After being nominated (for a second time) for a Pew Marine Fellowship this proposal was prepared according to the guidelines, submitted, and immediately shared online, on 29 June 2009. The proposal wasn't selected but became the blueprint for the work of The Live Blue Foundation and The Blue Mind Network.
The book Blue Mind, published in 2014, was a national bestseller and has been translated to a dozen languages and formats around the world. Blue Mind is truly changing the conversation about water for good, as proposed.
The previous (also, not selected) Pew Marine Fellowship proposal outlined our plans for a grassroots, community-based research and conservation project called Grupo Tortuguero. GT's expanded to network some 35 coastal communities and has been a wonderful success, fostering new leadership, leading to the recovery of the black sea turtle (recently downlisted by NMFS), changing people's relationships with sea turtles and their ocean, and providing a blueprint for similar citizen-based wildlife conservation projects around the world. Just like Blue Mind, Grupo Tortuguero is changing our understanding of our personal, human relationship with nature leading to pro-enviroment actions and behaviors.
In a round-about way I owe much to Pew for inspiring both proposals. Now I find myself looking forward to the next fellowship nomination!
Blue Mind: A Neuroconservation Proposal to Pew Chartible Trusts
Our waters and oceans are severely degraded and communication of solutions hasn’t had the desired impact. This project seeks to bridge the chasm between modern behavioral sciences/neurobiology and marine conservation by exploring the relationship between the human mind and the "blue space". Findings will be directly relevant and applicable to a broad range of sectors, including conservation and behavioral change work particular to ocean/coastal policy, planning, education & outreach.
Areas of Specialization
social change, aquatic conservation, ocean wildlife, marine ecology, community organizing, social media, education/communication
Work Accomplishment & Problem Solving Evidence
1. Grupo Tortuguero: Building and Testing a Model
Fifteen years ago I began my doctoral research on the migration and ecology of eastern Pacific sea turtles. My team encountered a formidable set of social and environmental challenges. The combination of hunting and bycatch put all five sea turtle species in a precarious position, despite full protection under Mexican and US law. Our genetics, biotelemetry and mark-recapture research indicated that animals from around the Pacific basin nesting as far away as Japan were using the waters along the Baja California Peninsula as an important foraging/developmental area. However, turtles were dying by the thousands as bycatch in nets and in the unchecked black market trade. An academic advisor described it an “impossibly difficult situation”.
Realizing that science wasn’t enough, our approach evolved and became known as the Conservation Mosaic Model, which encompasses:
1) building up a diverse, robust grassroots conservation network of conservation-minded fishers and coastal residents,
2) generating and synthesizing new knowledge through participatory research in the natural and social sciences, integrating indigenous local knowledge and
3) sharing both the knowledge and network widely through strategic, creative communications.
As of 2009, results of our efforts include a network of more than 1,000 individuals and 100 academic, non-profit, government, civic and for-profit institutions, a dozen new local non-profit groups focused on ocean protection, ~ 60 peer reviewed publications, and millions of people reached
through innovative use of local, national, international and social media, events and educational efforts. The Grupo Tortuguero (GT), as the effort is known, is now at the forefront of a public-private movement that has transformed civic life in the region and elevated the protection of endangered ocean wildlife and their habitat. The GT is now a fully staffed and funded Mexican NGO that continues to lead and build the ocean conservation movement, from the ground up, in one of the world’s most diverse and productive marine ecosystems.
In a region where experts once thought it “too late” and “too difficult” to restore sea turtles, populations are on the rise, unlikely partnerships are common, public participation in conservation has soared, government agencies are more accountable to environmental laws and the value of a live sea turtle is considered by many to be greater than its value as a food source due to new conservation tourism efforts. Each of the five species now has a robust team dedicated to its survival. I have mentored and advised a dozen energetic, creative and kind graduate students to lead future research and conservation work in the region. As a bookend to a decade of progress, the GT hosted the 2008 meeting of the International Sea Turtle Society in Loreto, BCS, Mexico bringing together 1,000 experts from 70 countries and showcasing the practical successes of the Conservation Mosaic Model [Note: the award winning GT work described here comprised my 2002 Pew Fellowship application]
Nichols, WJ et al. 2000. Transpacific loggerhead turtle migration monitored w/ satellite telemetry. Bulletin of Marine Science 67: 937-947.
