Why Non-Academics Should Attend IMCC5


By Chelsea Gray

Everyone loves the sea. Each year, millions of people all over the world flock to sandy beaches. When digging toes into the warm sand, listening to the waves crash over the ocean, how may people feel connected to the ocean? And how many people take that connection home with them, often far from the coast, and impossibly far from the open sea?

Our connection to the sea, no matter how far inland we may live, runs deep. Snow from the mountain tops melts, running off our roads and lawns into rivers, before eventually emptying out to the sea. With much of that run off comes pollutants, chemicals from our pesticides and sediment from agriculture. These pollutants threaten our health and fisheries, as cans of tuna line grocery store shelves.


The ocean has the power to transfix us; It lets us realize our deep connections to nature through its power and beauty. (© Chelsea Gray)

While we frequently hear that the ocean is polluted, many people do not realize that 80% of those pollutants come from the land. It comes in small doses, from our cars and our gardens. The number one source of oil pollution in the water does not come from oil spills, but from small oil leaks from millions of cars, carried by our local rivers to the coast.

Because marine pollution originates from such diverse and often small sources, it is a problem not just for marine scientists, but for society as a whole. While terrestrial scientists can frequently focus on a single area or ecosystem, marine scientists don’t have that luxury, and frequently find themselves navigating complex systems of land, sea, and policy.


Plastic is one form of pollution that can have a large negative impact on ocean life we rely on in so many ways. Fixing this problem is a challenge for everyone! (©Chelsea Gray)

Cleaning up the ocean requires commitment from all individuals, academic and non-academic alike. Because of this, non-academics can benefit from talking and interacting with marine scientists, and what better play for that then the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5)?


But what kind of non-academics could benefit?

Anyone who cares about the environment! But more specifically, teachers would gain a lot from IMCC5. For starters, the conference is dedicated to representing women in STEM, which will allow teachers to show examples of real life female scientists to young women. But also, being aware of the latest trends in marine science will help teachers prepare students to enter the world as conscientious citizens, even if their students do not end up in science.


Journalists are another group of non-academics who could benefit from IMCC5. There has been a decrease in the amount of journalists who can provide quality science journalism to the public.  As marine conservation is dependent on society as a whole, journalists who can spread the word about the most recent research and recommendations are indispensable. Connecting with and forming lasting relationships with current marine scientists will give journalists points of contact to explain, expand on, or interpret the latest scientific discoveries, and offer evidence based strategies for decreasing pollution in our daily lives.

It should go without saying how those who work in the policy realms, such as NGOs, can benefit from IMCC5. Marine conservation intersects with food security (fisheries science), ecotourism, and yes, even our beach vacations. NGOs frequently navigate more than just one realm, combining law, policy, and science, a challenge that many marine scientists are more then familiar with. Creating strategies that address environmental issues, and their inevitable social ramifications, will allow NGOs to operate more effectively.

Of course, anyone with an interest in marine science and conservation is more then welcome to attend. As global citizens, we all have a hand in creating or preventing ocean pollution. We hope to see you all, no matter your profession, with us in Kuching this June for IMCC5!


Chelsea Gray is pursuing her MS degree in Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University, where she plans to study public perceptions of shark tourism. She currently works at the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center as an outreach assistant and plankton counter. You can find more of her writing and video creations here!


Social Media in Science Communication: Why You Should Plan to Attend OceansOnline 2018!


By Keni Rienks

Information moving from conversation to the digital world is not news. Communication of scientific research, data, and revelations is hard-pressed to make it to the printing press anymore. The hashtag is the new Dewey Decimal system. Science communication, or #scicomm, is becoming the prominent way for scientists to promote their field of study and research. In fact, at the last science conference I attended, I’m not sure I was asked my name before I was asked for my Twitter handle!

Danielle Brigida

OceansOnline 2018 Plenary Speaker @starfocus – a #scicomm expert. (© Keni Rienks)

Science and social media outlets

Scientists who make themselves available on social media are a gift to one another, educators, citizen scientists, and the media. And the number that are professionally utilizing social media is on the increase. A 2016 study entitled How Are Scientists Using Social Media in the Workplace? discovered its survey pool had a large percentage of Twitter users, with the majority of that utilizing it for less than two years. Social media usage is hot!

