West Coast Sea Grant programs offer social science grant opportunities

Sea Grant programs in Oregon, Washington and California are inviting regional research proposals that address topics of social science and human dimensions related to Sea Grant’s national goals for

  • Healthy coasts and oceans
  • Safe and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
  • Resilient coastal communities and economies
  • Environmental literacy and workforce development.

The hope is to attract a wide range of social scientists – economists, anthropologists, geographers, community planners, political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, learning scientists, historians, communications and decision scientists –  to explore some important aspect of human interaction within coastal and marine ecosystems.

Oregon Sea Grant, Washington Sea Grant, California Sea Grant and University of Southern California Sea Grant have pooled their resources to commit a total of $700,000 (subject to available funds) to support between two and four regional projects for 2014-2016.  Projects must be regional in scope and research teams must be made up of investigators from at least two institutions of higher education within the three-state region.

Projects will be selected through an open, competitive, peer-review process. The deadline for pre-proposal applications – which must be made through California Sea Grant – is 11:59 pm PDT, April 1, 2013.

For full information, and to learn how to submit preproposals, visit the California Sea Grant Website.

Survey: Climate Change a Concern but not a Priority to Oregon Coast Professionals

Many public officials and community leaders on the Oregon coast believe their local climate is changing and the change will affect their communities. But, overall, addressing the changing climate is not among their most urgent concerns.

These are among the findings of a 2012 survey by Oregon Sea Grant at Oregon State University (OSU).

Sea Grant surveyed coastal professionals, elected officials and other local  leaders and found that approximately 60 percent of the 140 survey respondents believe the local climate is changing. By contrast, 18 percent think it is not, and 22 percent don’t know.

While most believe that their professional efforts toward addressing climate change would benefit the community, both elected officials and other coastal professionals also believe that a combination of governments and other organizations should be the ones to initiate local responses to the likely effects of climate change.

Overall, actions appear to be lagging behind beliefs and concerns, according to Oregon Sea Grant’s communication and the leader of the survey, Joseph Cone. “As of last May, many coastal professionals – about 44 percent of the survey respondents — were not currently involved in planning to adapt to its effects,” said Cone.

Cone will discuss the survey findings  on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in a brief talk to the OSU Climate Club “Conversations Across Disciplines” Lunch, in room 348 of Strand Agricultural Hall on the OSU campus. The lunches are open to the public; bring your own lunch. Coffee and cookies are provided.

The survey results placed climate change effects next to the bottom on a list of seven significant “potential stressors on your community during the next ten years.” Coastal professionals scored climate change effects considerably lower (46% of respondents moderately to extremely concerned) than the top-ranked stressors: a weak economy, and tsunami or earthquakes (approximately 70% moderately to extremely concerned for each).

The hurdles to planning most often noted by survey respondents were lack of agreement over the importance of climate change effects, and a lack of urgency regarding them. Where planning has begun, the survey showed it mainly in an early fact-finding stage.

Anticipating this, the survey asked coastal professionals to identify their specific climate change information needs; and they ranked a variety of environmental and social questions as “highly needed”:

  • Information about flooding or saltwater intrusion
  • Species and habitat vulnerability
  • Predictions of ecosystem impacts
  • Social and economic vulnerabilities
  • The cost of climate adaptation
  • How to communicate climate risks

The survey was administered online to 348 individuals, including some who had responded to a similar Oregon Sea Grant climate change study in 2008 which sampled Oregon coastal managers and practitioners. A report on the findings was prepared by OSU doctoral candidate Kirsten Winters

The Oregon survey was based in large part on a California coastal assessment conducted by California Sea Grant and its partners, and is part of a national Sea Grant study on coastal communities and climate change adaptation, led by Cone.

Learn more:

OSG’s Cone to speak at Marylhurst climate forum

Joe ConePORTLAND – Joe Cone, Oregon Sea Grant’s assistant director and a veteran science writer and videographer, will speak on the science of communicating with the public about climate change at this Saturday’s Climate Change Forum at Marylhurst University.

Cone, who leads the OSG communications team, has been a principal investigator on multiple NOAA-funded research projects with partners in Oregon and across the country, studying how sound information, when grounded in research understanding of the views and concerns of local residents, can help coastal communities  prepare for the changes that will come with climate variability. In addition, he has produced a number of publications aimed at applying social science insights and principles to science communication.

Those projects have resulted in two videos, based on surveys of public knowledge and opinion, addressing questions residents of Oregon and Maine have about the changing climate. Cone has also produced a podcast, Communicating Climate Change, featuring audio and video interviews with leading social scientists on the subject.

His talk, scheduled for 2 pm Saturday, will address “Communication About Climate Change: Research and Practical Experience.” Cone is one of several speakers from OSU.

Learn more:


Free-choice lab launches blog

Welcome Oregon Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning Lab to the blogosphere!

The lab, based at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, employs cutting-edge research tools and technologies to study informal science learning. The knowledge will be put in practice in the form of  new and improved exhibits in the HMSC Visitor Center, which is managed by Sea Grant.

The blog,  launched last week, will to record the work of graduate research assistant Harrison Baker and other graduate students as they design, build, test and refine the new exhibits.

Under the direction of Dr. Shawn Rowe, Sea Grant’s Free-Choice Learning program specializes in conducting and applying  research on the  learning that happens when people choose to visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums in their leisure time, making specific and conscious choices about what they learn. The program was recently awarded a $2.6 million, five-year, National Science Foundation (NSF) grant – the largest ever received by Sea Grant –  toward the creation of  the new lab, which will employ the Visitor Center’s exhibits as tools for studying how people learn in a free-choice environment.

Oregon Sea Grant publishes book about sustaining salmon ecosystems

The following publication may be purchased from Oregon Sea Grant.

Pathways to Resilience: Sustaining Salmon Ecosystems in a Changing World.

“Resilience holds the key to our future. It is a deceptively simple idea, but its application has proven elusive.”
—Jane Lubchenco, administrator of NOAA

Fishery management programs designed to control Pacific salmon for optimum production have failed to prevent widespread fish population decline and have caused greater uncertainty for salmon, their ecosystems, and the people who depend upon them. Strengthening salmon resilience will require expanding habitat opportunities for salmon populations to express their maximum life-history variation. Such actions also may benefit  human communities by expanding the opportunities for people to express diverse social and economic values.

The 11 essays in this book represent the most-forward thinking about resilience and Pacific salmon collected to date, and they point to new ways we may consider and interact with this iconic fish. It should be of interest not only to those active in fisheries but also to policymakers—and, by extension, to those interested in the resilience of other ecological and social systems.

By linking theory with practice, the authors of this volume have made a quantum leap forward in understanding how to manage critical populations. A must read for resilience scholars and practitioners.
—Lance Gunderson, Professor of Environmental Studies, Emory University

All too often, our attempts at conservation fail because we think too small. We fail to see connections, the broader context, and longer-term processes. The authors of this volume think big. Pathways to Resilience is just what we need for animals that migrate thousands of miles and cross ecosystem and political boundaries at will. This is worth reading and taking good notes.
—Jack E. Williams, Senior Scientist, Trout Unlimited

Oregon Sea Grant video cover wins Silver Award

Coastal Climate Change coverThe cover for Oregon Sea Grant’s video Preparing for Coastal Climate Change: What Oregonians Are Asking has won a Silver Award in the “Best Cover—Print/Other” category of the 2011 Magnum Opus Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Custom Media. There were 560 entries in this year’s competition, and the Silver Award was the top award given in the “Best Cover” category.

According to Magnum Opus, professors from the Missouri School of Journalism, along with leading custom-publishing professionals, judge the awards based on “informational and entertainment value, quality of writing and display copy, creative use of imagery and typography, and consistency of color palette and style.”

David Murray, director of the awards competition and editor-in-chief of ContentWise, said, “Your entry shone bright among an incredibly competitive field and bested the work submitted by your peers in the practice of marketing communications from around the globe. You should be proud.”

The jacket and label for Preparing for Coastal Climate Change were designed by Patricia Andersson of Oregon Sea Grant. The video was produced by Joe Cone, assistant director of Oregon Sea Grant; edited by Stevon Roberts; and supported in part by a grant from the NOAA Climate Program Office.

Copies of the video are available for $3 each plus shipping and handling from Oregon Sea Grant, 541-737-4849; or through Oregon Sea Grant’s e-commerce site at marketplace.oregonstate.edu. You may also view excerpts of the video on Sea Grant’s website.

Interviewing to Understand the Mental Models of Others

All professionals conduct interviews, often to determine what another person understands, feels, believes, or is willing to discuss about topics of interest.  The new Sea Grant publication, Mental Models Interviewing, is intended to help professionals such as agency officials, university outreach/extension specialists, and social science researchers interview more effectively by  providing a structure grounded in behavioral and communication research.