2. Ocean Revolution: Sharing the Model
The simple Conservation Mosaic Model (CMM: network, knowledge, communication) I developed and successfully implemented with the GT in Mexico gets stronger each year and has been adapted and utilized by a dozen projects in six countries to date. Recognizing that species conservation projects in developing countries as well as underserved and under recognized groups around the world may benefit from our approach, I have spearheaded an Ocean Revolution (OR) team formed to “scale up” and share our model.
Ocean Revolution takes an innovative and experimental approach to ocean conservation that shares the CMM and provides a simple, powerful ocean solutions framing (“less in, less out, protect the edge”, see explanation below). To further this framework, I initiated the Ocean Revolution Youth Leadership Council—a connected and mentored international group of young people with a passion for ocean advocacy. For the past six years I have proudly fostered this program’s focused campaigns to engage not only those in the Council, but also the general public at large.
These campaigns all follow the ocean solutions framework mentioned above: (a) Less in: aDayWithoutPlastic.org, a popular campaign that challenges individuals to examine their plastic footprint; (b) Less out: ShrimpSuck.org, a youth-oriented campaign designed to bring attention to the ecological impacts caused by the fishing methods used to provide the top seafood choice in the US; (c) Protect the Edge: StopOceanWarming.org blog and Climate Revolution, a network of indigenous island peoples most impacted by ocean warming adding their voices to calls for clean energy.
The model and framework have aided creation of ocean clubs at schools, a shark conservation network in Mexico, a network of indigenous sea turtle hunters turned conservationists in Indonesia, Panama and Mexico, and a movement among artisanal fishermen in Cuba. Out of this work, we created the Native Oceans Council, a global exchange of traditional and indigenous elders, leaders and youth with a common sea turtle culture.
In 2008, the theme of the International Sea Turtle Society’s annual symposium, where I served as President, echoed OR’s “Native Oceans” program in recognition that sea turtle conservation is not only a modern effort, but a continuation of an ancient tradition that indigenous peoples the world over have practiced for centuries. The theme extended to unprecedented participation of indigenous groups and throughout scientific presentations as authors responded to the call to re-think conservation efforts, paying special attention to "shifting baseline" concepts by placing current findings and status of marine systems in a socio-historical context. Participation included more than 50 indigenous people representing 15 nations from Australia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Venezuela and others. As the official hosts of the ISTS the Seri (or Comca'ac) welcomed attendees with four days of traditional Leatherback Ceremony. During the ISTS the Native Oceans Council met frequently. Additionally, the Seri, Australian Traditional Owners and Kuna began a formal knowledge exchange, which continues in the form of face-to-face meetings held most recently in Australia and Panama in 2008 and 2009. Furthermore, the meeting met all of its pioneering environmental and social sustainability goals through a "Live Blue Challenge" and left the Society in the best financial shape of its 28 years.
Native Oceans is now extending work in Mexico, Australia and Papua New Guinea to help develop innovative toolkits for indigenous cultures to update their approaches to sustainable and innovative protection of resources. The "negotiations toolkit", for which we will lead a conference in PNG in November, helps indigenous cultures address environmental justice and resource utilization issues, the "i-tracker toolkit” provides innovative monitoring tools for collecting regionally pertinent data on endangered species, and the "Most Significant Change toolkit” enables meaningful responses to the need for project assessment when indigenous groups are required to complete grant reports.
My aspiration for Ocean Revolution wasn’t for it to play the role of a traditional advocacy organization, rather to be an experiment in open source organizing. As Prof. Clay Shirky puts it, harnessing the “power of organizing without organizations”. What this means is free online social media tools can be used to promote cooperation, communications and sharing. Individuals and organizations working on ocean conservation can share compelling images, ideas and personal stories freely. Individuals can be mentored as they become leaders. Sometimes all that’s necessary is an introduction.