The authors of Digital environmentalism: Tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem reference the popularity of blogging. Many scientists read blogs and write their own blogs, and it is common to share science-themed blogs with colleagues.

IMCC4 Social Media Workshop

Participants and leaders of the IMCC4 Social Media Workshop. (©David Shiffman)

Opportunities for learning

Many universities today provide formal and informal courses on professional social media strategies. And, as you can imagine, many of these are instructed virtually.

My own formal experience with this alt-world of science communicators came in 2016 when I attended and presented at OceansOnline. This event was an extension to the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4). Roughly 150 delegates and presenters collaborated on best-practice cyber-com for people working in marine science and conservation. Various workshops and facilitated discussions inspired delegates to get involved themselves. Topics included how online communication aided in policy making, collaboration and communication across scientific disciplines, integrating online tools in marine management, and educators virtually connecting students and scientists. These and many more topics discussed highlighted the importance the digital world can have for science education and conservation!

Student-Scientist Partnerships is one such platform discussed at OceansOnline last summer. Founder and coordinator, Patrick Goff, collects a database of volunteer scientists willing to Skype into classrooms to chat with students. His participation at OceansOnline gained him many more of these valuable connections to bring to his middle school class and greatly expanded his list of volunteers!

Keni & Patrick

Goff and myself in 2016 at #IMCC4 where we co-presented on using social media to connect students to science. (©Ocean Optimism)

OceansOnline has its roots in the first ScienceOnline: Oceans, founded by Southern Fried Science bloggers Dr. Andrew Thaler and Dr. David Shiffman in 2013. No strangers to the social media scene, Thaler and Shiffman have maintained their persona as some of the most well-known bloggers and Tweeters in the science communication virtual world. Shiffman served as the first OceansOnline conference chair, and Thaler was the first conference plenary speaker. Both social media celebrities will be returning to the 2nd OceansOnline, on the 29th of June 2018, in Kuching, Malaysia. This will serve as the final event of the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC).

“OceansOnline is a unique event for anyone interested in using the internet for public education and outreach related to the ocean! It brings together scientists, environmental advocates, and educators from all kinds of backgrounds who share a love for the ocean. There’s just nothing else like it.

My favorite part about OceansOnline is the facilitated discussion format. We assume that the collective wisdom and experience of the audience is greater than that of those leading a particular discussion, and events are run with that in mind. It leads to some very open and informal discussions that benefit everyone in attendance, even the organizers! I loved popping in between the different sessions, which cover a huge variety of topics. I learned so much from all of our attendees!” —- David Shiffman


Curious about science communication and conservation? Wondering how you can develop yourself and your message to reach key audiences online? Then come join our community at @OceansOnline and we hope to see you in Kuching!


Collins, K., Shiffman, D., & Rock, J. (2016, October 12). How Are Scientists Using Social Media in the Workplace? PLOS ONE. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0162680

Smith, N. S., Cote, I. M., Martinez-Estevez, L., Hind-Ozan, E. J., Quiros, A. L., Johnson, N., . . . Shiel-Rolle, N. (2017, August 2). Diversity and Inclusion in Conservation: A Proposal for A Marine Diversity Network. Frontiers in Marine Science, 234. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2017.00234/full

Thaler AD, Zelnio KA, Freitag A, MacPherson R, Shiffman D, Bik H, Goldstein M, McClain C (in press)

Digital Environmentalism: Tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem. Forthcoming,

2012 in SAGE Reference – Environmental Leadership: A Reference Handbook D. Gallagher (Ed.).

Keni Rienks is a high school science teacher and ocean-lover from Wilmington, NC, USA. She assisted in the organization of IMCC4 and is the Communications Chair for OceansOnline. Rienks is currently pursuing a Masters of Environmental Management degree at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

20% Registration Discount for Female Symposium Leaders at IMCC5


We are passionate about encouraging diversity at the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (#IMCC5). We believe having everyone in the room leads to the greatest knowledge sharing, fostering informed discussion and heightened networking. Unfortunately, certain demographics, particularly women and people who identify as female, have been historically underrepresented at scientific conferences. This discrepancy is due to unjust barriers to participation, including limited funding or parental resources. We are actively working towards changing this inequality.


