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.


Special open IMCC5 Symposium on biodiversity indicators


by Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

From science to evidence – innovative uses of biodiversity indicators for effective marine policy and conservation


Indicators are effective tools for summarizing and communicating key aspects of ecosystem state and have a long record of use in marine pollution and fisheries management. The application of biodiversity indicators to assess the status of species, habitats, and functional diversity in marine conservation and policy, however, is rapidly developing and multiple indicator roles and features are emerging. For example, some operational biodiversity indicators trigger management action when a threshold is reached, while others play an interpretive, or surveillance, role in informing management. Additionally, links between pressures and biodiversity indicators may be unclear or obscured by environmental change. Finally, much practical work on applying biodiversity indicators to marine policy and conservation is developing rapidly in the management realm, with a lag before academic publication. Making best use of biodiversity indicators depends on sharing and synthesizing cutting-edge knowledge and experiences.

Our special open symposium, entitled “From science to evidence – innovative uses of biodiversity indicators for effective marine policy and conservation”, will provide examples of biodiversity indicator application in policy and conservation followed by a discussion of common themes and challenges. We are looking for presenters who will describe a diverse range of applied case study uses of biodiversity indicators as well as insights into biodiversity indicator theory.

Diversity and inclusivity are key to aggregating the widest-ranging collection of experiences and examples and we specifically encourage abstract applications from workers from Eastern regions and from developing countries. The session will conclude with a discussion addressing the question ‘How can we move forward with biodiversity indicator use in marine policy and conservation?’ This overarching question will be further discussed in the associated focus group session, with the objective of publishing a scientific paper on the topic.


Herbivorous fish are one example of an indicator managers can use to assess the health of marine ecosystems (© Abigail McQuatters-Gollop)


If you are interested in speaking, please send your abstract to me by 9 March 2018 at We will then give you a session code to use when you submit your abstract to the conference via the website.

If you have any questions at all please ask!

Looking forward to seeing you at IMCC,

Abigail McQuatters-Gollop (Plymouth University), Ian Mitchell (JNCC), and Saskia Otto (University of Hamburg)


Following in the footsteps of Wallace at IMCC5


By Edd Hind-Ozan


At this year’s 5th International Marine Conservation Congress you’ll be able to hear about cutting edge efforts to protect the oceans from leading practitioners in the field. The meeting’s Call for Abstracts is open until March 16, so you also still have a chance to present your work. But, as you surely know, attending a conference is about so much more than the meeting itself. It’s also a chance to explore a place you’ve never been before. As a conservation biologist, what better place to explore than the one that Alfred Russell Wallace was himself exploring when writing his seminal, On the Law Which Has Regulated the Introduction of New Species?

The man, the myth, the legend himself, Alfred Russell Wallace (© London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company)


Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago describes his wild adventures in Borneo (© Macmillan).


Yes! IMCC5 is being held in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, where Wallace developed his theory of evolution, in the process of collecting 25,000 insect species and performing taxidermy on orangutans (in the name of science!). While relaxing between congress sessions in Sarawak’s leafy capital, Kuching, you’ll be able to wander over to the Natural History Museum where some of his collections are still held. In addition, the IMCC5 field trips will allow you to explore the forests, rivers, and coasts that inspired Wallace into writing his much celebrated travel book, The Malay Archipelago.

A young scientist following in the footsteps of Wallace at the Natural History Museum in Kuching, and your IMCC5 Chair (© Edd Hind-Ozan).


The field trips, which you will be able to sign up for when registration opens, include visits to Semenggoh Wildlife Center to see orangutans in the wild, as well as the rainforests and mangroves of the world-famous known Bako National Park where you can see strangling figs, carnivorous pitcher plants, and symbiotic ant plants, as well as long-tailed macaque monkeys, wild boar, flying squirrels, and monitor lizards. Of course, it’s a marine conference, so you’ll be able to chill with the very charismatic Irrawaddy dolphins on our Mangrove and Dolphin Cruise too!


We probably should be using an image showing the marine life you’ll see at IMCC5, BUT IT’S A FREAKIN’ ORANGUTAN!!! (© Edd Hind-Ozan).

