The Benefits of Tweetable Abstracts

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Erin Eastwood explains how turning your abstract for a scientific conference into a Tweetable 140 characters can benefit you, your science and the conference you are attending. Erin is the intern for the journal Conservation Biology (@ConBiology), the flagship journal of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB).

“The Marine Section [of SCB] has been at the forefront of using Twitter effectively to enhance scientific conferences like IMCC and in encouraging and facilitating the use of twitter at ICCB,” said Nathan Spillman, the Marketing and Communication’s coordinator for the SCB.

The 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (@IMCC2014) is the international conference of the Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section (@SCBMarine). The International Congress for Conservation Biology, or ICCB, is the biennial international conference of the Society for Conservation Biology (@Society4Conbio).

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Getting Involved: Basking Shark Scotland Tours

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By Brinkley Dinsmore

Cetorhinus maximus  is known by many names—sun-fish, bone shark, elephant shark, sail-fish, hoe-mother—but most commonly as the basking shark. This name is derived from their seasonal behavior of floating along the surface of the water, ‘basking’ in the sun, enormous mouths open wide for feeding. They don’t call them gentle giants just because they’re one of three species of plankton-eating sharks —these fish are the second largest fish in the world, sometimes reaching 12m in length. And where are these massive, passive sharks to be found when summer rolls around?  According to Shane Wasik, “the Western Isles of Scotland could be one of the most important international hotspots for them.”

Shane is the owner and operator of Basking Shark Scotland, a IMCC3 Basking Shark Scotland Logogroup dedicated not only to leading boat tours that allow people to see these amazing animals in person, but also to responsible practices concerning wildlife tourism.

Historically the basking shark has been targeted, because of it’s size and slow speed, for its valuable leather, meat, and liver oil. In the UK they now flourish under full protection, recently granted in 1998 under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Similar full protection has been granted in Malta, New Zealand, and parts of the United States, and the species has partial protection under CITES.

Nevertheless, their commercial value has led to over-exploitation and severe depletion of populations. Demand for basking shark products is still high in Asia, where the fins are used in soup and cartilage is an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine. The continued need to protect these animals has resulted in compelling conservation efforts that have seen growing interest in the last several years, in part because of operations like Basking Shark Scotland.

If you find yourself heading to Scotland this summer, it would be a perfect time to take a tour and get involved, as Shane tells us that “Seasonally in summer months they arrive in big numbers, attracted by rich plankton and possibly for mating. Truly an ocean wanderer, some tagged sharks from the area have travelled as far as the Canary Islands and crossed the Atlantic reaching a depth of over 1200m.” The migratory habits of these sharks make scientific study of them difficult, and as always, conservation work is not yet finished.

Shane and his crew consciously contribute to the responsible study of and development of interest in these animals. Shane explains why, saying that as the basking shark is “already protected in UK waters, given the sharks massive migrations it’s of great importance that the sharks have full international protection due their low fecundity rate.  During our Basking Shark trips numerous data is recorded so that continuous monitoring of the population can be undertaken and fed back to both Scottish and internationally based scientists.”

Interested in getting more involved in the conservation of these enigmatic wonders of the ocean? Shane’s Basking Shark Scotland is offering reduced rates on basking shark outings for IMCC3 delegates.  For more information and to take advantage of this opportunity, visit the IMCC3 Discounted Activities page.

 —Brinkley Dinsmore graduated in May 2014 from George Mason University, where she studied English and Biology. She is the Communications Intern for IMCC3 and plans to stay involved in the world of conservation communication. 

The Ocean is Cold, Smelly and Dark: A Marine Biologist’s Introspective Into Our Connection With Nature

