being a good listener. I have found listening or monitoring keywords, friends, thought leaders and topics to be one of the best ways to understand and engage with the communities I am a part of. I prioritize listening over talking, and follow and engage with conversations of current and desired audiences so that I can better identify ways to engage and help bridge their connection to wildlife.
  • Be present daily, even if just for a short time.  I try to check in daily and find this builds trust but also expectation (so be careful!). I use social media and aim to be a reliable member of the community.
  • Own what you don’t know. I work to show that I’m there to curb misinformation and be a resource. Of course I make tons of mistakes doing this! But the key is to apologize, correct the errors and work to prevent future issues.
  • Share what you know.  I use social media to connect with experts and leaders in different areas, whether business, government, nonprofit, etc. I want to be the first person they think of if they need help around an issue about wildlife so that I can direct them where they need to go.
  • Tap into creativity and everyday life. There’s so much to be in awe of and draw inspiration from—don’t limit yourself! Use tasteful humor, art, and others to inspire you and play online. When you’re enjoying yourself, that passion translates and makes others enjoy your company.

Bobcat shark

Being creating when sharing messages on social media is one good way to help reach more people! (© Twitter)

 What advice do you have for someone who is interested in online communication but isn’t sure where to start?

Whether you’re communicating about your personal research or on behalf of an organization, what has worked for me is remembering to always add value and passionately participate. Follow people you want to learn from, interact with them where you see fit and determine how you’ll be a perspective that is meaningfully unique. If you’re just getting started, learn the technology and the communities that exist within each platform, but never forget your humanity and to have fun!

Where do you see science communication in 10 years from now?

In seeing how people document wildlife and nature, I’ll be interested to see how we continue to blend online and offline experiences. We bring our phones out into nature often now, we watch bald eagle webcams, we are constantly learning and perceiving new information based on technology enhancements that make our research stronger and deeper. I’m definitely interested in how our realities shift to incorporate AI, AR, and VR but also how those can become knowledge sharing platforms for researchers and scientists as well.

There is already a trend toward humans seeing animals as individuals, more than just broad species. I see this playing into research and how we track and follow wildlife in interesting ways. Maybe in how we discuss research or how we connect to the public.

Danielle 4

The common use of technology, like smart phones, in the field makes connecting with people easier these days. (© US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Have you had any run-ins with “trolls”? If so, how did you handle it?

Representing a government agency online, I very much want to encourage peaceful unrest on our channels. We make decisions, and often someone is unhappy or displeased. When we receive negativity around decisions online, I want to give people a place to express themselves, but in a respectful way.

We do receive a lot of negativity and some trolls, but most of the people I interact with are just very passionate. I try not to dismiss anyone, but see most conversations as an opportunity to clear up misinformation. That being said, when someone is just trying to get a rise out of you, keeping your cool, responding with factual information and dropping it is my best advice.

I think a lot of people don’t realize that a real person reads their comments, and I hope to convey that when I respond. Their yelling on Twitter or Facebook isn’t actually influencing decisions. You can be rude or mean to our social accounts all you want, but the way to enact change is through the more traditional channels still.

Where do you think the largest gaps are in science communication?

I think science communicators are doing a great job connecting with one another and forming a tighter bond online—I see this on Twitter and I’m heartened by it. However, I think there is still opportunity to reach out to people who don’t yet know they love science (everyone!). It’s a fine balance between fostering a curiosity in people and remaining accurate. Sometimes we forget how far encouragement goes. Often I see scientists pointing out flaws over encouraging people. The more we can jump into conversations by adding value, the better—but just remember that sometimes the message will be better received if done in a gentler way.

I think there is a lot of room to make research and our work relevant, but sometimes that means going outside of our current comfort zone and having the challenging conversations that not only relate to people but that inspire them in hopeful ways.

What role should scientists play in science communication, particularly online?

I think scientists can help shape a lot of the discourse online in a positive way. There’s currently a lot of misinformation out there, and by engaging in conversations and helping to provide logic, reason, and the wonder and passion that got you into your field, you can provide a huge value to the online space, and to science in general. Scientists can help represent their field, and remind people that supporting the brightest minds and supporting the scientific method will keep us focused and continuously learning as a society. I want us to continue to be supportive of one another, and I have great reason to hope we will.

