Since we are between terms at OSU, this month I will share a bit of extracurricular reading . I recently picked up “Blue Mind” by Dr. Wallace “J” Nichols.  Dr. Nichols created the blue mind project to explore why humans love being near the water and how it influences our cognition.


I am particularly interested in Dr. Wallace’s suggestion of “neuroconservation”, that is, the idea that neuroscience can be a tool to identify why humans have an affinity towards the ocean and nature, and then use that understanding to influence people to protect and conserve natural resources.

Emotion, as he explains in the first section of “Blue mind”, dictates the decisions we make – and exposure to the natural world creates positive emotions. For example, simply being in the presence of water can help relax the mind and body, while movement such as swimming can magnify this effect even further. Specifically, Dr. Nichols explains, the human body’s natural boyancy in water creates a powerful pressure that eases circulation and increases oxygen intake, relaxing the mind and reducing stress. Do we choose to do better when we feel better? Logically, that seems reasonable and as a marine scientist I hope that “neuroconservation” can be a means to direct passive ocean enjoyment into attention towards and participation in active conservation efforts.

As a researcher, part of my job is to engage the public with my work — which is not always easy.  “Blue mind” considers the use of psychological techniques in public outreach. Could strategies currently used in advertising for consumer goods be applied towards conservation awareness? I am inspired by the possibilities for aquariums, preserves, and beaches to improve education and visitor engagement.

What do you think about using neuroscience for conservation? Would you read “Blue mind”?

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