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By James Mortimor

We only look after what we care about; but what makes us care about the ocean? Until recently, I never considered the origin of my caring. I just cared! Most people in my social sphere also cared. I had been in a like-minded bubble without realizing it. A result of having a pre-school child is mixing with a variety of other parents; some of whom have quite different values. Recently, taking my daughter on a play date, another parent referred to the ocean where we live (Pacific Canada and location of IMCC2) as “cold, smelly and dark”. I was met by a look of indifference when I explained that my wife and I are marine biologists and our love of the ocean. I failed at the time to convert them. Upon reflection, I pondered the core connection to the ocean. What led to our different perception of the ocean? Was it geography – because the other parent was from the Prairies? That would be a simple answer, but I know dedicated marine biologists based in Winnipeg (they do Arctic work if you were wondering). Wherever you live there is at least some connection to the ocean – for instance oxygen in the air we breathe, medicines, food and transportation of goods [1]. So what made me see the ocean so differently to this other parent? The ocean, to me, is a source of great fascination and enjoyment. It dawned on me that I cared because I was exposed to nature and the outdoors at a young age leading to a strong personal affinity for the ocean. I beachcombed, rock pooled, fished, snorkelled, surfed and generally just enjoyed mucking about in and around the sea as far back as I can remember. It all started with rock pooling! I thank my parents for countless holidays in my early years sitting on often rainy and windy British beaches while I attempted to catch various intertidal fauna (blennies and gobies were a personal triumph). A beach holiday was not complete without a bucket and a net. I became interested in knowing more about the incredible array of shore creatures. In reality, I was a marine biologist before I even had a clue that such a discipline existed. I was lucky to be exposed to nature in a variety of ways as a child – whether making a frog pond, keeping fish, visiting museums, aquaria and parks, vacations with family and friends, or school trips. Similarly, when I talk to friends, within and outside of environment-related careers, their love of nature originates from childhood experience. Just writing about it brings a nostalgic smile to my face and something I can wax lyrical about over a whisky or a beer.

Courtesy of James Mortimor

Courtesy of James Mortimor

More importantly, this early experience has major repercussions for how we value the natural world. It makes me realise that an important part of my children’s upbringing is to foster their engagement with nature. Luckily, with the aid of a leaky mask, my 3 year old daughter already likes looking underwater to see what’s down there.   However, children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature [2]. The implications of “nature deficit disorder” are very concerning for health and education [3] and, in light of our use and abuse of the world’s resources, how we value nature as a society. This is especially worrying when environmental education is being assaulted [4, 5] or subject to potential corporate interference [6, 7, 8]. To borrow from Dr. Russ Markel “Unfortunately, at a time when the natural world needs stewardship and advocacy the most – overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, and global loss of biodiversity, are but a few examples of current challenges – humans are becoming increasingly disconnected from it. Nowhere is this trend more striking than with the remarkable collapse of children’s engagement with nature. In the US, in just six years (1997- 2003) the number of children with outdoor hobbies fell by half (Louv 2005). In the UK, in just one generation, the proportion of children regularly playing in wild places has fallen from more than 50% to less than 10%, and 11- to 15-year-olds in that nation now spend half their waking hours in front of a computer screen (Louv 2005). Most concerning is that as children’s engagement with nature declines, so too does the likelihood that the next generation will engage in the social and political advocacy needed to protect it” [9]. What does this mean for developing future generations of environmental stewards? It is crucial for our relationship with the planet to harness children’s intrigue [10] to connect them with nature [11, 12, 13]. To adapt a Jesuit maxim “give me a child and I’ll give you an environmentally conscious adult” [14]. I urge all attendees of IMCC and marine scientists in general (including myself) to: (1) step outside of your bubble from time-to-time; and (2) think and act to engage younger people to build a curiosity and appreciation of the marine realm.

James Mortimor is a marine biologist currently working in Canada. Find him on Twitter @Vit_Sea!

 

References

[1] Five Reasons We are All Connected to Oceans  http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/oceanscoasts/explore/five-reasons-we-are-all-connected-to-oceans.xml

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Plenary Focus: Dr. Amanda Vincent Stresses Turning International Agreements into Action

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Dr. Amanda Vincent, marine biologist and conservation scientist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Vincent)

Dr. Amanda Vincent, marine biologist and conservation scientist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda Vincent)

Dr. Amanda Vincent is self-diagnosed as suffering from “aqualust,” a condition related to by many marine biologists. A co-founder and director of ProjectSeahorse, she was the first person to study seahorses underwater, the first to document the extensive trade in these fishes and the first to initiate a seahorse conservation project. Her research and advocacy work for marine conservation have earned Vincent several awards and accolades, including being named the 2000 William Dawson Scholar at McGill University, Montréal, Canada, while she was serving on the faculty. Vincent holds the Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation in the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She is Chair of the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group and a PEW Fellow in Marine Conservation. 