What are you hoping delegates take away from your plenary talk at OceansOnline?

I hope they feel inspired to explore and empower people on social media. We need their voice. We need their curiosity. I want them to see that by being human beings online, we have a great potential to make incredibly important relationships and help represent scientists in a very positive way that inspires others to support or join the field.

What are you most excited for during IMCC and/or OceansOnline?

Meeting the attendees and learning from everyone! I love meeting people in this field. From what I know, it’s such an incredible group and I think the more we can work together the more successful we will be.

Follow Danielle on Twitter (@starfocus) and tune-in to her blog!

Keni Rienks (@kenirienks) is the Communications Chair for OceansOnline and one of the organizers for the 1st International Marine Kids Congress. She is a high school science teacher in Wilmington, NC, USA, and a graduate student at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.


New IMCC5 Field Trip: Visit the turtle nesting ground of Talang-Talang Besar


A final opportunity to see Borneo’s unique wildlife has been added to the official field trips for the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5). Bespoke for conference delegates is an opportunity for a TWO DAY visit to Sarawak’s most important turtle conservation site.

figure1.pngThe field trip will take place on the tiny island of Talang-Talang Besar, 7 kilometers offshore of Borneo’s North Coast (Source: Google Maps).

This field trip allows participants an up close and personal experience with marine animals which are on the brink of extinction. Volunteers get the chance to actively participate hands on in turtle conservation work at the uninhabited Talang-Talang Besar Island in the Talang-Satang National Park, Sarawak’s first marine protected area. Participants will join a team of dedicated local professionals in their efforts to save the turtles. The conservation program aims to create awareness and to impart knowledge on the importance of sea turtle protection.

figure2.pngThe turtle nesting site on Talang-Talang Besar and the ranger station where you will be staying (Source: Sarawak Forestry).

Visitation to the turtle nesting site is highly restricted. Only a set of slots per year are provided by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation during nesting season, running from the months of May to September. This is a very special opportunity. Sign up quick on your IMCC5 registration form* before the field trip becomes fully booked!

(*If you have already registered you can still log back in and add this trip. If you need to cancel a different field trip to attend this one please email us).

figure3.jpgA green turtle nesting on Talang-Talang Besar (Source: Sarawak Forestry)

The field trip is inclusive of full board meals as indicated in detailed program (below), transfers, Boat Fees, Entrance Fees, Basic accommodation at Ranger Facilities, English Speaking Guide. The sum of RM300 per person included in the package will go directly to the conservation fund. The field trip is also listed on the IMCC website.

figure4.pngTurtle hatchlings on Talang-Talang Besar (Source: Sarawak Tourism)

Talang Talang Turtle Conservation Program – Field Trip (2 Days, 1 Night)

Day 1 – June 30

Pick up at 8 am from Kuching for a 1.5hrs transfer to the quaint town of Sematan.
Upon arrival at TT Island:

i.                    Welcoming/safety briefing & registration for the program  – mid-morning
ii.                   Lunch break
iii.                  Turtle conservation activities (afternoon till evening)

Day 2 – July 1
Before leaving the island:

i.                    Turtle adoption certificate presentation ceremony (early morning)
ii.                   Depart the island (mid-morning)

Transfer to Kuching to arrive close to midday.



Storytelling Workshop Opportunity at IMCC5




Registration for the IMCC pre-workshop Tales from the Sea: Communicating Science and Conservation through Storytelling, held on 22-23 June 2018, is now open. This workshop is co-organized by scientists and science communication specialists at COMPASS, Oregon State University and Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions.

Storytelling is a powerful way to transfer information and knowledge, evoke emotion, and build trust with an audience. Join us as we discuss key elements of oral storytelling and help you build the skills you need to craft powerful stories to share your conservation science experience.

JoshParticipants from the Storytelling Workshop at IMCC4 shared their personal stories with local peoples from St. John’s, Newfoundland. (© Keni Rienks)

This workshop is geared towards scientists who are conducting research and want to share their findings with diverse audiences. IMCC participants with accepted abstracts are invited to apply for this lively, hands-on, 2-day pre-meeting storytelling workshop. As a participant, you will 1) identify and distill your conservation science message, 2) develop an engaging oral narrative for public audiences, and 3) contribute your video-taped story to an archive of marine conservation stories. Workshop participants will also have the opportunity to tell their stories in a special live event during IMCC.. Please note that participants will be contacted in mid-June with a pre-workshop assignment to complete in advance of the workshop.