Nichols, WJ, et al. 2009. Biodiversity, Function and Interconnectedness: A revolution in our understanding of marine ecosystems and ocean conservation. In: Handbook of Marine Fisheries Conservation and Management. Oxford Univ. Press.
3. Blue Mind Works: Live like you love the ocean: From Model to Lifestyle
As part of a natural progression of my work from the very local and specific conservation model (saving sea turtles in Baja) to the universal conservation model (cultivating O*R youth and indigenous leaders worldwide), we have most recently focused on achieving social norms that promote a healthy relationship with the ocean presented in a positive framework of sustainable lifestyle choices. “Living like you love the ocean” encompasses how our choices in how we eat, play, move, vote, travel and shop connect to the ocean.
Over the past two years the Blue Mind Works' themes have been integrated into international symposia and school curricula, and has been shared through lectures at aquariums and museums, widely circulated editorials and magazine articles, websites and blogs. I’m co-authoring a Blue Mind Works handbook to “ocean living”, a conservation tourism program has been launched, and a TV series is in development. In June 2010 The Blue Mind Network will bring together the results of BlueMarbles.org (a campaign that has launched 50,000 blue marbles from person to person around the world) with OceanVoices.org (an audio-visual collage of voices, ocean sentiment, music and images) at events that celebrate World Ocean Day and the 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s birthday. By harnessing the Internet to merge the spoken word, public participation and physical exchange of a symbolic object (a blue marble) with original music and compelling ocean imagery, we are creating a powerful statement about how digital media and human connections can serve ocean protection efforts.
Blue Mind Works has provided a bridge between the Conservation Mosaic Model and The Mind + Ocean Initiative, proposed here, as my interest in and appreciation of the importance of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience to conservation has deepened over the past decade.
isn’t a place
but a fact, and
a mystery under its green and black
cobbled coat that never stops moving.
-Mary Oliver, “The Waves”
The ocean compels us emotionally, yet we have treated it poorly. Clear-minded arguments for better ocean protections abound in the scientific and conservation communities. But people don’t behave rationally and the mind is not a “cool calculator”, making decisions by weighing all of the evidence. Rather, we make decisions based on emotions, which result from complex interplay of multiple brain centers mainly in the frontal and temporal lobes. In very simple terms, our political and social world when reasoning and emotions compete, emotions often win due to their primitive dominance in the intricate circuits of the Limbic (instinctive emotional) brain.
Past conservation communication has often been pedantic, overly earnest, naive, underfunded or overly technical. Understanding the neurological basis for our emotional connection to the ocean, as well as our irrational mistreatment of it, and harnessing that knowledge as a force for conservation is the main inquiry of The Blue Mind Network.
Until recently, techniques used to determine individuals’ wants and needs, to predict whether social marketing efforts would succeed and to plan future campaigns have been limited to inference, observation and/or direct questioning. However, externally observable components of human behavior reveal only a small fraction of the information that matters. To go deeper, we will build a diverse Blue Mind Network, integrate the available relevant neuroscience and cognitive psychology research and conduct novel investigations using functional neuroimaging. Functional brain imaging techniques such as fMRI and PET scanning as well as newer techniques such as Diffuse Tensor Imaging and Tractography, have led the forefront of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience. This will lead to a better understanding of how the ocean influences our subconscious mind via actual activation or deactivating of synaptic circuits within the perceptive and decision making centers of the frontal lobes. These investigations will enhance our understanding of why the human mind acts irrationally often making repetitive patterns of destruction and pollution of the environment.The results of these investigations will be shared freely with conservation practitioners working at all levels in ocean education, social change, and media in order to enhance effectiveness of marine conservation efforts and build a larger base of support for our issues.
In short: Ocean/water crisis + Brain research + Social marketing = The Blue Mind Network.
•Build and lead a robust, diverse network of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, ocean conservation practitioners and communicators to engage Blue Mind themes and develop novel research questions.
•Generate new knowledge on the mind – ocean relationship by integrating existing disparate research and answering new questions utilizing cutting edge applied neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, SST).
