Project

Changing hearts and minds about Southern Florida’s sharks

Species
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
Status
  • Active
Project types
  • Conservation
  • Education
  • Research
Affiliation
Description

Julia wants to help sharks and rays in Biscayne Bay, a marine estuary on south Florida’s coast. She wants to understand what people already know and value about the bay, and learn how to best approach to them to drive change. As the co-founder of Field School, a marine science program in south Florida and the Caribbean, and the director of the Field School Foundation, a non-profit engaging people in science, talking to people about conservation is something Julia knows well. She’s using qualitative and quantitative methods to get the most nuanced picture of the human side of conservation challenges.

Changing hearts and minds about Southern Florida’s sharks

Julia Wester

Project leader
About the project leader

As an interdisciplinary environmental scientist and educator, I research social-ecological systems and decision-making. I am interested in how we teach and communicate about science, how values and world views impact behaviour and how to better engage everyone in learning about and protecting our natural world. I co-founded Field School, an innovative hands-on marine science programme operating from a live-aboard research vessel in South Florida and the Caribbean, and I’m the director of the Field School Foundation, a non-profit organisation geared toward engaging people, particularly from underserved and underrepresented communities, in science and conservation. I...

PROJECT LOCATION : Florida
Project details

Changing hearts and minds about Southern Florida’s sharks

Key objective

The goal of this project is to understand how people in Miami think and feel about Biscayne Bay and local shark populations. This project will test outreach messages to determine how to most effectively talk about these issues to encourage conservation action.

Why is this important

All conservation problems are, at their core the result of human (in)action. However, there is relatively little research on public attitudes toward sharks or how best to communicate about their conservation. Charismatic species like sharks may serve as ‘ambassadors’ for public engagement. This project will help us understand what the public thinks about sharks living near them and how to use exciting species like great hammerheads and smalltooth sawfish to communicate about marine conservation.

Background

All conservation problems are, at their core the result of human (in)action. However, there is relatively little research on public attitudes toward sharks or how best to communicate about their conservation. Charismatic species like sharks may serve as ‘ambassadors’ for public engagement. This project will help us understand what the public thinks about sharks living near them and how to use exciting species like great hammerheads and smalltooth sawfish to communicate about marine conservation.

Aims & objectives

This study aims to determine what the public knows, thinks, and values about Biscayne Bay and the sharks that call it home. I will examine how they perceive their own behavior and responsibilities. Finally, this work will identify strategies for best practices for communicating about charismatic species like sharks. Findings from this project will serve as a model for increasing public engagement and conservation support in urban-coastal systems.