During the session there were presentations from Prof Mel Austen (Blue Communities Programme Director), Mr. Andrew Bell (North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), Dr Radisti Praptiwi (Universitas Nasional, Indonesia), Prof Lota Creencia (Western Philippines University), Prof Lora Fleming (University of Exeter) and Dr Hong Ching (University of Malaya).
Together, the presentations summarised the structure of the programme, its transdisciplinary nature and covered topics such as the beneficial impact of marine environments on human health, building research capacity in sustainable planning and management, the application of satellite data for marine management, food security and supporting Early Career Researchers (ECRs).
Session discussions focused on impact optimisation including: linking the Blue Communities programme to the UN Decade of Ocean Science initiative; linking outcomes and processes to develop innovative finance mechanisms; the benefits of multi-national collaboration in transdisciplinary research, and integrated marine planning supported by the evidence from transdisciplinary research.
This year saw the Congress celebrate “25 Years of Partnerships for Healthy Oceans, People and Economies: Moving as One with the Global Ocean Agenda” and is open to a broad range of stakeholders including: national and local governments; the United Nations system; intergovernmental organizations; bilateral and multi-lateral projects; international financial institutions; non-governmental organizations; civil society organizations; academic institutions; scientific community; private sector, and other stakeholders. For further information visit www.pemsea.org.
Recently the Blue Communities team met in Palawan, Philippines for its first programme-wide progress meeting. Over 60 scientists from the UK, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam enjoyed a packed agenda of project and case study site updates, interspersed with interactive sessions over the 3-day meeting.
The interactive sessions included a highly engaging stakeholder role-play activity, led by researchers from the University of Exeter, and a ‘guess the habitat from space’ game, led by researchers from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, which helped demonstrate the different resolution levels of satellite sensors. Other workshops included information gathering for ecosystem services at the case study sites, and stakeholder communication methods, both of which resulted in some intriguing and unexpected intelligence, such as using music to convey marine management messages to the local coastal communities.
There was a highly pertinent panel discussion on research ethics including: how to conduct research ethically and responsibly; the procedure for an ethics approval application, and what to do if unethical practices are witnessed. This fascinating exploration of the issues surrounding research ethics demonstrated a real interest and desire to discuss further. Consequently, more capacity building in research ethics for all researchers participating in the projects within the Blue Communities programme is being planned. Other training needs identified included evaluation of research outcomes and impact, stakeholder engagement and ‘training the trainer’ workshops.
This meeting also provided the opportunity for the Blue Communities Early Career Researchers (ECR) Network to hold its first meeting. The network has been created to support ECRs across Blue Communities and offered a peer-to-peer forum to exchange knowledge on career development, challenges, collaborations, training needs, mentoring and communication ideas.
Training workshops either side of the progress meeting were also held at the Western Philippines University, covering the topics of Earth observation, ecosystem services, evidence synthesis, climate modelling and developing future scenarios that form key elements of several of the sub-projects within the Blue Communities programme. These training sessions were very well received and there are plans for wider roll-out.
As the overall progress meeting drew to a close, discussion turned to where the next meeting will be held. It is hoped that this will be in the South West of the UK, offering the opportunity for Case Study partners to visit research institutes in the UK whilst returning the favour of the wonderful hosting by the Western Philippines University and University of Malaya partners for this very well-received meeting and the successful kick-off meeting in Kuala Lumpur last January.