•Enhance and focus ocean communication by sharing the results of these inquiries through journal publications, film, blogs, conferences, public speaking and Blue Mind curriculum for university coursework.
Activities and Outcomes
Network (Phase One):
•Expand my personal knowledge of the disciplines related to neuroconservation by spending an academic year fully immersed in learning and conversation with experts in neuroscience, human development and cognitive psychology (Harvard University’s Mind, Brain & Behavior Initiative: MBB).
•Establish contacts and open communications with experts around the world with interest in Blue Mind. •Create an interactive website and blog for network members.
•Attend, participate in and network at applied neuroscience conferences
•Develop a set of innovative research questions that integrate published, seemingly disparate, research and applies cutting edge neuroimaging techniques. Knowledge (Phase Two):
•Integrate existing knowledge in fields related to the Blue Mind and present/publish reviews.
•Conduct original research on mind – ocean interactions in conjunction with existing research efforts using neuroimaging (e.g., neural response to sound, images, smells) and evolutionary psychology.
•Explore partnerships for novel experiments in the Blue Mind realm (see list of potential questions below).
Communication (Phase Three):
•Share research results and strategies to improve ocean communication campaigns widely through journal publications, film, blogs, conferences, speaking, course curriculum and the Blue Mind network.
•Document and assess the impacts of the Blue Mind findings on ocean conservation programs.
“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” Kate Chopin, The Awakening
“The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.” Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea—whether it is to sail or to watch it— we are going back from whence we came.” President John F. Kennedy1
"Hearing [Songs of the Humpback Whale] was a milestone experience in my musical life. I was thrilled by the haunting beauty of these humpback whale voices, much as I had been when I first heard jazz saxophonists like Charlie Parker. The whales opened my ears to the whole symphony of nature, and expanded my world forever. " Musician Paul Winter2
“People need to feel inspired too, so they will raise their voice.” Carl Safina, 1991 Pew Marine Fellow
“An Adelie penguin exploded out of the water like a cork, crash-landing on a puzzle piece, leaving part of its story written in the snow. I had no words. My tears froze to my cheeks.” John Weller, 2009 Pew Marine Fellow
Issue/challenge statement and project rationale
The ocean is the single biggest visible feature of our planet and is by all measures fundamentally stressed and degraded to the point of failure. Yet our most basic relationship with the ocean is poorly understood. Some ocean leaders have appreciated the role of sentiment in decision-making (e.g., J. Cousteau, S. Earle). But the reasons we have been largely unsuccessful at efforts to maintain biodiversity, natural abundance and ecosystem health may have to do with the traditional disconnect between conservation efforts and emotions3. This may be related to a general uneasiness or aversion many cerebral, rational scientists have when it comes to the role emotions play in persuasion and the conveyance of information. “I realized everything I ever studied as a marine biologist no longer existed...it never ever crossed our minds that something was wrong...you’ve got to wonder how we could have been so stupid," notes Dr. Jeremy Jackson, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The fields of economics, marketing and politics now recognize that emotions rule us, and have advanced recently through applied neuroscience (see links below for examples). We must extend this kind of thinking to ocean conservation. By convening a working group of top marine scientists, communicators and conservationists, neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists, to ask and answer the probing and compelling set of questions posed below, a deeper understanding of the mind – ocean relationship will result in a universally useful set of tools, such as those proposed in the next sections, for educators, advocates, policymakers and scientists engaged in the restoration and protection of the global oceans. The Blue Mind will integrate with the new field of NeuroConservation with lessons from other disciplines where neuroscience and cognitive psychology have been employed, such as music, dance, marketing, economics, health, education, leadership and politics. We’ll then assemble, produce and share a persuasive and fresh story about the human condition and our deep ocean connection with real world relevance for legislators, decision-makers, advocates, economists, city planners, medical professionals and ocean users, such as those described in testimonies below.
Scope of project/activities
This project is conceived in three basic phases.
