Education, Outreach, and Capacity Development for Marine Conservation in Tropical Coastal Communities

Forty percent of the global population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast and many rely on marine ecosystems for food and livelihoods. These ecosystems, especially in the tropics, are also high priorities for biodiversity conservation. As place-based communities face increasing threats and need to adaptively manage their resources, conservation organizations aim to improve conservation outcomes by supporting local capacity, knowledge, and skills. Conservation education programs can increase awareness, change perceptions of environmental issues, and build technical skills for coastal stakeholders. While marine management initiatives often incorporate education or outreach strategies, few studies assess the efficacy and benefits of these programs in achieving conservation goals. 

We reviewed existing literature using evidence synthesis methodology developed through the Ocean Evidence Gap Map project to investigate education and outreach interventions conducted in tropical marine environments. We assess implementation factors, such as type of intervention, program duration, target audience, and implementing organization, that correspond to positive social and ecological outcomes. We hope to identify gaps and opportunities for further work in the evaluation and design of educational conservation programs for researchers and practitioners. As marine conservation initiatives expand with the 30×30 targets, it will be vital for conservation organizations to enhance their understanding and support of place-based community capacity. 

This collaborative project between students Maddie Paris (Undergraduate student, Rachel Carson Scholar), Claire Huang (MEM student), and Becca Horan (PhD student) is funded by the Duke University Bass Connections Student Research Awards – read more on the Bass Connections website

Project Timeline: Fall 2021 – Summer 2022