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NOAA Environmental Leadership Seminar Series: Past Presentations

10 Ocean Prophecies

by Katie Poser on 2021-03-12T13:12:00-05:00 | 0 Comments

Slides: Ocean Prophecies_JasonLink.pdf

Date: March 9, 2021

Speaker: Jason Link, PhD, Senior Scientist for Ecosystems, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service

Abstract: Society has always needed, reluctantly tolerated, and ultimately had a place for those who remind them of inconvenient facts, point out that the status quo isn’t quite working or will soon stop working, challenge the inertia that is resistant to obviously needed change, and predict likely future conditions to drive home the prior three considerations.  Today we mostly call those individuals “scientists” and they are still very much needed.  Yet the perils multiply when scientists themselves become so entrenched within their various systems, bureaucracies and operations that they too become resistant to such “prophetic” nudges. By gently highlighting some predictions extended to their probable impacts, as well as how we can mitigate them, I seek to combat this danger to us as a scientific community.

In case you may have missed it, an observation very relevant to NOAA is that the world’s oceans are experiencing unprecedented pressures and challenges, from climate change to excessive resource use to fundamental shifts in major marine ecosystem processes to a host of other perturbations, often beyond anything we have ever observed before. The implications of these impacts for ocean-dependent economies, human well-being, the ocean ecosystem itself, and frankly the entire planet, are not trivial. Here I want to call attention to some of these issues with example forecasts of major marine ecosystem changes, that if left unaddressed will become problematic at ever-increasing scales.

Coupling those two observations -  i.e., the need for a “prophetic” message and the challenges facing marine ecosystems - here I issue a challenge to us as a marine science organization, a call to action of sorts.  I present this call to action by briefly noting 10 ocean prophecies.  You’ll have to listen in to hear what those “prophecies” or predictions entail.  But to tease how might they inform us and how we might address the issues they raise, some common threads among these “prophecies” include the need to: better communicate maintainable urgency; stop arguing amongst ourselves over trivial, 4th significant-digits decimal point false precision minutia; be even more organizationally flexible, less siloed, less program-oriented, and more outcome focused; incorporate the science of decision-making under uncertainty in all our decision-making protocols; recognize and leverage the value of tradeoffs; and focus on assertively presenting actionable solutions.  Though there is always a warning in a “prophetic” message, there is also always hope; it is the latter upon which I will accentuate.

About the Speaker: Jason Link is Senior Scientist for Ecosystem-based Management for the National Marine Fisheries Service. Dr. Link earned his B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Central Michigan University. He then received his Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University. He began his career with NOAA NMFS at the Pascagoula Lab before moving to the Woods Hole Lab.

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