In the first phase I will focus on building a network of collaborators, including neuroscientists, conservation practitioners, ocean communicators and individuals involved in ocean policy solutions who express interest in the Blue Mind themes. The networks of Pew Marine Fellows, attendees of IMCC and ocean-related associations and cognitive neuroscientists will be tapped to grow the Blue Mind network. I will engage the network during the academic year while immersing myself in the mind – ocean subject matter through an intensive interdisciplinary program at Harvard University’s Mind, Brain and Behavior Initiative as well as a series of meetings, conferences and workshops on emerging fields such as NeuroLeadership, NeuroEconomics and NeuroPolitics. Using this training and the accumulated collective knowledge of the network I will focus on developing a set of questions and answers related to the Blue Mind Network.
In the second phase I will lead these inquiries, utilizing existing and ongoing studies and literature that may not have been focused on the ocean as well as conducting new experiments that utilize neuroimaging (fMRI and SST) and cognitive psychology techniques and methods. While the specific research questions will emerge from network members, some ideas being considered by the Blue Mind team, compiled from dozens of interviews with neuroscientists, ocean scientists, communicators, conservationists and journalists include:
•How can our current knowledge of neural processes related to emotions such as empathy, happiness and inspiration as well as cynicism and greed be applied to marine conservation?
•Are there important lessons for marine conservation from the emerging fields of NeuroMarketing, NeuroLeadership, NeuroEconomics and NeuroPolitics?
•The connection between human health and the ocean is increasingly obvious. How can neuroscience inform this relationship?
•Neurosensory research can provide useful insights for ocean conservation. What are the neuro- responses to ocean sounds, colors, smells, ocean imagery, ocean language and the feel of water?
•How do neuro-responses to ocean stimuli differ from spoken testimony regarding the same questions?
•What parts of the brain are involved in creating these emotions/feelings, what other systems of thought or action do they connect to (e.g., music, meditation, fear, empathy), and how might this inform ocean communication? (See Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks; Mind and Life Institute)
•What are the emotional differences (observed in the brain) in perceptions of the ocean across geographical, socioeconomic and cultural ranges? What responses are the same (i.e., universal)?
•What happens in the brain when someone is shown negative ocean images? How does the way a person values (reacts emotionally to) the ocean affect the way he/she perceives his/her role in changing behavior to protect the ocean (i.e., using less hyper-disposable plastic, choosing to eat seafood sustainably or not at all, not throwing cigarette butts on the ground, etc.)? Is there a different reaction to those topics when we're actually looking at the ocean?
•What could the understanding of the neurological basis for our emotional connection to the ocean mean in terms of advancing its protection? Will we “conserve what we love”, as Baba Dioum says?
•What is it in the natural world, and in particular water, that triggers neurological stimulation within children at an early age and fosters life long appreciation of nature (the ocean) and adult well- being? How can Blue Mind insights and results help train educators and help children develop core competencies?
•How do these mind - ocean inquiries relate to the "biophilia/biophobia hypotheses", or ecopsychology studies that, for instance, show that patients in hospitals get better more quickly when they can see nature outside the window?
•How would ocean conservation campaigns that employ knowledge generated by The Blue Mind Network compare with conventional ocean conservation campaigns in achieving their objectives?
Phase three will focus on communicating specific results of our inquiries, experiments and the accumulated knowledge of the network. This will include but not be limited to an ongoing Blue Mind blog and related book, course curriculum, a short film, a multimedia presentation distributed to network members/conservation practitioners and a Blue Mind conference. Team members will speak publicly about our project at conferences, workshops and public venues during phase three. We will energetically pursue popular media venues where we can share our findings. Phase three will include collaboration with the Harvard Business School and others to develop effective strategies to improve ocean conservation campaigns based on Blue Mind findings.
Note: the work of The Blue Mind Network will continue long beyond the fellowship.