We hope this initiative will help overcome historic inequalities in marine science and bring more fantastic woman scientists to IMCC5! (© Sophia Wassermann)

Recent research conducted by the IMCC5 Program Chair and Deputy Program Chair demonstrated that a conference has more women speakers across the board when more women lead symposia. We are pleased, therefore, to announce a 20% discount on registration fees for female lead organizers of successful submissions. Hopefully, this initiative will contribute to overcoming some of the historic inequalities in the field of marine conservation. We encourage you to submit a symposium proposal to IMCC5 by 16 October 2017. Full details of the call are available here.

Further initiatives to foster equality at IMCC5 include our provision of travel grants to help support attendance of those from so-called developing nations and small island states, as well as the implementation of a conference code of conduct. Please email the IMCC5 organizing committee if you have any questions or comments about any of the initiatives mentioned in this post, or if you have any general questions about IMCC5.

On the Road to IMCC5… Local Foods!


By Travis Nielsen (IMCC5 Meeting Manager)

Waking from a night of website building and meetings, I shower off and walk out my hotel doors and clumsily sit myself down in the Mee Sin Café, a few doors away from my hotel. It’s my last day in the city, and I’m on my way to a conference in Australia. I meet my friend to share a final breakfast with him before I must call for my taxi to the airport. My friend always orders for me when we share a meal; he knows the local cuisine amazingly well and somehow knows exactly what I like. Every time! After some shouting in Hoikken, a steaming cup of ‘Kopi o’ and bowl of ‘Kolo mee wonton’ – black coffee and egg noodles in a sweet savory sauce topped with shrimp wonton – are plated in front of me, and we share the meal and enjoy each other’s company. Kolo mee is a staple, served anytime and possibly one of my favorite things in the city of Kuching.

My friend is from a village nearby Kuching. He moved to Kuching to work in the tourism industry. He is proudly an Orang Bidayuh – one of the original tribes of Borneo, and very proud of his tribe, culture, city, and country. He is always telling me “A guest in Kuching should gain at least a kilo a week from the food.” I’m not sure if I gained a kilo in the 10 days I was in Kuching for this visit, but I do know I tried pretty hard to do it, and when it comes to Malaysian culture, they are serious about food!


A delicious lunch being served at a restaurant in Kuching. (© Kirkland Photos)

The food culture of Malaysia is an amazing mix of cultures that results from being a maritime trading hub between China and India, with a strong influence from local tribal cuisine and influences from Britain, The Netherlands, Portugal, India, China, and many, many others countries. The food in Sarawak – the largest province of Malaysia, situated on the northwest coast of Borneo Island – has an even more unique flair and strong influence from local tribes, and Chinese and Indian influences.

Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak, is the largest city in the area and has an amazing food scene. The many dishes seen around the city, from breakfasts of curried chicken with roti canai (a type of wheat flour Indian flatbread), lunchtime pork satay (roasted strips of pork on skewers served with peanut sauce) at the Chinese hawker stalls on Carpenter Street to the late night kolo mee will have your mouth watering, but these are all just the first act… the main event in the Kuching’s culinary world is Kuching laksa!


Kuching’s famous laksa dish, a favorite served all over the city. (© J. Jamaludin)

Kuching laksa is noodles (usually rice noodles) served in an aromatic broth coconut milk and spices. Laksa is then traditionally topped with shredded chicken, egg, bean sprouts and local prawns; however, you can get laksa with an infinite variety of toppings. Garnished with a few fresh sprigs of coriander, its then served. Laksa brings together the fusion of cultures that is Kuching. Every restaurant that serves Laksa claims theirs is the best laksa in the city, so you will have no shortage of varieties to try.

The only problem you will have, is staying long enough to try them all!

So see you in Kuching, where we’ll hopefully share many a scrumptious meal!

Travis Nielsen is the Meeting Manager for IMCC5 and founder and CEO of Azurigen Management and Consulting Solutions Inc. A STEM project management firm that specializes in linking conservation based science to business and government. He is a published Marine Biologist with 10 years experience in STEM, and 10 years of experience in management and leadership. He has been responsible for projects with budgets up to $500,000, working with multiple stakeholders, large public engagement mandates, and with staffs up to 100 people in locations all across the globe.