To register for this workshop, please complete the following online application form here ( Space is limited, so please register as soon as possible.


For more information, please contact Heather Mannix ( For more information about the IMCC Workshops (including fees), please see the conference webpage (


The Organizing Team:

Stephanie Green, Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solution

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, Oregon State University

Heather Mannix, COMPASS

Competition to make real solutions for marine conservation problems: Make for the Planet Borneo



Ocean acidification. Coral bleaching. Overfishing. Marine Pollution and debris. Invasive Species. Dead zones. The challenges our oceans face can seem grim on the best of days.  But humankind has the ingenuity and optimism to solve them.


When we combine the knowledge of conservationists and biologists with engineers, programmers, makers, and designers, we can improve the efficacy, speed, cost, scale and sustainability of conservation efforts through novel technologies and approaches.  A diverse range of skills and professions must be brought to the table to collaboratively address these challenges.  This is the idea behind Make for the Planet.

Make4thePlanet Diving_Palau_Dehgan.JPG

Marine scientists, our oceans, and the people who rely on the oceans are facing turbulent times. What can you do to get involved and change the field of marine conservation? (© Conservation X Labs)


Make for the Planet Borneo 2018

Join Make for the Planet Borneo!  Make for the Planet is an exciting, fast-paced, collaborative, and hands-on invention competition for multidisciplinary teams to build software and/or hardware solutions in response to specific marine conservation challenges.


Conservation X Labs will host up to 15 teams (60 people maximum) from around the world to compete in Make for the Planet Borneo.  This event will take place on June 24-29 at the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress in the Waterfront Hotel in Kuching, Malaysia.


Make for the Planet Borneo will engage students and practitioners from multiple fields – engineering, design, do-it-yourself making, computer programming, science and technology, etc. – to create solutions for five specific marine conservation challenges to be presented at IMCC5. Teams will have access to a pop-up makerspace with prototyping equipment, including 3D printers and electronics stations, and access to the IMCC5 presentations.  Mentors from the IMCC5 delegation and local organizations will be on-hand to help guide the multidisciplinary teams.


During the event, teams will build physical and/or digital representations of their solutions for review by judges. There are prizes & benefits for participating:

  • Lodging (June 24-29) and IMCC5 registration is covered for the participating teams.
  • At least two teams will win cash prizes, with a prize purse of up to $10,000 USD.
  • All participating teams will receive at least one consulting session from Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL) to continue to refine their prototypes and solutions after Make for the Planet.
  • One team will receive a 6-month hot bench membership to Maker Bay in Hong Kong.
  • Deadline for submissions is May 13th, the same day as early-bird registration closes!


Get Involved!

Conservation X Labs is recruiting teams, mentors, and supporters to participate in Make for the Planet Borneo and chart the future of marine conservation. We encourage anyone interested to get involved, especially IMCC5 delegates, and participate in this exciting and promising competition.


Form a team & apply

We are looking for diverse teams of up to 4 people each to participate in designing, developing and prototyping solutions to marine-related conservation challenges. Teams can be composed of students or non-students and can have a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. We will accept up to 15 teams of 4. As a participant on a team, you get to have fun and build an early-stage model of a real-world solution while interacting with your potential customers who are on-site as reviewers, mentors, and conference-goers.


The participant application is open until we reach capacity – visit the website HERE. Attending IMCC5 and want to participate on a team, or still looking for team mates? You can apply! Read more about the event including logistical information and a previous Make for the Planet in 2017.


Mentors and Reviewers

We are looking for individuals with subject matter expertise in marine related areas, as well as those who have experience in engineering, data science, open innovation and large scale problem solving. As a Mentor or Reviewer, you can apply your expertise to inspire, guide, and incentivize the innovative teams creating real-world solutions. The teams might just create the thing that you need to help solve your conservation problem! We welcome an unlimited number of Mentors, so please sign-up HERE if you are interested. Conservation X labs will recruit about 7  Reviewers who will hear the pitches from all participating teams and identify finalists.


