Tuesday, 12 April 2011

'MPApps' - help us create a more connected ocean conservation world!

One of our challenges is finding new ways to engage people in helping protect the ocean. Over the past few years we have helped champion new innovations such as Google Earth to engage more people in ocean issues. We are now taking this a stage further and to do this WCPA – Marine has teamed up with the University of Exeter to launch a new initiative based on ‘MPApps’ – applications (Apps) for hand-held devices focussed on mobilising citizens to engage with marine protected areas (MPAs). This cutting-edge
work to explore what is happening and is possible is being led by Andy Jeffrey as part of an MSc in Aquatic Biology and Resource Management in the Department of Biological Sciences for the next 5 months (April – August).

The work will focus on investigating ways that new technologies (such as mobile devices and applications) can best be utilised to help revolutionise marine conservation and the management of MPA's. With mobile devices now offering numerous functions such as messaging, photo and video recording, GPS location/maps, and internet connectivity, there are some exciting possibilities for how this could be applied to benefit the marine community. A key aim of this study is exploring how we can better empower local communities and interested individuals to become ‘ocean guardians’ for their special patches of coast or sea, whilst also hoping to engage many more with the wonders of the ocean and the importance of conserving this precious environment.

The initial plan is to concentrate on mobile 'Apps', that could be made available to the general public, enabling users not only to access information on MPA's, but also provide feedback and in-the-field data from sites that they visit which could be used to help manage the MPA's better. Apps could also focus on education, entertainment or a whole host of other beneficial uses/aspects. We hope the research will start to answer questions of whether such technology can empower individuals to help turn paper parks into effective MPAs, and provide alternative, more mainstream routes to assist with the protection of our oceans. The project is very much open to suggestions and ideas from the community as to what would be the most helpful and useful way to apply these new technologies.

If you, or any colleagues you know, are currently working in this area, or if you have any comments or suggestions relating to this field of research, we would be extremely interested to hear from you. The initial step is to find out how we are using Apps already and what your key needs are to best engage local communities.

To this end we have put together a short survey which we would be very grateful if you could complete – you need no special knowledge of technology or indeed engagement with existing ocean Apps to complete this – it will only take 5 minutes but together you could be helping to revolutionise marine conservation!

To access the survey please click on this survey link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8PPJM9B

If you wish to financially support the actual development of new Apps for MPAs, join the team and be on the cutting edge of what is possible then please contact Dan (danlaffoley@btinternet.com).

The survey will only be open until Tuesday 26th April so please complete in the next few days.

Andy Jeffrey, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Exeter

Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice Chair, IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas & Senior Advisor, Marine Science and Conservation, IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme.