Category Archives: News


Blue Communties at the East Asian Seas Congress

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A team from Blue Communities, supported by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, recently hosted a Partnership Hub session at the East Asian Seas Congress 2018 held in Iloilo, Philippines.

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



First Annual Meeting GCRF BC

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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.

Discussing ways to use satellite data for marine managementThere 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.



International Conference on Biosphere for Sustainable Development

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30th session of the Man and the Biosphere Programme International Co-ordinating Council (MAB-ICC)

23 July 2018  to 28 July 2018 
Indonesia, Palembang, South Sumatra Province

The 30th session of the Man and the Biosphere Programme International Co-ordinating Council (MAB-ICC), the MAB Council or ICC, will be held in Palembang, South Sumatra Province, Indonesia from 23 to 28 July 2018. On this occasion, the MAB-ICC will decide upon the inclusion of new biosphere reserves into the World Biosphere Reserve Network and take note of recommendations on periodic review reports of biosphere reserves.

The Council is composed of 34 UNESCO Member States, elected by UNESCO’s General Conference, respecting: equitable geographical distribution; appropriate rotation; the representativeness of these States from the ecological viewpoint on each continent; and of the importance of their scientific contribution to the international MAB.

Ms.Muhusina Abdul Rahman, Assistant Director of Ministry of Environment and Energy and Mr.Abdulla Shibau, Managing Director of Baa Atoll Conservation Fund are attending the 30th Session of MAB Council meeting on behalf of Government of Maldives and Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve respectively.

List participant from CSERM UNAS:

  • Dr. Sugardjito (Director)
  • Dr. Garniati Leuserina (Associate Expert)
  • Iswadi Agung, MSc (Research Fellow)
  • Dr. Radisti Praptiwi (Research Fellow)
  • Ronna Saab, M.Si (Research Assistant)

link :


Kick-Off Meeting GCRF Blue Communities Programme

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During January 2018 world-class experts from the South West UK attended the Kick-Off meeting for the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Blue Communities Programme, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hosted by the University of Malaya and organised by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, University of Exeter and Plymouth University, this meeting was the first opportunity for all international programme partners to meet face-to-face and discuss the details of the ambitious work plan over the next four years.

The GCRF Blue Communities programme is funded through the 5-year £1.5Bn Research Council UK (RCUK) GCRF ‘Building Capacity’ funding call, to encourage collaboration and exchange with international partners in tackling global challenges in the national interest. Blue Communities aims to mutually exchange knowledge, experience and best practice between the UK and SE Asia on marine planning and sustainable resource use to help improve the health, well-being and livelihoods of coastal communities in SE Asia case study sites.

Each of the countries in the SE Asia region relies on marine and coastal ecosystems for food, employment and their general well-being. However, the marine environment is under immense pressure from the multiple, and often conflicting, needs of the people that use it. Marine spatial planning involving coordinated decision-making has been highlighted as a key requirement for a sustainable future in the region.

The meeting was well attended with over 50 delegates from the partner countries; UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Enthusiasm for such a collaborative programme shone through as participants networked, explored case study site issues and opportunities together, identified training needs, and co-created meaningful and realistic work plans to achieve the programme’s goals.

The importance of such a meeting was evident as participants from different counties and cultures were able to tease out and discuss the plethora of issues facing various regions and communities, allowing a deeper understanding of the societal context in which Blue Communities research will be undertaken. This is vital if the aim of a lasting impact is to be achieved.

The Blue Communities programme will focus on four case study sites, three of which are UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserves and one a Marine Protected Area. Using such structures that are already in place helps researchers engage existing networks and groups in the region, which will help facilitate the multiple conversations that will be needed for the project partners to collect information and communicate findings to those who would benefit directly.

Professor Mel Austen, GCRF Blue Communities Programme Leader and a Head of Science at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, commented: “It was inspiring to see so many people from different countries, cultures and scientific disciplines come together collaboratively to work on this common goal; improving lives through scientific and societal understanding. By combining marine science, social issues and health aspects, this new approach to collaborative working will help Blue Communities create a lasting legacy for the benefit of coastal communities in the target regions, as well as the scientific partners in South East Asia and the UK. There was such a buzz of enthusiasm among all the people at this first Blue Communities meeting that I felt that we had to be on the right path towards these goals!”

Professor Lora Fleming, GCRF Blue Communities Project Leader and Director of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “I’m delighted to be mutually sharing knowledge with our partners in South West and South East Asia on these important issues. This is a region where people’s health and well-being are fundamentally interconnected with the marine environment. Each country has its own specific needs and expertise, and it’s so important to bring everyone together to collaborate to address these.”

Dr Sabine Pahl, GCRF Blue Communities Project Leader and Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, said: “Environmental Science has provided us with the evidence as to the scale of the issues we are facing, and behavioural science can help us to understand the human dimension in providing the solutions. In bringing together these complementary disciplines, we have a great chance of addressing some of these challenges relating to the natural environment and the well-being of people depending upon it in so many ways.”