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Research Assistant Nathan Stanley reflects on his experience at Future Oceans2 Open Science Conference

It was a humbling experience to learn from and network with people who have made it their life’s mission to improve human-ocean interactions for a more sustainably balanced future. Moving forward with my work in fisheries governance, I am interested in using the lessons learned from fisheries management in the past to build models that can help guide fisheries management in the future.

OFI Module I Research Assistant Nathan Stanley presents his research findings at IMBeR Open Science Conference in Brest, France, as part of the special session 'Ocean Governance in the face of Change', chaired by co-leads Ratana Chuenpagdee and Barbara Neis.

As a student at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, an opportunity to participate in a scientific conference in France was not something to say no to. The offer came about from my eagerness to accept a job as a research assistant with the Research Module I “Informing Governance Responses in a Changing Ocean” of Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI). I was tasked to develop a ‘taking stock’ background document, based on a historical analysis of the changes in governing principles and policies of the NL fisheries, looking particularly at the alignment between these two aspects of governance. The conference was not only an opportunity for me to present the paper, but it was also my very first scientific conference. While I was excited, I couldn’t help wondering what I would do there, and whether I would enjoy it; my background does not boast much scientific training. Before becoming a law student, I completed a Bachelor of Music (voice and musicology) at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and then studied for a couple of years at the Marine Institute in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). After much discussion with my supervisor, Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, and other peers, I optimistically headed to Brest for the conference.

I was rather nervous about my presentation, and afterwards was concerned that I hadn’t communicated my work effectively. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to receive the ‘honourable mention’ for my presentation. The policy analysis and the legal recounting of modern fisheries history of Newfoundland and Labrador hit the right chord with the audience. My presentation was on the third day of the conference, so I had a lot of time to take in other presentations. Seeing the work of much more seasoned researchers and academics unfold was a privilege. Throughout all the presentations I saw, and all the discussions I attended, I noticed a few common themes.

Firstly, there were consistent discussions of communication. The need for scientists to branch out and speak with members of the communities who would be impacted by their work, or the managers and politicians of different systems who could or should employ their research, was often discussed. At one particular round-table, the notion that there were “language barriers” present between scientists and these groups was acknowledged, and the need for introducing people to act as “knowledge brokers” between scientists, community members, stakeholders, and managers was positively received.

Another common theme was transdisciplinarity. The term was used in the opening keynote of the conference, and was mentioned again and again throughout the event. Most of the time, transdisciplinarity was being discussed in the context of combining knowledge of scientists across different disciplines - social scientists speaking with biologists and fisheries economists, for instance.

As a novice conference attendee, and as someone attending the conference from outside the ocean science community, there were a few things I noticed that people did not agree on quite so readily as they agreed on improving communication and transdisciplinarity. For one, many researchers have worked arduously to develop frameworks and systems of problem-solving that work for them regarding their geographic or ethnographic area of concern (and so they must- fisheries and their management systems, for instance, can be infinitely nuanced and are difficult to compare). There were conflicts, both verbal and in subtext, between the proponents of these individual systems. Much of the time, it seemed as if two people in a debate about which framework or method could be applied to a problem most efficiently often had the same end goals and similar methods in mind. After witnessing this, it seems that communication improvements may not only be necessary between scientists and other interested parties, but amongst scientists themselves.

It was a humbling experience to learn from and network with people who have made it their life’s mission to improve human-ocean interactions for a more sustainably balanced future. Moving forward with my work in fisheries governance, I am interested in using the lessons learned from fisheries management in the past to build models that can help guide fisheries management in the future. This can only be accomplished effectively by drawing on the knowledge of the scientific community. Events like the IMBeR Open Science Conference, especially if discussions of transdisciplinarity continue to develop, are essential for both my future work and the related work of others worldwide.

Written by Nathan Stanley, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.

Nathan worked as a Research Assistant for Ocean Frontier Institute’s Module I ‘Informing Governance Responses in a Changing Ocean’ and has co-authored a 'Taking Stock Dialogue' background paper on ‘Alignment of Policies and Principles: An Examination of Governance in Newfoundland and Labrador's Fisheries'.

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