IMCC5 delegates are invited to mentor teams at Make for the Planet Borneo – sign up HERE.

Make4thePlanet ragnar-vorel-311730.jpg

Can your innovative idea help to preserve our oceans and the people reliant on them? Apply for Make for the Planet Borneo to put your idea out there! (© Conservation X Labs)

Spread the word, be a sponsor, or be a partner

Are you reading this blog? Help us get the word out about the event to a broad network of innovators and potential participants. Share this story on social media & #Make4thePlanet #IMCC5 and @conservationx @IMCC2018


Interested in sponsoring or partnering with Make for the Planet Borneo? Contact

Getting to Know Dr. Phil Levin


“I’m not a big fan of foreign movies, because I always fall asleep reading subtitles” says Phil Levin, “but these movies – I’m so into them!” Levin is talking about Kurosawa, the Japanese auteur, and is animatedly describing Rashomon, the 1950 classic film which is giving him inspiration for his plenary speech at IMCC5.

Rashomon’s subject matter initially seems a far reach from themes of marine conservation. The story is set in feudal Japan, and delves into a rape, murder, and the following criminal investigation. The film is told from the subjective experiences of four people involved in the event, who appear contradictory and self-serving, impossible to reconcile amongst themselves. But, as film critics have suggested, perhaps different perspectives don’t need to reconcile to be true. Levin contemplates this now as he describes what he wants to convey to other marine conservationists at IMCC. “Nobody’s lying. They all have a different truth.”

Levin frequently encounters this idea as he works through complex issues of ocean management with some very diverse stakeholders. A thousand people will have a thousand different responses to the question “what does a perfect ocean look like?” and it would be hard to argue the “truth” of any of them. But ask instead how a marine resource should be managed, and hard-fought notions about what’s right or wrong, true and false, will rear up, and things might start getting heated.

“There’s this concept called sacred values – this idea that there are certain things that we hold really deeply. And in a lot of cases where I’m interacting, it can get ugly, I mean there might be blockades, there might be people taking over government buildings and violence – it can go to that level.”  The thing is, he says, the resource itself is often a proxy for where the real tension lies. “A lot of cases where I’m interacting, the conflict is not about what we’re talking about. It’s about the history in the region and its people—their understanding of how they are treated by others.”

Understanding that it’s impossible to separate the resource – and the decisions made about the resource – from the perspectives of the people who are connected to it, changed how Levin works. “I’ve become a lot more interested in the social side of things because of that.” And he’s wary of writing off conflict over marine resources to a simple difference in personal values. “We don’t often recognize we might have the same values and be experiencing the world in completely different ways”.

The idea gives him hope. Perspectives, and perceptions, can be informed, enriched, and transformed. “The literature suggests that even the act of attempting to reach consensus around information can reduce conflict. So we don’t have to agree, but if we sit down in a room and share our perspectives, that could be enough to lower the tension and allow us to talk through things, and not just assume that the other person just wants to screw us. That’s hopeful to me, because it suggests that there’s something we can do about conflict, and allows us to make forward progress.”

If anyone knows how perceptions of our environment can be changed, it must be Levin. His first interaction with the ocean was disastrous. Dipping in the water on a Texas shore, he spotted a football-sized object floating in the water. With the curiosity of a scientist, he picked it up, only to learn the hard way what a close encounter with a Portugese Man-Of-War felt like.  “If you’d asked me then what the perfect ocean looked like, I would have said it looks a lot like a heavily chlorinated swimming pool!”

He tells the story with a generous laugh. Transforming that first, painful, experience into a lifelong career in marine science took resilience, he says, and persistence.  The same characteristics serve him well now in his professional life exploring interdisciplinary approaches into conservation management and policy. After years as a Senior Scientist at NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Levin began a joint role with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment and The Nature Conservancy in 2016. UW calls him a “professor of practice” and the term seems tailor-made for Levin. “I align myself with organizations where I think that knowledge can be put into action. I mean I really enjoy basic science, but I think I’m personally motivated by use-inspired research.” He pauses. “Isn’t… IMCC, isn’t there something about that…?”

There is. Making marine science matter is the theme and goal of IMCC, and remains unchanged since the first congress in 2010. Levin’s attended every one of them.