We expect that this project will engage a diverse group of people interested in the ocean. Anticipating the full results of a project of this scope is challenging. However, I expect the answers to the questions posed by the Blue Mind team will be especially useful in:
•contributing to the scientific understanding of how we perceive the ocean;
•generating curriculum for educators to impart ocean awareness (including its finite nature), and leading all students of the ocean to think early on about how they value the ocean and to understand their ability to affect the ocean through everyday choices, regardless of where that student lives;
•informing the strategies of conservation non-profits to help fortify them with the neuroscientific knowledge of the mind – ocean connection they need to compete with messages in the media that often don’t have the best for the ocean in mind;
•offering policy and coastal planning insights/advice;
•providing a compelling, universal yet personal story for water and ocean conservation and communication practitioners to add to their efforts; and;
• before the results of Blue Mind Works are fully turned into ocean conservation strategies, they'll provide the raw materials for artists, from painters to playwrights, who can also persuade ocean users and pique their emotions via visual images and drama.
The following will be made widely available and include:
•compelling new insights into the human relationship with the ocean (new “ocean memes”);
•set of stories related to the findings of Blue Mind Works that extend the reach of ocean communicators in both personal and universal ways;
•accessible, inspiring and readable book on Blue Mind that brings together the themes described in this proposal, as well as some yet to be considered;
•short virally distributed Blue Mind film featuring neuroimagery, and expert insights;
•widely distributed multimedia (PowerPoint) presentation that can be incorporated into existing cean conservation communication efforts including sounds, images and words that evoke a range of common emotional responses and;
•curriculum for a university level course on Neuroconservation with emphasis on Blue Mind themes.
In addition to the Pew Charitable Trusts, we will fund this project by submitting proposals to foundations, sponsors, institutional partners, individuals and through in-kind support. Twenty-five Blue Mind team members contacted to date have expressed enthusiasm and have offered to match 2:1 financial and in-kind support from foundations, pending initiation of the project.
Phase One: March 2010 to May 2011. I will build the Blue Mind network and spend the 2010-11 academic year in residence at Harvard University, acquiring training and learning from related coursework and workshops at Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Behavior Initiative as well as NeuroLeadership training and relevant applied neuroscience conferences and symposia. During this time we will review relevant literature and develop the core Blue Mind questions.
Phase Two: June 2011 to June 2012. During year two the Blue Mind team will publish articles based on the literature reviews and conduct original research into our set of novel Blue Mind questions, involving cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques. Dr. Rebecca Saxe at MIT and others have expressed interest and labs of colleagues at Harvard have ongoing applied neuroscience projects that can accommodate our questions. Original research results will be published during phase two. We’ll continue to build the Blue Mind network.
Phase Three: July 2012 to December 2012. During the third phase of Blue Mind Works we will focus on communicating our results using a variety of media and at a wide range of venues (see anticipated results section). We will continue to publish our team’s research results and to grow the Blue Mind network. It is my full intention that this project will continue well after the three years of Pew support.
“In this field we are merely at the foothills of an enormous mountain range,” said Dr. Eric R. Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia, “and unlike in other areas of science, it is still possible for an individual or small group to make important contributions, without any great expenditure or some enormous lab.”
Marine conservation impact statement
We have some clear ideas about how this project can impact marine and aquatic conservation, as well as the broader conservation community, and believe it has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we communicate our efforts, across our field’s many sub-disciplines. However, over the past several months individuals working on the front lines in our field have described specifically how they would use the Blue Mind results. Everyone expressed enthusiasm, support and the willingness to actively participate in the initiative and most importantly, a keen interest in a summary of our findings to include in their conservation toolboxes as soon as possible.
Celine Cousteau: “I know how I feel when I’m in the ocean. The physical sensations are real and tangible. It’s rejuvenating, healing, calming and energizing at the same time. Blue Mind Works, studying how waters and oceans affect our mind and body in emotional and neurological ways, will be useful in my work communicating about our intricate connection to the pulse of the planet. I believe the results will provide a common understanding that will help us all work towards a collective reconnection with the ocean world.”
Congressman Sam Farr (CA-17): "I support Dr. Nichols and his initiative. I believe it's just this sort of project that provides policymakers in Washington with the tools we need to craft effective ocean policy. The ability to communicate with stakeholders about the 'bridge' connecting ocean conservation with society and culture will help underscore the fundamental importance of a safe and sustainable ocean to people's lives and health."