Situación actual de la biodiversidad marina… un “océano de problemas” pero también de oportunidades


Por Sebastian Muñoz

Es bien sabido que la biodiversidad del planeta afronta un momento crítico como consecuencia de las acciones humana. Los ecosistemas marinos no son ajenos a esta realidad, ya que muchas de sus especies enfrentan un futuro incierto en términos de conservación. En pocas palabras nos enfrentamos a un “océano de problemas” para la vida marina, causaod por el calentamiento global, especies invasivas, contaminación, sobrepesca, etc. A primera vista el panorama puede ser intimidante e incluso desalentador, entonces ¿Cómo navegar en este tempestuoso océano?, efectivamente no se trata de una situación fácil de resolver, pero es al mismo tiempo un escenario de oportunidades para aquellos que se proponen aportar propuestas de mitagción a través de la investigación científica.

Bajo este contexto, el Congreso Internacional de la Biología de la Conservación (ICCB) acogió un gran número de invetigaciones del mayor nivel científico que sugieren que la pérdida de biodiversidad marina debe ser manejada desde las escalas ecológicas más grandes, incluyendo el ámbito local hasta el global. Así mismo, fueron presentados múltiples ejemplos en donde existe una integración real de las actividades científicas en las decisiones gubernamentales. Esto es necesario para una protección más efectiva de la biodiversidad, ya que se requiere que los tomadores de decisiones actúen de manera congruente con lo sugerido por los científicos. Del mismo modo cabe destacar se hizo mención a varias estrategias investigativas en las cuales fue incluida la acción comunitaria. Finalmente, el cambio de comportamiento individual de la población es esencial, pues de las decisiones cotidianas depende en gran medida la protección de la vida marina a largo plazo.

ICCB talk

Una de las presentaciones de ciencias marinas compartidas en la reunión del ICCB 2017 en Cartagena, Colombia. (Imagen: Sebastian Muñoz)

Muchas de las investigaciones presentadas referentes a temas marinos fueron realizadas en ecosistemas representados en el país anfitrión del ICCB. Colombia posee una de las diversidades más ricas del mundo, pero al mismo tiempo cuenta con condiciones socioeconómicas, educativas, políticas y de conflicto armado interno que conllevan a una alta dificultad para la protección de sus mares. Si se suman además aspectos como el calentamiento global, se convierte en un claro ejemplo del “océano de problemas” referido previamente. No obstante los diversos estudios presentados en el congreso son sin duda alguna un paso fundamental en la construcción de lineamientos que permitirán enfocar los esfuerzos de conservación en el país e integrar de mejor manera los actores participantes en la conservación. Esto brindará nuevas perspectivas y esperanzas para proteger los invaluables ecosistemas marinos colombianos y los organismos que allí habitan.

ICCB talk2

Una presentación sobre la tortuga carey en peligro crítico, que desembarca en la costa de Colombia para depositar sus huevos (Imagen: Sebastian Muñoz)

Con este congreso se recalca la importancia de continuar con las investigaciones y estudios de los ambientes marinos de Colombia y el mundo, pues ante tantos actores que afectan negativamente a los organismos de los océanos y mares, hay que tener respuestas viables y efectivas que aseguren su conservación y la protección de los ecosistemas en que habitan. ¡Este es el momento de aportar más soluciones y presentarlas en el Congreso Internacional de la Conservación Marina 2018, que tendrá lugar en Kuching, Malasia!

Making Marine Science Matter

Sebastián Eduardo Muñoz Duque nació en Medellín (Colombia). Actualmente está terminando sus estudios de licenciatura en Biología en la Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. Ha sido parte del grupo de investigación en Ictiología (GIUA) en su universidad durante los últimos tres años. Sebastián también ha participado en diferentes proyectos de ecología de peces de agua dulce con la Universidad Nacional de Colombia y ha trabajado para diferentes empresas interesadas en la gestión de peces de agua dulce. En el último semestre, participó en varios cursos sobre ecología de agua dulce en la Universidad de Burdeos, Francia.

The Situation of Marine Biodiversity… An “Ocean of Problems” But Also of Opportunities


By Sebastian Muñoz

It is well known that the Earth’s biodiversity is in a critical moment as a result of human actions. Marine ecosystems too are threatened by various human impacts, and many marine species are confronting a complex and uncertain future in terms of their conservation. In a few words, there is an “ocean of problems” for marine life: global warming, invasive species, pollution, overfishing, etc. threaten many species. At first glance the panorama of the future can be intimidating and discouraging, so how to navigate these uncertain seas? It is not an easy situation to solve, but at the same time, it is an opportunity for those researching and working to propose forward-thinking solutions for the future.