Just as a model airplane is a representation of a real airplane, so are mental models representations in our minds of something real. The question we’re trying to answer in mental models interviewing is, how does this other person put together this reality? A model airplane comes in a box full of pieces; what do interviewees perceive as being in the “box” of the topic at hand, and how do they think the pieces fit together? More precisely, interviewers often want to know how interviewees understand causes and effects.

Mental Models Interviewing describes the technique and answers the questions “What am I listening for?” and “How am I listening?”

To Order:

Title: Mental Models Interviewing
Oregon Sea Grant Product No.: ORESU-H-11-002
12 pages, color cover, B&W insides
Price: $2.50, plus shipping & handling as follows: first copy, $2.00; each additional copy, $1.00 For prices on 11 or more copies, please call 541-737-4849.

You may order this publication through Oregon Sea Grant’s e-Commerce Web site, or download a .pdf or text version for free.

A report to the Port Orford community on the potential effects of climate change

The following publication is available from Oregon Sea Grant.

Working Group Considers Effects of a Changing Climate: A Report to the Port Orford Community

This report summarizes the activities to plan for climate change undertaken cooperatively by Oregon Sea Grant and a working group of Port Orford (Ore.) citizens from January 2009 to August 2010. The working group had no official capacity; they simply had a shared interest in how the community might adapt to a changing climate.

The Oregon Sea Grant communications and Extension faculty involved considered this a pilot project and tested methods and tools, including the development of concept maps (to make group thinking visible) and pre- and post-project participant surveys. This short report is intended for distribution in Port Orford, but the methods and tools are discussed in other publications linked at http://seagrant.oregonstate.edu.

Some local results: After hearing the working group’s presentation on the potential effects of a changing climate, the Port Orford Planning Commission agreed unanimously that climate change must be considered when reviewing city ordinances, the Port Orford Comprehensive Plan, and land-development proposals.

New publication looks at helping coastal communities prepare for greater resilience in the face of climate change

The following publication is available as a free download from Oregon Sea Grant.

It may also be purchased from Oregon Sea Grant.

Coastal Resilience: Assisting Communities in the Face of Climate Change

Community resilience is the ability of a community to respond to or recover from systemic disturbances, including climate-related effects on the environment, economy, and society. In coastal areas, where communities are particularly vulnerable (as Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan demonstrated), this topic has sparked considerable interest among academics and agencies, though examples of communities working toward resilience in any systematic way appear to be few. Nevertheless, preparing coastal communities for greater resilience in the context of a changing climate is a critical activity for many U.S. coastal professionals.

To address a need for greater interchange between researchers and community practitioners, Oregon Sea Grant facilitated a teleconference among 13 diverse national experts. This dynamic discussion, which includes first-hand accounts of participant experiences as well as discussions about how to define, approach, and “achieve” resilience, is transcribed here.

This exchange of information, experience, and ideas will be of interest to other researchers and practitioners and may, over time, contribute to coastal community resilience.

New publication explores structured decision making

New publications look at science communicationA new publication from Oregon Sea Grant looks at structured ways in which groups of people can come together to understand a problem and overcome common human errors in judgment as they evaluate potential solutions.

Structured Decision Making: Using decision research to improve stakeholder participation and results is the latest title in Oregon Sea Grant’s series on the research and practice of public science communication.

Written by Robyn S. Wilson, assistant professor of Risk and Decision Science, at The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Joseph L. Arvai, Svare Chair in Applied Decision Research at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business and Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economy, the 12-page publication looks at recent research on group decision-making, and offers guidelines for developing a process that’s likely to produce results.

“Stakeholders” – those who have an interest in a particular project or problem – are often invited to take part in public hearings, workshops and meetings; many times, the authors note, the results are less than satisfying for everyone involved. Too often, such meetings “give the impression that opportunities for input are simply a diversion to draw attention away from where the “real” decisions are being made.”

Better results can be achieved, the authors suggest, by  using structured, research-proven processes in which participants have an opportunity to “understand the problem, express and clarify their issue-specific values and concerns, and carefully weigh the pros and cons of different actions or options.”

The new publication provides an overview of structured decision making (SDM), an outline of how it can work, and discussion of pitfalls that can get in the way of success. References to specific SDM tools are included.

Other titles in the Sea Grant series look at topics including:

  • Insights from behavioral research for those who communicate with the public
  • Common assumptions about public communication
  • Public outreach and behavior change
  • Understanding specific stakeholder communities

All five publications are available as free downloads, in printable .pdf and text-only versions, from the Oregon Sea Grant Web site.