So at IMCC5 this summer: hear science, be science, and walk in the footsteps of science! Find out more about what you can get up to while in Kuching on our congress website.


Edward Hind-Ozan is the IMCC5 Chair and Vice President of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Marine Section.


Tips and Tricks for Getting to IMCC5


by Travis Nielsen


Getting to IMCC5 can be a long and complicated journey. From most parts of the world, it takes at least two flights to get there and you may have to cover a series of costs for accommodation, food, and other incidentals along the way. If you’re lucky, your school or business will reimburse the money you spend to go, but you will likely still pay upfront. In my years of extensive traveling and many trips to Kuching as the Meeting Manager, I have learned a few tricks that may help plan a great conference trip, without succumbing to the pitfalls!


#1 Plan ahead and plan well.

Though I realize this isn’t always possible, if you know in advance what you want to do, then plan ahead as much as you can. Research the location, travel documents, ticket prices, accommodations, food, etc. The more time you spend planning, the better prepared you will be. Plus, you may find deals or someone to share the expense. If you can’t plan ahead, then plan well. You can at least prioritize the things that matter most, such as travel restrictions, booking plenty of time to get to your destination without rushing, or knowing which airlines charge for food. You may arrive a day early with a soggy sandwich in your carry on, but it’s better than arriving stressed out, tired, and starving only to be refused entry. To help you with planning your flights, click here for information on flying into Kuching.


Airport travel can sometimes be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to! A little planning can go a long way to avoiding crowds like these (© Matt Tietbohl)

#2 NEVER book the first option or what you’re told to book without checking.

If you are paying for things always, ALWAYS see if there is a creative solution to your travel. Is it cheaper to book as a round trip? A series of one-way tickets? Are certain airports cheaper to fly through than others? Are there hostels nearby? Is it cheaper to book a few days early? If you are being reimbursed, then your business will appreciate you making it as cost effective as possible. It’s easier than you think, use sites like or Expedia, you can get reasonable prices with experimenting. I recommend checking on the costs of flights between 6 months and 6 weeks from your desired flight date, this is usually when you find the best prices.


#3 Create a budget.

If you don’t track the money you spend at a conference, you will spend WAY more than you intended. Malaysia’s currency is the Ringgit (Currency Code MYR).  Figure out if you can use your bank or credit cards in the country. Figure out if there are fees for using your cards in foreign currencies (Almost all banks have a foreign exchange or “FX” fee). Cards are the safest, as they can be cancelled, have fraud/identity theft protection, and new cards can be express mailed to you. Sometimes you are going to need cash and should bring some (see note on cash below). Remember to keep all your receipts and keep an eye on your spending. Foreign cash sometimes gets spent faster because we don’t connect to the value of the currency to its economic system, as we are so used to our own economic system. For major expenses (hotel costs, car rental, in country flights, etc.) plan to pay them in advance, as it’s easier to deal with ahead of time. However, use caution when paying in advance; if you get scammed it can cost you. Using third party payment systems like credit cards or PayPal to book these expenses and then paying on site with is an effective strategy, as this guarantees that you get the service you asked for, and if you don’t, you can cancel the payment.


#4 Book your accommodations well in advance.

It’s an easy thing to put off for another day, but then a day turns into a week, which then turns into a month or two. Before you know it, you are frantically searching and may end up with a place that’s more than you wanted to pay, and far away from the conference site. Booking early can get you deals on your accommodations and can save you from worrying about how you are going to get to the conference for that early morning presentation you have (it’s always happens). For IMCC5, we are offering some great options through our venue – The Waterfront Hotel Kuching – or our secondary hotel – The Ranee Boutique Hotel – are extremely high-quality locations and have very affordable prices. Please make sure to book early through the IMCC5 website.


#5 Always try to relax and let go of any travel anxiety.

This is usually easier with a little pre-trip planning. Planes break down, things get delayed, people can’t control the weather, and things just happens. If you go with the flow, it makes it a whole lot easier. Once you get to the conference, keep a similar mindset, as the same things will happen. Talks will get delayed, people will do things that bother you, and some things will be completely outside the control of the organizers. Being able to let go will do wonders for your mind!  A minor caveat – just because you are relaxed doesn’t mean you should let people push you around. There is a difference between the weather shutting down a flight and an airline overbooking a flight and demanding people get off a flight.


Travel can be stressful, so be sure to take time to enjoy the calmer moments of travel, like this view from a plane (© Matt Tietbohl)

#6 Be kind.

Airport staff, security people, and everyone else in between are people just like you trying to do their best. These staff have usually endured a whole pile of frustration and abuse at the hands of other people who have no respect for the difficulty of these jobs. Show them some kindness: be polite and show some sympathy for their plight and you will not regret it. They may not be able to give you the first-class treatment, but they will do a lot more for you than those other abusive plebeians.

As always, feel free to give us an email or contact us through social media if you have questions about scheduling your way to IMCC5 this summer. We also have more information on our website that may be of use!


**Note on Cash – If you bring cash, research basic costs, like how much it costs for food, a meal at a restaurant, lodgings, cell phone sim card, etc. This will give you a reasonable estimate of what you need to bring for cash. From there figure out how to buy the currency. Malaysia allows you to purchase the currency from your bank at home, but I do not advise this, as you get more competitive rates exchanging currency in Malaysia. If you decide to buy Ringgits at home, keep in mind your home bank may not carry the currency you need, and will have to order it, or if they do have it, ask what year the notes are from, as they can sometimes have expired money that is worthless in the other country. This all means one thing – plan currencies early.

When traveling, don’t keep it all in the same place. Spread it around your person and baggage so that if something is stolen, you don’t lose all your cash. If you are going to exchange cash on site, note that some exchange places take credit cards, and some don’t, so it is advisable to bring some cash in a universally recognized currency like US dollars (USD) British Pounds (GBP) or Euros (EUR).  If you are bringing USD, GBP, or EUR with you, bring large bills, like 50’s or 100’s as many currency exchange booths in Malaysia charge more to convert small bills. Malaysian, foreign exchange businesses will not exchange coin, only paper money.


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.

The Benefits Of Sponsoring the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress


By Andrew Lewin


The time of the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) is almost here! On June 24, or just before, almost 1000 professionals involved in making the oceans healthier through marine science and conservation will come together in Kuching, Borneo, Malaysia to share information on their project successes and find solutions to overcome the challenges faced by the oceans around the world. IMCC5 is a fantastic opportunity for people within the field of marine science and conservation to come together and work towards conserving the world’s most important ecosystem. It’s also a chance for brands to send a message to the world that they support a healthier planet by supporting those who strive to conserve the ocean’s environments, resources, and cultural heritages!


Brands are taking more responsibility on taking care of the planet these days because it benefits not only their public image, but also adds to their legacy of making life better for their customers. Customers buy with emotion; they buy a product or service because they not only enjoy what they buy, but they believe in the mission of the company. Patagonia sells outdoor gear to people who enjoy the outdoors. Their customers care deeply about the environments they love to explore with gear they buy, so Patagonia helps protect those key places. They also realized that many of their customers take part in protecting nature. In response, Patagonia recently launched a project that matched people who wanted to help protect nature with organizations searching for volunteers among their other initiatives. Patagonia’s customers are grateful for the project and will be proud of the work they do to protect the outdoors, which creates even more brand loyalty. Brands whose customers are interested in the outdoors can easily build customer loyalty by embracing similar initiatives. The return on investment with these initiatives is huge for companies and brands!

Conservation Alliance

Patagonia has done a lot to build its brand as a company that not only makes quality merchandise, but also cares deeply about the environments its customers care about, including founding The Conservation Alliance (© Patagonia)


The opportunity is not just for large brands such as Patagonia. My own brand, Speak Up For Blue Media, is a small company (I am the only staff member and work with collaborators) working to build its reputation. I am sponsoring IMCC5 because I understand its benefits for my brand, and I have even seen the proof. I went to IMCC4 in 2016 with the aim to interview presenters one-on-one for my podcast (The Speak Up For Blue Podcast). I went to the conference with a small audience, and left well-known within the field of marine conservation science! I left the conference with a stronger brand and a larger audience as other conference delegates quickly spread the word of the podcast to friends, family, and colleagues. My audience grew, and I now began having requests to be on the show by marine scientists and conservationists. My brand reputation grew quickly because my brand was exposed at IMCC4, directly to a huge portion of my target audience. I am a proud sponsor for this year’s IMCC because I want to continue to grow my brand, and believe sponsoring IMCC5 is one of the best ways I can do so!