In this light, the marine research and science shared at the International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB), held in Cartagena, Colombia this July, presented a multitude of high quality examples where teams and people from both small and large groups were/are working to protect biodiversity. Many examples were presented where a real integration of scientific activities in governmental spheres is occurring. This is key to conservation since more effective protection of (marine) biodiversity undoubtedly requires the decision-makers in governments to act congruently with conservation goals. Different research strategies were also shared that included community action and involvement which ultimately led to the changing of individual behavior in people. This is essential since everyday decisions can impact the protection of marine life in the long run.

ICCB talk

One of the marine science presentations shared at the ICCB 2017 meeting in Cartagena, Colombia. (Image: Sebastian Muñoz)

Much of the research presented on marine issues were conducted in local ecosystems of the meeting’s host country. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, but at the same time, deals with a wide variety of complex issues including socioeconomic, educational, political, and internal armed conflict conditions. This has lead to a high level of difficulty for the environmental protection of Colombia’s seas. Remembering that global changes, such as climate change, are still occurring, Colombia becomes a clear example of the “ocean of problems” previously mentioned. However, the various studies presented at the congress are undoubtedly a fundamental step in the construction of guidelines that will help focus conservation efforts in Colombia. The research and initiatives shared aimed towards improving the integration the various actors involved in conservation, and provided new perspectives and hopes to obtain positive results and protect invaluable Colombian marine ecosystems and their amazing biodiversity.

ICCB talk2

Presentation on the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, which comes ashore on the coast of Colombia to lay its eggs (Image: Sebastian Muñoz)

Given the above, it is important to continue and sustain research and conservation efforts with the marine environments of Colombia, and the world, because conservation is necessary and important! We need viable and effective steps and answers to help assure conservation and protection of marine ecosystems and the people who rely on them for their living! It is time to come up with more solutions and what better place to present and further discuss them than at the 2018 International Marine Conservation Congress in Kuching, Malaysia!

Making Marine Science Matter

Sebastian Eduardo Muñoz Duque was born in Medellín (Colombia). Currently, he is finishing his undergraduate’s studies in Biology at Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. He has been part of the research Group in Ichtiology (GIUA) at his university for the last three years. Sebastian has also participated in different projects involving freshwater fish ecology with the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and has worked for different enterprises interested in freshwater fish management. Last semester, he participated in various courses about freshwater ecology at Université de Bordeaux, France.


On the Road to IMCC5


IMCC4 image2

A crowd of scientists, marine managers, policy makers, journalists, and others gathered for a cheerful social event at IMCC4. Expect to see more excited crowds of marine conservation-minded folks at IMCC5 in Kuching! (Image: Keni Rienks)

We are currently less than a year out from kicking off the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5), with the official start of the conference in only 306 days! The various committees and organizers for IMCC5 have been working for a while now to get the conference off the ground and running. Now that we are less than a year out, organization and planning is kicking into overdrive!

As we work towards finalizing the plan for making IMCC5 as accommodating, rigorous, and enjoyable a conference as possible, we’d like to take you on our journey so you can follow us along as new updates arrive and information becomes available. We want to keep everyone who is interested abreast of the exciting developments related to planning this conference, such as our initiative to have a telepresence and an Impact Chair. But we can’t think of everything! If you have any ideas to help build our conference, please feel free to reach out to us through email, Twitter, or Facebook.

To keep everyone on the same page and to continue to build excitement towards what we believe will be the most successful IMCC meeting yet, we will have a regular series of blog posts that track our developments towards finalizing the details of IMCC5. We encourage you to follow along with our blog to get additional updates and details on IMCC5, the wonderful city of Kuching, and why you should definitely start making plans to meet us there this coming June! Our website will soon be filling with all these details and more, so be sure to check it out periodically too! You can also follow along with #IMCC5 for more updates on our social media.

We look forward to have you along for the ride as we approach the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress and continue to “Make Marine Science Matter!”


Kuching night view

Image of fireworks over Kuching at night. IMCC5 will be held in the Waterfront Hotel in Kuching this June of 2018!