Announcing Abstract Submission Open!


We are happy to announce that we are now accepting submissions for abstracts to present at the 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) in Kuching this summer June 24 – 29, 2018!

Waterfront Hotel 1 The magnificent Waterfront Hotel will be the host for IMCC5 this summer in Kuching. (© The Waterfront Hotel)

Have you just uncovered interesting results in your marine science research? Has a conservation issue you work with recently taken the come into focus? Does a new marine policy need discussion? Is there a marine conservation issue or cause that needs to be heard?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are in a great position to help us “Make Marine Science Matter” this summer at IMCC5 by submitting an abstract to share your story, science, and/or experience with a diverse audience. One of the premier marine conservation science meetings, IMCC is a hub for researchers, resource managers, students, conservationists, politicians, consultants, activists, industry representatives, school teachers, and even artists from every corner of our blue planet!

By submitting an abstract and attending one of the largest marine conservation science meetings, you’ll be in a position to network with a diverse and motivated crowd of real people, eager to hear and help elevate your message! You won’t want to miss this chance to talk marine conservation with some of the top conservationists from around the world! Submission is open for anyone planning to present at IMCC5 this summer! We welcome your abstracts for Oral, Speed, Poster Presentations, and OceansOnline sessions until 23:59NDT on 16 March 2018.


For more details on the Call for Abstracts please check out our website here. You can also get more updates by following @IMCC2018 on Twitter and Facebook.




IMCC4 Wins Major Award


By Edward Hind-Ozan

Exciting news here at IMCC HQ! Dr. Brett Favaro, co-chair of the recent 4th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4), last month received the ‘Award of Distinction to a Local Conference Chair’ at the Destination St John’s annual award ceremony. When presented the award at St. John’s City Hall, Dr. Favaro was told the award was due to efforts that had been made to extend the conference to the local community. With over 100 conferences held in St. John’s held in 2016, the recognition is significant.

DSC_0389 (1)

IMCC4 Co-Chair, Dr. Brett Favaro recieves the ‘Award of Distinction to a Local Conference Chair’ from the Mayor of St. John’s and the CEO of Destination St. John’s. (image: City of St. John’s)

As the late-arriving Deputy Chair of IMCC4, I’m not at all surprised that Dr. Favaro was honoured with this award. The ideas that he and Co-Chair, Samantha Oester (she is equally worthy of this award, but it was a local awards ceremony), came up with made IMCC4 the next-level meeting that so many of you enjoyed. The City of St. John’s were impressed with the workshops that were held pre-conference, the beach cleanup that delegates took part in, our embracing of the truly fantastic George Street Festival as part of the congress’ extracurricular program, and the Tales from the Sea public storytelling session LSPU Hall.

I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Favaro over e-mail this week, and he was happy to talk more about why IMCC4 won the award. For him, just as significant as the conference’s outreach program, was the fact that St. John’s was made to be the star of the show, not just any host city. Favaro told me, “We really pushed to integrate the conference to the local environment – this wasn’t just a bunch of people flying into the convention centre, it was a cultural experience in many ways. We wanted people to bring their knowledge to this place to help us manage our oceans better, and we wanted them to take away an experience that they will remember after.”

Most gratifying, perhaps, is reviewing the list of meetings that IMCC4 was competing alongside in winning this award. St. Johns is home to important fishing and hydrocarbon industries, each represented by their own meetings, so for a marine conservation meeting to top that list is quite something. Dr. Favaro believes this is partly down to the message IMCC4 sent with its commitments to sustainability and equality, with events like the sustainable seafood dinner, and policies like the meeting accessibility policy delivered in collaboration with local inclusivity organisation, inclusionNL.

Dr. Favaro was also quick to emphasise that although the IMCC4’s award was for a local chair, “it takes a village”. He shares it with the whole Organising Committee, especially congress co-chair Samantha Oester and now IMCC5 Meeting Manager, Travis Nielsen of Azurigen Management and Consulting Solutions Inc.

And, it’s also important we share this award with you, our delegates. You constantly push us to organise meetings that are worthwhile for marine conservation, while also ethical and inclusive in their delivery. Many of you, quite rightfully, wouldn’t attend the meetings if they weren’t. In my current capacity as IMCC5 Chair, I look to the initiatives that landed this award, as the standard I must meet. We need to make Kuching as central in the next International Marine Conservation Congress as St. John’s was in the last, and this is our intention. Our organising committee has already met with several local stakeholder groups to ensure we do this, and we’ll soon begin to announce local initiatives to take part around IMCC5 on this blog. To foster greater inclusivity, we’re looking into providing telepresence attendance. In short, IMCC4’s success will make IMCC5 better a meeting, one we hope you’ll enjoy as much.

Edward Hind-Ozan was the IMCC4 Deputy Chair. He is currently IMCC5 Chair and Vice President of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Marine Section.

The advantages and benefits of volunteering and helping with conference organization


By Heather Penney

I am finishing my PhD in biology. Throughout my career I have volunteered with several conferences, both by convenience (several were held in my town, hosted by my university) and by passion. As a grad student, I have gained unparalleled experience and networking opportunities from volunteering conferences, and I have had benefits that I did not expect. I haven’t volunteered at every conference I’ve been to, but volunteering helped me stay afloat in the sea of people and maybe it could help you too! The following are my person positive experiences that I hope will convince you of how great volunteering can be!