“I enjoy IMCC because it’s diverse, both in geography, in disciplinary expertise, and other stuff. Some of these other similarly sized meetings are broad too, but I find myself in one room for two days because it’s where the thing I’m interested in is. The problem with IMCC is I just don’t know where to go, because there’s too much that I want to see! That’s a nice problem to have. But IMCC, as well as being diverse, is also quite targeted. You take a single suite of problems and say, “across the world, and from different perspectives, how are people trying to solve the exact same thing that I’m trying to solve?” He pauses. “That’s one reason I go. The other reason is to catch up with old friends!”

Levin’s a generous person to chat with, and I can’t help but add a few throwaway questions into our interview:

“How did you get into marine science?”

“TV! Cousteau, of course. The octopus episode. The oil-painting underwater. I thought it was incredibly cool.”

“Do you love fish? Can you love a fish?”

“Of course you can! How can you not?”  They’re different though. “Salmon are terrible, just terrible”, Levin jokes.   They’re narcissistic. Whereas groupers? I like groupers. I mean, you can have a relationship with a grouper, right? If you can’t love a grouper, then you can’t love.” I nod my head. Spend enough time with marine biologists and this seems utterly rational.

Finally, I ask what he loves most about his work, and Levin stops – I have the sense he’s struggling to pick a single response out of many. I quickly rephrase: “what’s your biggest reward? I mean what are you in it for?”

His response, coming as it does from such an accomplished and effective marine scientist, is in many ways the very spirit of IMCC:

“I’m trying to save the world,” he says confidently. “I embrace the naiveté that I can make a difference. I know it sounds everything, cliché, naïve, stupid, arrogant. But I just hope that I can. That we can. I mean I really do.”

Levin 2.png

Dr Phil Levin will give the Ransom A. Myers Memorial plenary on 28 June. You might also like to track him down at the bar, where he’ll buy you a beer if you’ve bought a copy of his book Conservation for the Anthropocene Ocean. If you’ve brought an actual copy, he’ll even skip the quiz, and sign it for you in beer.

Interactive Grant Writing Workshop with the National Geographic Society


The National Geographic Society (NGS) will be hosting an interactive workshop to assist grant applicants in developing project ideas and application materials while fostering collaboration and innovation. This one-and-a-half-day workshop will be held June 29-30, 2018, in Kuching, Malaysia. NGS will cover the costs of one additional night’s accommodation and meals on workshop days for workshop attendees.


NGS grant opportunities open on a quarterly basis and fall under a wide variety of scientific disciplines in three focus areas: Changing Planet, Wildlife, and Human Journey. We invest in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology. In addition, NGS hosts requests for proposals to address current environmental and socioeconomic challenges. For more information and for an application form, please see: What We Fund.


Important: all workshop participants are expected to submit a workshop expression of interest and grant application (or previous application from the past two years) for review by May 1, 2018. Note: participation in the workshop is not required to apply for a NGS grant.


Purpose of the workshop

The workshop is intended to provide information about and practice developing key attributes of a successful NGS grant. In addition, the in-person workshop will encourage collaborations across disciplines and sectors to help cultivate new ideas and innovation. The workshop will provide an opportunity for individuals to interact and help each other develop and improve project ideas, and connect potential grantees with NGS staff.


Attendee eligibility

  • NGS welcomes workshop applications from individuals residing in these countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.
  • All attendees must have completed and submitted an NGS grant application by May 1, 2018
  • Previous applicants to NGS grant opportunities within the last two years are also strongly encouraged to apply (and do not need to re-submit a grant application, unless they would like to).



How to apply to attend the workshop

Participation in the workshop is by application and subsequent invitation only.


Please indicate interest by filling out this form here: and fill out the application online:


Applications to participate in the workshop are accepted until 11:59pm May 1, 2018, EST. A sample application form is available: .


You will be notified by May 21 if you are successful. If your application is not accepted for the workshop, it will be considered in the next grant cycle (notification of funding in October).


Workshop details

Location: Waterfront Hotel, Kuching, Sarawak

Dates: Friday June 29 (half day) and Saturday June 30 (full day). Note that June 30 will include workshop attendees who are also participating in the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). Space will be limited to ~10 participants from IMCC and ~10 from ATBC.