Tricky Trawling: Science Communication and Outreach in Greenland

by ZSL on

MRes graduate, and communication consultant, Naomi Berkowitz recently visited Greenland to bring IOZ research on seafloor habitats closer to students.

Normally when travelling people say 'getting there was the easy part'. Not so with Greenland! Despite its geographical proximity, getting to Nuuk (the capital city of Greenland) is not a simple feat. But like most things that require that little extra effort, the rewards of my journey were exponential.

A view of snowy mountain tops from the window of a plane

I was recently privileged to visit this incredible country on behalf of a team of ZSL research scientists who study the benthos and sustainable fisheries of Western Greenland. 

Educational poster of the impacts of trawling in West GreenlandMy mission was both uniquely simple and complex: communicate marine science to 8th grade Greenlandic students and officially launch our interactive deep-sea trawling video game.

Like its namesake, I encountered a few 'tricky' parts along the way. Not only is the education system vastly different in Greenland than from, say, the UK, but so are the cultural underpinnings behind marine science education as a whole.

Benthic habitats and the notion of biodiversity conservation are about as foreign to most Greenlanders as are forested landscapes!

But in my visit to two schools in Nuuk and one in Sisimiut, it was clear that the desire and curiosity to learn is universal. It also exists beyond language.

 

Photograph of an interaction web made by students
Here, an interaction web is depicted using Greenlandic folklore mythology. The goddess of the sea (Sedna) is connected to all living things, each animal having a specific role to play much like a marine food web.

Along with Lars Poot, a University of Greenland professor and my local Danish translator, I was able to build enthusiasm and awareness for the crucial work Chris Yesson and Mona Furhmann do to assess the impact of deep-sea trawling on Greenland’s benthic ecosystems. Each school visit utilized specially tailored brainstorming sessions, fishing quota games (involving biscuits!), and astounding imagery on VR headsets taken directly from Chris and Mona’s benthic research. The students were thus able to fully engage with an important conservation topic for the very first time.


Photo of students using Virtual Reality headsets in the classroom
It was beautiful to see the awe and wonder on the students’ faces as they learned about life in their own backyard!

In fact, for the three weeks I was in Greenland the expression on my face was much like theirs! I was constantly humbled, thrilled, and grateful for everything I experience during my stay. My deepest appreciation goes out to Lars Poort, all those at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, and of course to Chris and Mona for helping to facilitate such bold and effective forms of scientific outreach.

Photograph of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources building
The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (GINR). The buildings of their main complex blend beautifully into the natural landscape.

I’m overjoyed to be returning in September as we expand our communication for sustainable fishing in Greenland. I cannot wait to continue building our close relationships with local schools along the mutual aim of increasing benthic ecosystem awareness! Stay tuned for updates on Tricky Trawling, skype sessions aboard our research vessel, and much more…

Learn about the science behind Tricky Trawling

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