Your brand can seize a great opportunity to build its customer base with people who are  proud of the work their favorite brands (that’s you!) are doing to better protect the oceans.  It starts with a small sponsorship that will help drive the productive conversations and key workshops held during the meeting. Don’t be left in the wake of other companies already working to support marine conservation initiatives like IMCC5! Take time to check out our sponsorship page here and find out how you can join the rush to Make Marine Science Matter at IMCC5 this summer!


Andrew Lewin is the founder of Speak Up For Blue, a marine ecologist, and an ‘oceanpreneur.’ His career mission is to teach you how to Live for a Better Ocean by telling you what’s happening in the latest ocean news, science, and conservation of the world’s oceans. Andrew’s goal is to build Speak Up For Blue as an online platform where you can get the information you need to live in a way where you minimize your impact on the ocean and are able to learn and support the people and their projects that work so, so hard, to protect the oceans and people reliant on them every day. You can follow his YouTube channel here!

Why Am I Excited to Attend IMCC5?


By Patrick Goff


That is a question that I think about quite often now as I look forward to this summer. Why am I excited to attend IMCC5? Why am I willing to travel to Malaysia to attend a marine science conference? Those are great questions to ask of a middle school science teacher from the landlocked state of Kentucky in the US. I am excited to attend for a few reasons

1. Any chance I get to listen, talk with and interact with practicing scientists is awesome! It is through interactions and connections made here that my students are able to benefit. This conference gives me live interactions to help me better myself as a science educator. Meeting as many new people really helps me to better serve my students as a science educator. The more I understand how scientists think, work and go about investigating the world around them, the better I am able to share this with my students and better able to help setup more realistic science projects with them. What’s better is that I will be able to learn new ways to work #scicomm into my classroom, new ways to integrate the arts into my classroom and new ways of using technology to help my students learn and share what they know about science.

2. As an environmentally concerned citizen, if I can get a chance to learn more about how I can help be a better steward of the oceans, it is worth my time. Going to a marine science conference on the edge of the Pacific Ocean to learn about how I can help is a fantastic opportunity! It is through conferences like this one that I am able to learn and then take that information back not only to my students, but also to my community to better educate them about marine science. I am excited about learning. I am excited about science. I am excited about marine science. IMCC is all of that in one place!

3. As a father of a son who is interested in science, I am humbled to be able to bring him with me to share in this adventure. He will get to experience new cultures, meet people from around the world helping to broaden his view and experiences. Through this experience, he will grow into a better human. What an opportunity to take him to Malaysia to participate in a Marine Science conference! I mean, this is a lifetime adventure for us. We will get to meet so many new people, experience new cultures, eat new food and widen our world view. This is just so fantastic!

4. There are so many awesome and fantastic people who I have met and can’t wait to see again in person. People that I have talked to online, through twitter and others who have Skyped in or talked/worked with my students. This is a great chance to say thanks and see old friends!

Patrick!Patrick Goff and Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley pose for a picture with the poster Patrick shared at IMCC4 in St. John’s about his initiative to get more scientists interacting with high school teachers & students! He can’t wait to continue to make connections with motivated scientists in Kuching this summer! (© Patrick Goff)

I am pumped! I am super pumped about coming to IMCC5 in Kuching. I am having a hard time finding the words to adequately share with you how excited I am, especially as a science educator. This has been a dream for me, to come and hang out at a science conference with scientists. I am so thankful to the organization for taking me in and letting me a part of it. See you all in Kuching!


Patrick Goff is a middle school science teacher in Lexington, Kentucky in the United States of America. He has been teaching for 17 years, holds a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, a Masters in Administration and is Nationally Board Certified in Early Adolescent Science Education. Patrick is also the founder of the Student Scientist Partnership program, which aims to match up public school teachers and scientists to further communication and interaction opportunities between scientists and students in the classroom. You can also follow Patrick on Twitter here!