Symposium: Changing the system - a new approach for ocean conservation

With growing complex and systemic challenges facing the ocean, there is an urgent need to increase the scale and effectiveness of approaches to marine conservation. This is compounded by the fact that many of our fundamental systems, patterns and habits, are now unfit for the purpose of enabling a sustainable and just world. Without thinking about ‘the bigger picture’ and including factors, causes and influences outside of the direct ecological system or threat we are tackling, conservation efforts become even more challenging, and often only provide a short-term fix. 

Recent research points to the need for applying systems change approaches to tackle pressing environmental issues. Systems change involves addressing a problem holistically, to determine root causes, as well barriers to, and opportunities for, change. This allows long-term change to be achieved, through the emergence of a new system – for example towards a more sustainable way of doing things for the future.

Thinking systemically about how to tackle a global environmental threat and major conservation challenge – this event will explore the much talked about, much researched and often polarising topic of ocean plastic pollution. We will review, inform, challenge, and inspire a broad, international audience in a new approach to science, practical conservation, and sustainability. 

With a diverse and varied programme of presentations and case studies, this event will include insight from experts and local voices from both the UK and around the world on ocean plastic pollution, its social and ecological impacts, its interaction with other ocean threats, and the solutions being implemented. We will investigate the human values and ‘broken systems’ that have led to this major environmental challenge; and explore the global work underway to address and mitigate it, including emerging systems change approaches and interventions. 

“The world is a complex, interconnected, finite, ecological-social-psychological-economic system. We treat it as if it were not, as it were divisible, separable simple and infinite. Our persistent, intractable, global problems arise directly from this mismatch.” (Donella Meadows, 2000)


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View the programme overview PDF icon here (241.75 KB).

And the full programme with Abstracts and Biographies PDF icon here (765.1 KB).



  • Dr Ruchi Badola, Wildlife Institute of India Team and Ganga Praharis
  • Dr Anna Birney, School of System Change
  • Amado Blanco, Co-founder and COO of Coast 4C
  • Clare Brook, Blue Marine Foundation
  • Tanya Cox, Fauna and Flora International
  • Dr Tridibesh Dey, University of Exeter
  • Dr Sonia Dias, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)
  • Ismael Essome, Madiba & Nature
  • Dr Nicole Esteban, Swansea University, United Kingdom
  • Helen Ford, Operation Wallacea and University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Azul
  • Gemma Harper, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)
  • Lisa Anne Hamilton, Attorney and Regulatory Consultant
  • Shauna Jordan, Zoological Society of London
  • Shauna Mahajan, WWF
  • Karen McVeigh, The Guardian
  • Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez PhD (c), University of the Sunshine Coast and Galapagos Science Center, Ecuador
  • Simon Reddy, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Swati Singh Sambyal, UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme) India Country Office
  • Anna Sanchez-Vidal, University of Barcelona, Spain
  • James Smith, International Marine Environment, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, United Kingdom
  • Professor Richard Stafford, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
  • James Wakibia, Eco-Rethink Organization
  • Professor Jason Weeks, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

Rapid Research Spotlight Films

  • Dr Gawsia Wahidunnessa Chowdhury, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Alasdair Davies, Arribada Initiative and Dr Emily Duncan, University of Exeter
  • Sabine Pahl, University of Vienna, Austria and GCRF Blue Communitie
  • Darcy Philpott, Ascension Island Conservation and Fisheries, Ascension Island Government

This symposium is being lead by Fiona Llewellyn, Senior Marine Project Manager and Surshti Patel, Technical Specialist - both within the Marine Conservation team at ZSL.


Further Information

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