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“Communicating about Science and the Environment – from the Smiths to Social Media”

NRF-SAIAB holds the annual Smith Memorial Lecture in memory of Professor JLB Smith and his wife, Margaret Mary Smith, to commemorate their legacy of discovery and research in Ichthyology and related fields.

Dr Judy Mann-LangThe 2017 Smith Memorial Lecture was presented by Dr Judy Mann-Lang, Conservation Strategist at the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) in Durban, on Thursday 21 September 2017. The amazing diversity of life in the ocean has always intrigued Judy and led her to a Master’s Degree in Ichthyology. She is passionate about marine conservation and has focused her career on helping people to care for the oceans. She started work with the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) in Durban, South Africa in 1992. While at SAAMBR she has worked as a research scientist in the Oceanographic Research Institute; was the Sea World Director of Education, the uShaka Sea World Director and the Chief Executive Officer of SAAMBR. She is now the Conservation and Communication Strategist of the Association, helping to guide conservation communication and actions. She has recently completed a PhD through the University of Queensland in Australia. Her research investigated the influence of culture on behaviour and environmental learning; in order to enable us to engage more effectively with people about conservation. 


 See this report in Grocotts Mail and You Tube Video of the presentation, introduced by SAIAB MD Dr Angus Paterson


Venda ladies Seaworld Aquarium - photo Judy Mann-LangMann-Lang begins the abstract for her presentation with these provocative statements: ‘Climate change is a myth’, ‘Caring for the environment means that animals are more important than people’.

She continues: Many people are increasingly sceptical about science, especially climate science, while others feel that biodiversity conservation is an indulgence for the rich. Yet we know that a key challenge facing the environmental movement is the need for changes in the lifestyle of humans, as environmental issues can only be addressed through a shift in individual attitudes and behaviour.

Clearly there is room for improvement in our current approaches to communicating about the environment.

Her presentation looked at how environmental communication has evolved over time and explored South African’s attitudes to both science and the environment - from rural fishermen to politicians, from preschool kids to grannies. Mann-Lang then delved into the myriad of communication tools available to address these issues, and looked at the effectiveness of some of them.

Her conclusion and challenge to scientists: "Ultimately, if our children are to inherit a healthier planet, we need to do a much better job of communicating why science and the environment matter."


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