The New England Aquarium, collaborating with other aquariums across the country, is leading a national effort to more effectively communicate the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on marine animals, habitats and ecosystems. Our goal is to build capacity to initiate conversations that are inviting and thought-provoking. By using visitors’ emotional connection with ocean animals and relating to their deeply held values, we hope to help them understand causes and effects of climate change and motivate them to embrace effective solutions.

Project Objectives

  • Build a national coalition of aquariums and related informal education institutions collaborating on climate change education
  • Develop an interpretive framework for climate change and the ocean that is scientifically sound, research-based, field tested and evaluated
  • Build capacity of aquariums to interpret climate change via training for interpreters, interactive exhibits and activities and communities of practice for ongoing support

 

With support from several federal grants, we have worked toward achieving these objectives through several collaborative projects:

An Aquarium interpreter displays ocean

temperature data on the Magic Planet® digital

video globe

Teen interns at the Aquarium are trained to give

informative presentations like this Giant Ocean

Tank Talk.

Teen interns testing a prototype activity about

ecological footprints.

Interpreting Climate Impacts on Coastal Zones and Marine Life

Collaborators:

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, FrameWorks Institute, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium in Baltimore, New Knowledge Organization in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and Ohio’s Center for Science and Industry

Funding:

$5.5 million over 5 years, National Science Foundation climate change education partnership

Summary:

This initiative is developing a multi-tiered communication strategy and network to enable interpretive professionals at more than 150 aquariums, coastal national parks, marine sanctuaries and other education centers to interpret climate change impacts on coastal zones and marine life.

Developing Tools for Visualizing Change

Collaborators:

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Aquarium of the Pacific, Seattle Aquarium, Exploratorium and Ocean Explorium

Grant funding:

$1 million over 3 years, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Summary:

We are utilizing NOAA datasets and visualizations and providing interpreters with training and strategic framing communication tools based on the best available social and cognitive research. The objective of this is to develop, test and disseminate exemplary “visual narratives” that integrate research-based strategic communication with NOAA data visualization resources.

Collaborative Training for Aquarium Interpreters

Collaborators:

Other aquariums across the country—including Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Vancouver Aquarium, Birch Aquarium at Scripps and Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

Grant funding:

Institute of Museum and Library Services (complete)

Summary:

Developed training techniques and a toolkit that staff and volunteer interpreters can use to relate climate change to the live animals in their collections. More than 1,000 interpreters have been trained in climate change science, communication strategies and interpretive techniques.

Building a National Coalition of Aquariums

Collaborators:

Monterey Bay Aquarium and National Aquarium in Baltimore

Grant funding:

NOAA (complete)

Summary:

  • Created a national network for training, resource sharing and support, including an interactive website, online seminars and an empowerment evaluation that tracks the progress of each of more than 40 participating institutions
  • Developed and disseminated portable, replicable, cart-based educational activities on climate change and the oceans in order to complement and assist interpretation of aquarium live animal exhibits
  • Provided training and gallery activities for teen interpreters, using interactive exhibits such as the Magic Planet® digital video globe to create stations where they can engage visitors in conversations about climate change and ocean health
  • Hosted regional and national summits to strengthen collaboration and showcase and disseminate model programs