  1. Networking


I have met wonderful people, who ended up being very good and probably life-long friends through volunteering. I have met people from all over the world, gained new Twitter followers and people to follow, and I know some folks have had some unexpected collaborations that have resulted in publications simply from sitting down for a coffee or beer with a person whose work they found interesting and met through volunteering. Our peers are potentially our future coworkers, and it’s hugely beneficial to connect with them! Volunteering is an excellent way to meet other grad students, both those who are also volunteering and those students that ask questions because they see the ‘volunteer’ on the back of your shirt.

Conference organizers:

Planning a conference is a LOT of work. I have established relationships with many professionals (including government and faculty members) that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to work with, and this has also resulted in collaborations and importantly, reference letters! They get to know you and your work ethic, which is key at the start of your career. For some folks these collaborations have resulted in jobs, graduate positions, and post-docs, simply because they helped the conference organizers with the conference. Talk about a boon to your career!

People you really wanted to talk to:

Volunteering can be a great way to break the ice. You have an excuse to talk to people, and they have an excuse to talk to you. Talking with giants in your field can be very intimidating, just walking up and saying “Hi my name is…” is often difficult, for some of us, and volunteering can give you a reason, and the courage to go introduce yourself!


Conferences are often a sea of unfamiliar people. Volunteering is a great way to help you break the ice and make all kinds of new friendships (© Matt Tietbohl)
  1. Developing Different Skill Sets

I don’t know about you, but my Master’s degree was entirely focused on science and writing. These things make a good scientist. However, there is more to conservation than just science! In my PhD, I have made a conscious effort to further develop into a well-rounded citizen, in addition to improving my skills as a scientist. The following are some additional skills I have developed from volunteering:

Administrative duties

No matter what kind of job you get after grad school, there will inevitably be administrative aspects. Conference organizing has a lot of administrative requirements like scheduling, budgeting, and advertising. There are not many other times in grad school that you get these opportunities, which can make your CV more competitive when you apply for jobs.


Often volunteering to help organize a conference means that you are asking people for things. Maybe booking a room, finding out something for a conference guest, or emailing about fundraising or donations. Cold calling or emailing someone is in fact a skill. Writing emails or having telephone calls can be awkward, and one way to get better at it is to practice doing it. Having an excuse and a reason to do it, i.e. the conference needs you to find out something, is excellent practice and can help you conquer some anxiety associated with awkward social situations –  I know it definitely helped me!


Keni Rienks, a volunteer at IMCC4, helping out at the Ocean Optimism booth in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (© IMCC4)
  1. What would a conference look like without volunteers?

Most academic conferences run on volunteers! Conferences need people to organize them, often beginning years in advance. The heavy lifting is usually done by professionals already involved (like professors, government scientists and NGO employees), but the fact is those professionals delegate at least some of their workload to graduate student volunteers, and they keep everything running smoothly.

If we had to pay people to do the work that volunteers do, no academic conference would ever happen because it would simply be either a terribly organized conference or it would substantially more expensive, likely prohibitively so! For example, most of us have tried to schedule a meeting with our supervisory committee, say 3 to 5 people. Sometimes trying to just schedule that meeting is a juggling act. Now imagine, 50 people at a conference, with registration desk, talk scheduling, food and beverages and social activities. Now imagine 600 people! You can see how volunteers quickly become more and more important, and honestly make these meetings happen.


Volunteers are the bread & butter that help make conferences run! They are the folks both behind the scenes and right in front of you that help ensure a successful conference experience (© Matt Tietbohl)
  1. Financial incentives

We all know conferences can be expensive between flights, accommodations, and the registration fees. More often than not conference organizers are able to provide discounts for their volunteers, which makes attending conferences possible. Over the course of my PhD, I have attended 5 conferences that had a registration fee. Of those, my supervisor only had to pay the full registration fee for two of them (which I didn’t volunteer at), because for those three ‘free’ conferences I volunteered my time and I got at least a partial discount. Without volunteering I would not have been able to attend IMCC4!

My department has an Annual Biology Graduate Symposium. It has remained free for everyone, students, staff and faculty for the last 11 years because graduate students volunteer their time. Subsequently, that is 5 more presentations that I would not have done otherwise, because without volunteers that symposium would not happen. So stuck in a bit of a financial rut? Volunteering could be the difference maker to get you to IMCC5!

Volunteering makes conferences happen, they benefit you and your career, plus, it’s fun! Volunteers can help as much or as little as they want. Every little task counts. Volunteering is just what it is, volunteering. No one will make you do something you aren’t comfortable with or don’t have time to do.


If you are interested in volunteering at IMCC5, stay tuned! We will be sharing information about volunteering soon, once registration opens in early January! We hope to see you volunteering at IMCC5!!

Cheers, your friendly neighborhood IMCC5 Volunteer Coordinator!

Heather Penney


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

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

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.