Enric Sala, Pew Marine Fellow, 2006: “Nichols' project is the most exciting marine conservation and awareness idea. When it comes to finding solutions conservationists tend to be quite rigid, focusing on extant approaches. Sometimes conservation organizations remain surprisingly loyal to initiatives that haven’t proven successful. Nichols' is clearly aware of what's not working—he’s thinking truly interdisciplinarily. Bringing the field of neurobiology and psychology to marine conservation can be a quantum leap with regard to changing people's perception of the ocean and impacts on it. We should use the same marketing techniques used to enhance environmental degradation, not just complain about it."
Warner Chabot, CEO – CA League of Conservation Voters: “J’s work offers a unique blend of cutting edge science, innovative public policy theory, social organizing skills and highly creative communications strategies. His humility and political savvy enables him to build trust among disparate parties. As a result, his work has truly transformative potential.
Fred Keeley, author of California’s Marine Life Management Act, the California Ocean Science Trust Act and co-author of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA): “I want this new Mind & Ocean research in my hand while presenting ocean policy to both legislators and the public. It would put a tangible, scientific handle on something we all know is true: people are emotionally connected to the ocean, people thrive by the ocean, and people are nourished and healed and calmed by the ocean. All of that adds real value to our lives. This could be a game changing piece of research for policy folks.”
Dr. Chris Andrews, Chief of Public Programs, California Academy of Sciences: "As a species we are drawn to the ocean but don't really understand why. The ocean is in trouble but we don't fully understand how. We often say we're willing to help, but frequently fail to take enough action. Our future and the future course of our lonely, fragile planet depends on the actions we take in the next two or three decades. Dr. Nichols is suggesting a radically different way of looking at our relationship with the ocean, its future and therefore ours. We’re anxious to be able to incorporate his findings into our educational programs."
Herbert Bedolfe of the Marisla Foundation and Oceana’s Board of Directors: “Dr. Nichols has conceived a plan to aid the marine environment that is timely and creative. I have been involved in ocean conservation efforts for about fifteen years and have seen how hard it is for people to connect the importance of a healthy ocean to human health, climate issues and economic and social wellbeing. I believe that J. is tapping into something very deep, even Jungian, in electing to work on ocean conservation by integrating the three sectors of mind/brain/education, human development and psychology, and public policy. We can read reports everyday illustrating that the use of logic and science have not been enough to motivate mass action to save marine biodiversity—a new approach is sorely needed. Although I believe that the ocean is a part of humankind's collective unconsciousness, it has never been "unlocked" in order to protect the ocean environment. J. has a great plan to find the combination and help us effectively protect the ocean's critters and habitat.”
Mark Shelley, Executive Director, Sea Studios Foundation: “As a filmmaker who wants to use the power of media to influence people's actions in relation to the environment, I must know as much as possible about how our audiences understand these issues and their roles. We have used behavioral change theory, survey work, and other tools of marketers to increase our effectiveness. The results of J's work would be invaluable in helping us better communicate our messages.”
Kathleeen Frith, Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment: “It’s essential that we understand how to truly help people recognize the importance of the ocean, upon which all life depends. Incorporating social, neurological and communication disciplines will no doubt lead to greater understanding of how conservation efforts can be more effective and lead to a healthier future.”
1 President Kennedy spoke of his deep attraction to the sea in a speech delivered at the America Cup races in Newport, RI in1962.
2 Songs of the Humpback Whale was originally released in 1970 by CRM Records from recordings made by Roger Payne, Frank Watlington and others. The LP was later re-released by Capitol Records published in a flexible format in the National Geographic Society magazine, Volume 155, Number 1, in January 1979.
3 In “One Hundred Questions of Importance to the Conservation of Global Biological Diversity” (Sutherland et al. 2009) questions concerning the human brain, mind, neuroscience and psychology are lacking. Human “well-being costs and benefits”, “needs and preferences” and “wildlife conflict” are mentioned.
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