On 8-10 October 2017 I attended the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference, hosted by the University of Malta, Valletta, Malta, in collaboration with the Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malta. This year’s venue is the Valletta Campus, University of 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 with an educational and predominately scientific rational whilst also recognising that the ocean has a place in all disciplines.
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 from across Europe (along with 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.
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 consisted of A video message from the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Hon. Karmenu Vella; The Maltese Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), Hon. Jose Herrera; The Rector of the University of Malta, Prof. Alfred J Vella and EMSEA 2017 Conference co-ordinator, Prof. Alan Deidun, University of Malta and EMSEA President Fiona Crouch, Marine Biological Association.
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 by 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 for the theme “Future Scenarios of Ocean Literacy” were Systems Science, Systems Literacy and Systems Thinking to achieve Ocean Literacy; I know, I am aware, but still I don’t act: what are the pre-conditions of effective ocean literacy and Exploring the oceans of other worlds – inspiring the next generation. Regarding the theme “The Digital age of Ocean Literacy” the sessions were A virtual expedition approach to Ocean Literacy in schools; The ocean in the new digital age: an opportunity to understand it better using smart and innovative tools and The online Marine Training Platform: Europe’s response to Blue Growth capacity building requirements.
The day was concluded with a demonstration of the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) Technology Transfer (USA Department of State and Department of Commerce; an update and looking towards legacy of Ocean literacy, Technology Corner; Build a Buoy Project and Flash Poster Presentations.
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. in the Mediterranean – penetration of Ocean Literacy initiatives within the Mediterranean and Eco-school Network – Youth Summit. 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 were Baseline public biodiversity awareness and citizen science in the coastal areas of Danube Delta in Ukraine and Romania; LEARN-TEACH Pilot: Ocean Literacy in every Research Grant & High School Curriculum; Citizens and scientists work together to monitor marine alien species in Sicilian waters; Sail Training as an Alternative Education Space; how it can be used to promote Marine Citizenship? Case Study Ocean Youth Trust Scotland (my presentation); The Irish Ocean Literacy Network; Ocean Literacy through transdisciplinary: A roadmap to sustainability and Promoting ocean literacy through informal channels, the Spot the Jellyfish and the Spot the Alien Fish citizen science campaigns in the Maltese Islands.
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).
But it didn’t really end there – Courtesy of US Embassy in Malta, there was a screening of ‘Plastic Ocean’ documentary. It is an excellent documentary and worth watching.
Laura Lyth is a policy and education advisor for Coastal and Marine Experiential Education.