She is also actively involved in marine conservation policy and will be speaking at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3) on the “trade winds and trade offs” of CITES. “My talk is about improving the way that international agreements and action can work for marine life,” Vincent explained. “No matter how small or localized the issue, it will be influenced by regional and global forces.  This is particularly true in the ocean, where just everything is connected. Global governance isn’t all smooth sailing … but it must be brought to help.” 

Vincent is considered one of the world’s leading experts on seahorses and related species. She has studied enriching and utilizing knowledge of local seahorse populations to scale up community-based initiatives for seahorse conservation, improving the status of seahorse populations in the Philippines under fishing pressure, and using an unfortunate trade ban to advance seahorse conservation, with the fishers’ co-operation, as well as empowering developing countries to meet international obligations for seahorse conservation and more. She also supported a landmark CITES Appendix II listing for marine fishes of commercial importance.

Vincent says becoming a mother greatly reinforced her commitment to the ocean and its future. She’s excited to be a plenary speaker for IMCC3. She stated, “Giving a plenary talk at IMCC3 will be a magical opportunity to share ideas, challenge ideas and develop ideas about solutions for the ocean.  Together, we need to pick up the pace in marine conservation.”

Vincent will be featured as an IMCC3 plenary speaker on 14 August 2014 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, a day showcasing strong female marine conservationists.

Follow Vincent on Twitter @amandavincent1.

Samantha Oester is Communications Chair for IMCC3. She can be reached at soester@gmu.edu for information on the IMCC3 Plenary Speakers and other facets of the Congress.

IMCC for Beginners: A Student’s Perspective

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By Katheryn Patterson

If you’ve never been to an international conference, the IMCC is a great way to get your toes wet!

I remember attending my first international conference, only knowing three other people in a brand new country. It was very intimidating for new participants and I had a really hard time getting to know other delegates. When I attended my first IMCC, I was amazed at the contrast.  The laid-back nature of the International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) and its incredibly welcoming delegates makes students feel comfortable from the start and allows for ample networking opportunities.

DSCN5073One reason I continue to go to IMCC is that I always find a new perspective or angle for my research after attending, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the congress and diversity of its attendees. There really is something for everyone at IMCC no matter if you are a scientist, in policy, communication, academia, non-governmental, governmental work, or any other field. The list of affiliations and disciplines represented at the congress is endless! For this reason, IMCC has always been a successful venue for students in terms of finding future mentors, graduate committee members, collaborators, funding, and even employment opportunities.

The IMCC organizers and their Student Committee go to extreme lengths to enroll and support student delegates, who account for 23 percent of the delegates at the last congress in 2012. We are expecting an even greater number of student delegates at the 3rd IMCC in Scotland, 14-19 August 2014, due to the close proximity of several universities featuring marine programs in the areas surrounding Glasgow. With this in mind, the student committee has put a great deal of time, effort, and thought into the student-focused activities that will be held this year.

Karaoke, anyone?

Karaoke, anyone?

We always try to offer a good mix of professional-development workshops, where students walk away from the congress with new skills, and social-events – and as we say in the south (U.S.) “Ya’ll, it is time to step away from the books, models, and stats to take the night off to celebrate your successes and make new friends!”

For me personally, IMCC represents so much more than the average scientific conference.  The presenters understand the interdisciplinary nature of the work in this field, which means you don’t find new research being presented simply for the science or raw data—instead, presentations address bigger application questions such as “what do these results MEAN,” or “what applications do these findings have?” Since I believe that many stakeholders have valuable perspectives to offer in marine conservation, this partnership-based approach gives me tools and perspectives that make my efforts more effective.

The Society for Conservation Biology’s Marine Section Board has worked diligently to ensure that there is a great sense of community among our marine section delegates and this is incredibly transparent at our congress. We have great student-specific events lined up for IMCC3 and we hope to see you there!

