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Sharing MAR-ECO's Public Outreach experiences

Odd Aksel Bergstad, leader of the MAR-ECO Project has stressed the project’s obligations as a Census of Marine Life’s (CoML’s) pilot project; to test and develop new strategies and methodologies that can be used by other projects.

That MAR-ECO has been successful developing models for activity in the scientific arena was underlined in the remarks by the chair of the CoML scientific steering committee, Prof Fred Grassle when he said while he awarded the project the 2007 CoML Prize for Overall Excellence that, for example, MAR-ECO had set a new standard for biodiversity studies in the water column of the open ocean by applying a wide range of modern technologies simultaneously from the same ship, which optimises the use of valuable ship time.MAR-ECO has also been called upon to share its activity models in other areas. Recently there have been requests for sharing the MAR-ECO experiences in Public Outreach or Education and Outreach. MAR-ECO’s activity in this area has been a characteristic of the project from the very beginning when Bergstad has consistently stressed the importance of the Public Outreach dimension of the project. In 2001 he asked the then Information Directors Morten Steffensen and Jo Hoyer for the University of Bergen and Institute of Marine Research respectively to draw up a Public Outreach plan for the project. Steffensen and Hoyer proposed a multi-facetted, far-reaching approach that allows for input from project participants in other countries.MAR-ECO’s Public Outreach includes and has included various school activities including a European Comenius project, various print materials (posters, bookmarks, flyers, newsletters, postcards) numerous exhibitions, the most ambitious being the current travelling exhibition, “Deeper than Light”, workshops with the press, a collaborative book initiative and, of course, the project web site. In Norway, Jo Hoyer is involved in teaching a communication course at the University of Bergen that uses the project as a model. Anette Pettersen 'took' MAR-ECO with her on a trip to Brazil. In addition the project has been building a dynamic collaboration with the Public Outreach / Education and Outreach teams in other CoML  deep sea projects in Europe (since the CoML All Programme Meeting Nov 2007 it also includes a project based in New Zealand). This collaboration entitled, DESEO, has resulted in the production of a popular science book that is both a guide to the travelling exhibition and a “stand alone” experience of the deep sea.MAR-ECO partners in other countries are also involved in Public Outreach initiatives. Nikki King in Aberdeen has been very active with schools. This work led to a Comenius collaboration and an award from Science Communicator’s Award from the Researcher in Recidence initiative based at the Centre for Science Education at Sheffield Hallam University, UK.  The scientific crew working with Ricardo Santos in the Azores has been extremely active in Public Outreach. Last winter they opened a new marine activity centre. Their most recent interactive activity is available in both English and Portuguese. Read more about this in the MAR-ECO article about the exhibition opening in Porto.  Another active partner is Uwe Piatkowski in Germany. His institute has developed a strong outreach programme with, amongst other things, frequent school visits.

MAR-ECO has also an art-science dimension. This began in 2004 when well-known Norwegian artist Ørnulf Opdahl participated in the summer research cruise. Other artists and musicians have been inspired by MAR-ECO's deep sea adventure. Jazz musician Oded Ben-Horin has translated MAR-ECO into music and lyrics by composing music and writing lyrics inspired by the MAR-ECO images, website and exhibition. Anne Berg Edvardsen's sculptures take the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” to the third dimension. In addition, students participating in MAR-ECO school activities have produced some wonderful art projects.

As mentioned above, recently the project has begun to be approached by external groups to learn more about the MAR-ECO experience with Public Outreach. A joint proposal has now been submitted to the EU with a group in Hungary and Elinor Bartle recently represented Bergstad and the project at a meeting hosted by the Swiss Research Council. She gave a keynote lecture discussing Science Communication and the MAR-ECO experience.

Switzerland’s National Research Programme 59: Benefits and potential risks of the deliberate release of genetically modified plants

Instead of briefly presenting the 23 successful projects in the National Research Programme 59, the programme leadership decided to kick-off the programme’s official start with a day of motivational key-note lectures. Each project presented a poster of their proposed activity. Dr. Thomas Bernauer an Expert Advisor from the National Research Council was one of the speakers.

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