EMSEA conference 2017, University of Malta, Valletta.
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
On 8-10 October 2017 I attended the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference, hosted by the University of Malta, Valletta, Malta. EMSEA is “an international non-profit organisation committed to boost ocean literacy in Europe. EMSEA provides a platform for ocean education in the different European regional seas”. It was founded in 2011, inspired by the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) in the USA with an educational and predominately scientific rational whilst also recognising that the ocean has a place in all disciplines.
The EMSEA conference is in collaboration with the Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malta. This year’s venue is the Valletta Campus, University of Malta.
The conference convener is Professor Alan Deidun, Director, International Ocean Institute - Malta Centre and Associate Professor, Physical Oceanography Research Group, Department of Geosciences, University of Malta.
It was attended by approximately 100 delegates, ranging from Ocean Literacy Teachers, Charities, related industry organisations, academia and various government representatives from local to international level including the EU, NOAA and the UN. I was selected to be one of 50 session presenters/ speakers from across Europe (there were also 27 poster presentations). My presentation focused upon Sail Training as an Alternative Education Space and how it can be used to promote Marine Citizenship. It introduced Sail Training as a non-formal, alternative education space, providing adventurous experiential learning on board large, ocean-going sailing vessels for young people up to 25 years old. It also identified how Marine Citizenship develops an understanding of human behaviour, pro-environmental lifestyle choices, the human impact and the interdependent relationship to the marine environment by embracing Social Capital, shifting values, motivation and encouraging accountability, using the Case Study Ocean Youth Trust Scotland and its Curriculum of Excellence Sail Training programme.
The pre-conference activities, Sunday 8 October 2017
The day began with a trip to Malta’s sister Island Gozo, visiting the site of the lost Gozo Window and Marine Education Centre in Triq id-Dwejra, San Lawrenz, Xlendi Bay and the Cittadella, Ir-Rabat Għawdex, Victoria. This was followed by a complementary Ice breaker drinks reception at the Malta National Aquarium (Sponsored by Malta’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change). As part of this we viewed an interesting video about the marine area of Malta and the Mediterranean. This was an excellent day and evening enjoyed by all. A fabulous start.
EMSEA conference, day 1: Monday 9 October 2017
The opening ceremony was chaired by Jon Parr, Deputy Director, Marine Biological Association. The five keynote speakers were:
A video message from the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Hon. Karmenu Vella. This identified the critical themes in relation to marine protection – pollution, climate change and over fishing. He also identified how vital political will is to the state of the oceans and that an understanding of the situation needs to grow through increasing the awareness of ocean pollution and scientific research which makes Ocean Literacy so important and it is the responsibility of everyone. Citizens of today need to pass on the oceans to future generations and in turn today’s children are the ocean champions of tomorrow. Therefore we also need to inspire them to act and not take the ocean and marine environment for granted.
The Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), Hon. Jose Herrera. Hon. Herrera’s address resonated Hon. Vella’s in many ways regarding the ocean’s three stress triggers and the requirement of good governance and ocean protection. He also spoke about the history of the University of Malta (one of the oldest European Universities) and as a Small Island State Malta has a direct link and dependency on the Mediterranean Sea. He also commented about the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) of the Mediterranean and the protection of territorial waters for 2020, as well as briefly commenting about Malta’s plastic return deposit scheme as a result of the Our Ocean conference (5-6 October 2017). He commented that by maintaining a clean marine environment results in a clean and healthy life. Finally, Hon. Herrera spoke about co-ordinating the safeguarding of the oceans, the Blue Economy and its intrinsic link v economic opportunities. This included employment and the skills gap, suggesting that the market requires a Blue Economy.
The Rector of the University of Malta, Prof. Alfred J Vella. Prof. Vella focused upon the scientific role in relation to education and communication, suggesting that Malta is an advocate on ocean matters ‘punching above its weight’, particularly in respect of UNCLOS, quoting art. 136 UNCLOS “the sea has a common heritage of mankind”. He identified that as Europe assessed its sea areas (particularly the Mediterranean) for potentially more mineral/ energy/ generic resources, investors and entrepreneurs need to understand the links between dry land and the ocean, in particular regarding the sciences. He ended with commenting about how school links need hardening, particularly as we move towards the Decade of the Ocean (2020-2030) to ensure Ocean Sustainability and that conferences such as Our Ocean and EMSEA and their delegates have the potential to put Ocean Literacy on the map.
EMSEA 2017 Conference co-ordinator, Prof. Alan Deidun, University of Malta and EMSEA President Fiona Crouch, Marine Biological Association. They provided an outline of the proceedings for the 2017 conference, the ethos for EMSEA and the purpose of the conference.