Katheryn Patterson is our Student Committee Co-Chair and Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. of Environmental Science & Policiy, George Mason University. Find her on Twitter @MarineKatPat

The Benefits of Attendance: IMCC3

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by Edd Hind

 

Without the International Marine Conservation Congresses (IMCC), I very much doubt I would be where I am today, professionally. At the first IMCC in 2009, I learned from experts in my field the methodology that would become central to my doctoral research. Two and a half years ago at IMCC2 in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, I shared sustainable seafood and locally brewed beer with a group of strangers who are now trusted collaborators. It’s as a result of these experiences that I think the IMCC is one of the “must attend” marine conservation conferences. The board members of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) have been putting their heads together over the last week to state why they too believe that IMCC3 should be your “must attend” conference this year. Here’s what they had to say:

  • IMCC has a history of getting people with different experience levels and areas of expertise together to exchange ideas for the benefit of all involved. Alongside many interactive workshops and symposia, IMCC3 already has many student events scheduled.
  • Some of the best theories or ideas in science have come out because of a couple of strangers, or even friends, getting together over a coffee or a beer. The second IMCC had nine scheduled social events, and IMCC3 will provide similar opportunities.
  • Over five days, you will be exposed to a flood of new ideas, hypotheses, methods/techniques, analyses and findings—any scientists that say that’s not valuable might as well burn all their books, disconnect their computers from the internet, and go back to the middle ages while they’re at it!
  • The program will include workshops and courses that teach tangible skills, such as software, applications, and communication. Many marine scientists and managers have learned how to communicate with the media and use packages like Marxan at previous IMCCs. In Glasgow, there will be opportunities not only to develop your social media and GIS skills, but to apply those skills to causes you care about. You’ll have the opportunity to rescue marine mammals!
  • Conferences are perfect places to network for funding and research contacts. The previous IMCCs have attracted more than 1200 delegates per meeting. That’s a lot of opportunities to connect!
  • Remember, astronauts are the only scientists that work well in a vacuum. There will be no astronauts or vacuums at IMCC3!

IMCC3 is being held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 14-18 August 2014. More details about the meeting can be found at the conferences dedicated website.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there so we can share ideas over a wee dram of coffee or world-class whisky!

 

Edd Hind is a resident lecturer for the School for Field Studies. He is a member of the IMCC3 Communications Committee.

Plenary Focus: Dr. Heather Koldewey Highlights Positive Examples of Marine Conservation

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Dr. Heather Koldewey, marine biologist and seahorse specialist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014. (Photo courtesy of Heather Koldewey)

Dr. Heather Koldewey, marine biologist and seahorse specialist, will be featured as a plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in August 2014.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Koldewey)

Dr. Heather Koldewey is involved in several projects around the world, making her familiar with the diverse difficulties in marine research, as well as incidences of conservation success. The Head of Global Conservation Programmes for the Zoological Society of London, she is also a co-founder of Project Seahorse. She strives to directly engage aquariums in marine conservation initiatives and has researched the impact of the aquarium trade on marine fishes and invertebrates. She is currently involved in marine conservation projects in the Philippines, Mozambique, Cameroon and the UK Overseas Territories, particularly the Chagos archipelago and the Pitcairn Islands.

Koldewey has led innovative approaches and partnerships at ZSL and will be speaking at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC3) on hope and innovation in marine conservation. Koldewey explains that many marine conservation issues have been identified, and she hopes to inspire action to realize the means to resolve those issues. “By highlighting some positive examples in marine conservation, I hope to generate more energy behind the replication of positive case studies and build on solutions,” she stated.

Koldewey is considered an expert of many facets of conservation. She has studied topics such as marine and freshwater conservation, seahorse biology and genetics, the impacts of aquaculture and sustainable seafood, to name a few. For her doctoral dissertation, she studied the genetics of brown trout (Salmo trutta) in Welsh rivers. She is a research associate at University College London and the University of Exeter. She is also a board member of the Chagos Conservation Trust and Shark Trust. Additionally, she is the Chair of the Fish Section of the IUCN Re-introduction Specialist Group and a UK government zoo inspector.

Koldewey said she is honored to be a plenary speaker for IMCC3. She stated, “IMCC3 provides an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on having an international, diverse, high-caliber group of people in the same place at the same time, to focus on solutions and make big, bold and positive changes for our oceans. I feel lucky to have the chance to share my experiences – and to listen and to learn.”

Koldewey will be featured as an IMCC3 plenary speaker on 15 August 2014 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow to kick off the main scientific program.

Follow Koldewey on Twitter @HeatherKoldewey.

Samantha Oester is Communications Chair for IMCC3. She can be reached at soester@gmu.edu for information on the IMCC3 Plenary Speakers and other facets of the Congress.