Session Chair: Krista Stegemann, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Marine Debris Program

This session is dedicated to effective marine debris messaging strategies, which are incredibly important for successful and strategic communication, and help achieve the goal of both increasing understanding of the issue and leaving an audience feeling hopeful and empowered to take part in the solution.

Preventing marine debris at its source is the ultimate solution to this pervasive problem and communicating with the public is an important step toward preventing marine debris. However, in order to be effective in your communication, strategic marine debris messaging is incredibly important.

Marine debris can be an easy topic to discuss, since it is tangible and generally simple enough for people to understand. However, it is still a complex topic to talk about and can easily become overly heavy and depressing, leading those you’re communicating with feeling overwhelmed and powerless.

This result will not lead to the prevention of marine debris. The goal is for your audience to leave understanding the issue and feeling hopeful and empowered to take part in the solution. To achieve this, we must be strategic in our messaging and avoid being too depressing or aggressive in our communication.

However, the ideal messaging strategy may be different in different circumstances. Cultural and demographic differences may alter what the most effective approach is. This session will focus on marine debris messaging strategies and examples of those strategies in action. The 6IMDC will provide a unique opportunity to hear from marine debris communicators around the world. By better understanding what constitutes effective marine debris messaging in different locations, with different groups of people, and in different circumstances, marine debris communicators will be better able to provide effective messaging.




Talking Trashy: How the NOAA Marine Debris Program Approaches Marine Debris Messaging

presenting: Krista Stegemann (NOAA Marine Debris Program, United States); authors: Krista Stegemann (NOAA Marine Debris Program, United States)

Prevention is the ultimate solution to the marine debris problem, and so effectively communicating about the subject is extremely important. Communication must inspire positive action if it is to lead to marine debris prevention. In order to achieve this desired approach, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) focuses on positive and hopeful messaging, using success stories and offering solutions to empower an audience to become marine debris stewards. The topic of marine debris can easily become heavy or depressing, discouraging potential advocates from becoming involved. Using the proper combination of resources to engage an audience in the topic and emphasize the importance of the problem, and resources that focus on a hopeful approach, is vital. The MDP works within the scope of a government agency to predominantly address a very large and general audience within the United States about marine debris. This session will discuss the MDP approach, what resources they utilize, and the challenges that can be associated with addressing such an undefined audience.


Improving Marine Debris Hashtag Messaging

presenting: Bette Booth (Splash Trash Intl., United States); authors: Bette Booth (Splash Trash Intl., United States)

Hashtags are an essential tool of marine debris social media communication and messaging. The right hashtags can connect and share messages amongst current marine debris advocates in powerful ways. They can increase the reach and frequency of marine debris messages to new audiences and potential advocates at little or no cost. Sufficient reach and frequency are essential elements of behavior change communication and messaging.

However, not all hashtags are the same, and, when used inappropriately, can actually have a negative impact on engagement with current and potential audiences.

Marine debris organizations and advocates are currently using a plethora of hashtags. Are we using too many? Too few? Are they the right ones? Are we using them in the right way?

This paper explores and analyzes these questions. Specifically, the paper identifies and analyzes the top twenty marine debris messaging “hashtags” in terms of exposure per hour, usage in the last 30 days, best day of the week and time of day and languages. Based on this analysis and a literature review of hashtag social media best practices, it provides specific recommendations about how the marine debris community can strengthen their messaging using the hashtag communication tool.


Cultural domains of marine debris among experts and novices

presenting: Ava Lasseter (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, United States); authors: Ava Lasseter (Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, United States)

Marine debris as an environmental issue has gained broader attention among the public in recent years. However, experts and novices exhibit differences in their awareness and engagement with marine debris. Using the results of a free-listing exercise among groups of experts (clean-up volunteers; fishermen) and novices (people without a connection to the marine environment), differences in the cultural domain of marine debris is analyzed between the groups. By understanding the differences in how marine debris is conceptualized by groups with different levels of awareness and engagement, marine debris messaging can be targeted more effectively.


Messages to the Wise: Effective Marine Debris Communication for Older Generations

presenting: Lisa Swanger (Coastal Carolina University, United States); authors: Lisa Swanger (Coastal Carolina University, United States)

Marine debris continues to pose a serious threat to coastal and marine environments. A major contributor includes the input from land-based sources, including polluted stormwater. Delivering effective messaging to diverse audiences is critical for preventing debris from reaching marine waters. The Grand Strand, located on the northern coast of South Carolina, includes one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas within the United States. It is a popular destination for both tourists and transients. Additionally, the rapid influx of current and awaited retirees from diverse backgrounds poses a unique challenge when attempting to increase marine debris awareness and action throughout the region. Therefore, the Coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Education Consortium, established in 2004 to assist local governments meet federal requirements for stormwater education and public involvement under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II Permit Program of the Clean Water Act, developed an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course at Coastal Carolina University targeting residents ages 50 and up. This “Marine Debris: Origins to Oceans” course offers a sequential class experience comprised of lectures, interactive activities, and volunteer field efforts. The goals are to increase awareness about marine debris, build positive and meaningful connections with coastal watersheds, and encourage stewardship amongst older residents. This 6-week course was piloted fall 2017 and is expected to launch January 2018. This session will focus on the course structure and messaging strategies, along with key challenges and successes that may shed light on future efforts to effectively communicate marine debris issues to aging populations globally.


From mountain to ocean: Educating the future generation, raising awareness among the public

presenting: Julia Hager (Mountain2Ocean, Germany); authors: Julia Hager (Mountain2Ocean, Germany)

Although the syllabi of secondary and high school education in Germany point out to the problem of environment and human responsibility, this remains rather theoretical and marine debris or plastic pollution seem to be problems at a distance. So how can this global issue be made relevant for secondary or high school students and adults while existing more or less out of their sight? Photos, facts and figures in the media are inevitable and play an important part. Raising awareness, initiating responsibility and commitment, however, is a complex process that has to adjust to and mirror the knowledge the students or adults have acquired so far. Me providing them with authentic visual documents and samples from my project on microplastic pollution in the Mergui Archipelago as well as from my observation of beaches in the Arctic and in South Georgia where I encountered an entangled elephant seal or at least on river banks in their local area , linked to facts about the various origins and circles of microplastic pollution, enables them to better turn their environmental awareness towards action. At schools, students projects, close to information on current results of investigation and research which they gain from my talks, are a core instrument. While monitoring, sampling, collecting and analysing data, the students apply, prove and extend their skills in basic scientific strategies and, where possible, make general initiatives like citizen science activities valid for themselves. My proposed report is based on my speeches at schools and institutions in Germany as well as my projects with high school students so far and will be updated with experiences from my activities to come in the next few months.