These were followed by an address by Dr. Awni Benham, Honorary President, International Ocean Institute about Ocean Literacy and its role in Ocean Governance. Next came a summary of the teachers’ seminar which was conducted on Saturday 7 October 2017 but Evy Copejans and Paul Pace. The final speech of the morning was an Overview of the Our Ocean conference proceedings and School Projects: Challenges faced by schools in promoting OL, Francesca Santoro, UNESCO-IOC.
The afternoon focused upon three of the main themes of this year’s conference: The digital age of OL, Future Scenarios of OL and Promoting further penetration of OL in School curricula. It was incredibly difficult to decide which sessions I was going to attend – they all sounded very thought provoking, relevant and inspiring. In the end, I utilised my afternoon by attending sessions focusing up on the digital age of OL and Future Scenarios of OL. The sessions I attended were:
Future Scenarios of Ocean Literacy
Systems Science, Systems Literacy and Systems Thinking to achieve Ocean Literacy – Peter Tuddenham. Looking at how design thinking can bring Ocean Literacy into the Science Curriculum. Having touched systems thinking during my university studies I found this very interesting and could visualise what was discussed.
I know, I am aware, but still I don’t act: what are the pre-conditions of effective ocean literacy - Olga Mashkina. Focusing on Ocean literacy and behavioural change, knowledge gaps and how/ why people act in an environmentally friendly way, suggesting that Ocean Literacy requires a Theory of Change model to drive forward. As I have an interest in positive behavioural changes and I was a member of the Association of Sail Training Organisations Theory of Change model for Sail Training working group, I took great interest in this presentation.
Exploring the oceans of other worlds – inspiring the next generation - Stephen Hall. This identified how robots inspire the next generation, automated technology is used daily at sea. Three case studies were used: Europa, Titan and Enceladus (just outside Satun’s moons) to explain about various exploration techniques, the challenges encountered and lessons learned. I just find Space Exploration fascinating! However, I did also suggest that lessons could be learnt from Space Exploration in respect of ocean exploration in my 2012 MSc dissertation.
The Digital age of Ocean Literacy
A virtual expedition approach to Ocean Literacy in schools - Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop. Recognising that when working with children enthusiasm needs to be promoted; this discussed how he worked with professionals in STEM careers. The footage collected with the field teams was shared in the classroom with Virtual Reality, google expeditions and 360 media. I found this quite inspiring and could see potential in respect of ‘taking Sail Training into the classroom’.
The ocean in the new digital age: an opportunity to understand it better using smart and innovative tools - Giovanni Coppini. This outlined Ocean Literacy Principles and Blue Growth, Italy’s CMCC Foundation OceanLab tools and applications and focused on plastic debris modelling on the Mediterranean Sea as well as student activities with Sea Conditions. I particularly enjoyed learning about Italy’s Smart tools and applications – Sea Conditions, the ocean and weather forecasts; Visir, a service providing optimised nautical routes; OceanSaR, which supports maritime authorities and operational centres during SAR operations; Witoil, which delivers and disseminates the prediction of the transport and transformation of actual or hypothetical oil spills. All tools and apps focused upon the Mediterranean Sea. I took particular interest in this session as I am an ex-Coastguard Officer.
The online Marine Training Platform: Europe’s response to Blue Growth capacity building requirements – Thibaud Mascart. This introduced Human capacity building and continuous professional development as key to the development of current and future workforces to answer the needs of the European Blue Economy. It suggested that that there is a major gap between the education offered within European educational institutes and the skills required by the industries. Again, this ignited ideas about how Sail Training could provide opportunities to overcome these skills gaps and also use online training platforms to support what Sail Training facilitators deliver on-board.
The day was concluded with a demonstration of the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) Technology Transfer (USA Department of State and Department of Commerce), Mr. Joseph Fette; an update and looking towards legacy of Ocean literacy, Paula Keener (NOAA)/Anne Stewart (CaNOE)/Ana Noronha (Ciéncia Viva), Technology Corner; Build a Buoy Project – an activity for school children, Doug Levin; Flash Poster Presentations which was Chaired by Fiona Crouch and the EMSEA Regional Seas meetings. I am now a member of the North Sea and English Channel Group and I am really looking forward to working with the team to promote Ocean Literacy within the UK and beyond.
This jam packed day was followed by a walking tour of Valletta and the conference dinner at Michael’s Restaurant, Valletta. Amazing food and wine with fantastic company.
EMSEA conference, day 2: Tuesday 10 October 2017.
This day was just a busy. Today’s keynote speakers to start the proceedings were:
EMSEA in the Mediterranean – penetration of Ocean Literacy initiatives within the Mediterranean, Dr. Alessio Satta (Mediterranean Sea and Coast Foundation (MedSea)). This gave a brief insight on the impacts affecting the Mediterranean, Ocean Literacy in the Mediterranean policy framework and examples of how to integrate Ocean Literacy in the Integrated Coastal Zone Management process.
The challenges of promoting ICZM in North Africa, Nawel Khelil, National school of marine science and coastal management, Algeria. It is with deep regret to say that I was unable to extract key information due to unexpected construction work interference from outside of the Campus. However, I do want to say how much respect and admiration I felt for this young lady, she did not falter and she continued to deliver what appeared to be an excellent presentation. What incredible personal strength in a situation of unexpected adversity. Well done!
Eco-school Network – Youth Summit, Prof. Paul Pace. This was possibly the favourite session by all delegates. It focused upon how eco-schools empowered their students and how young people ought to contribute in the decisions that shape their futures; whilst at the same time being mindful that children are not and shouldn’t be treated as mini-adults. It explained about the Eco-schools Parliament session (est. 12 years ago) and that the 8th Young Peoples’ Summit’s theme will be ‘caring for our seas’. The audience then was enlightened by an excellent, inspiring and responsibly minded speech lead by three young students of the local Eco-school. The speech the young people provided was well thought out, holistic, democratic and promoted law abiding initiatives that integrated environmental considerations. Their efforts were reciprocated by a standing ovation and thought provoking Q and A. True inspiration from the mouths of babes!
This was succeeded by an Open Space discussion session. Delegates volunteered to lead discussions about what they believed were critical areas for consideration for the development of EMSEA. Of the proposed discussion topics, I opted to join the ‘youth involvement in EMSEA’ and ‘promoting best practice, collaboration and training for the EMSEA network’ discussion groups.
The afternoon focused upon the other conference presentation themes Ocean and Human Health and Open Session (presentations that did not fit into the main themes but were of particular interest). As my presentation was in the Open Session group, I opted to watch all the presentations of this theme. These presentations, chaired by Melita Mokos, University of Zadar, Croatia were:
Baseline public biodiversity awareness and citizen science in the coastal areas of Danube Delta in Ukraine and Romania - Alexandre Gogaladze
LEARN-TEACH Pilot: Ocean Literacy in every Research Grant & High School Curriculum - Ivo Grigorov and Diana Payne
Citizens and scientists work together to monitor marine alien species in Sicilian waters (central Mediterranean ) - AnnaMaria Mannino
Sail Training as an Alternative Education Space; how it can be used to promote Marine Citizenship? Case Study Ocean Youth Trust Scotland. - Laura Lyth. My presentation (para. two).
The Irish Ocean Literacy Network - Susan Heaney
Ocean Literacy through transdisciplinary: A roadmap to sustainability - Alicia Said and Ratana Chuenpagdee
Promoting ocean literacy through informal channels, the Spot the Jellyfish and the Spot the Alien Fish citizen science campaigns in the Maltese Islands (central Mediterranean) – Prof. Alan Deidun
The closing plenary of the conference was a presentation about EMSEA in the Mediterranean: Overview of progress so far from the EMSEA-MED Network, Dr. Melita Mokos/Martha Papathanassiou. This was followed by a presentation about the EMSEA 2018 Host City and Venue, Newcastle and the Hancock Museum (sponsored by the University of Newcastle), Charlotte Foster, University of Newcastle. Lastly, the closing words were delivered by Fiona Couch and Prof. Alan Denidun.
But it didn’t really end there - Courtesy of US Embassy in Malta, there was a screening of 'Plastic Ocean' documentary. However, I didn’t view it on this occasion as I watched the screening in March at University of Portsmouth and had a very early flight the next day. I will comment that it is however an excellent documentary and worth watching if the opportunity arises.
I would just like to end with a big thank you to the organising committee and fellow presenters/ speakers, particularly this year’s Conference Convener Prof. Alan Denidun. What a truly monumental achievement co-ordinating such an excellent conference, ensuring that all delegates were well catered and looked after too. It really was a stimulating, thought provoking and inspiring two days and I hope I can utilise what I have learnt from it in the future. Newcastle has a lot to live up to.
Abstracts (page 44): http://www.um.edu.mt/events/emsea2017/abstracts
Ocean Youth Trust Scotland: www.oytscotland.org.uk
Plastic Oceans: www.plasticoceans.org