Communicating Climate Change

Many AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums receive grant funding to work together to find effective ways to help visitors understand how climate change impacts wildlife and empower them to make informed choices and engage in sustainable practices.

Climate Interpretation Coalition

This coalition, which evolved from the Aquariums and Climate Coalition, supports the growing numbers of practitioners at aquariums, zoos, science centers, national parks, and other informal science education institutions committed to helping their visitors understand the impact of climate change on the planet, especially our oceans. Through a generous grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the coalition developed the Climate Interpreter website, which features key climate change science and communication resources, distributes materials developed by AZA member institutions to train interpreters, and showcases efforts underway at partner institutions. The coalition supports regional workshops and hosts periodic webinars that feature well-known climate change scientists, communicators, and public opinion researchers, paired with colleagues who are putting the latest research into practice. The coalition also works collaboratively with like-minded groups, including the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network and the Place-Based Climate Change Education Partnership, led by Colorado State University and involving the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Conservation Association.  Visit www.climateinterpreter.org to register and get involved.

The National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI)

The New England Aquarium, in partnership with the AZA, FrameWorks Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium in Baltimore, New Knowledge Organization, Penn State University and Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry received  National Science Foundation (NSF) suport to continue building the NNOCCI project as part of the Climate Change Education Partnership program. The overall goal of the NNOCCI project is to build a national network of informal science interpreters who are devoted to increasing effective education about climate change that is informed by current ocean and climate science, and by evidence-based communications strategies and visitor research.

Participants in the NNOCCI project include professional interpreters and educators that are selected, by application, for year-long facilitated learning groups, called Study Circles. Each Study Circle includes pairs of colleagues from ten informal science education centers and a pair of early-career ocean scientists (usually Ph.D. students in at least their third year). Each group meets in-person three times over about six months as well as meeting by conference call, webinar and on a dedicated website to share assignments and reflections. Following the curriculum-based learning phase, participants continue participating in project evaluation activities over another six months or so. All participants are invited and encouraged to join with the larger network of alumni to share successes and challenges related to lessons learned through the program. Study Circle learning content includes selected topics in ocean and climate change science and components of a research-based approach to communication called Strategic Framing. Anyone may access an introduction to the program content by reviewing the eWorkshop called Changing the Conversation on Climate and Ocean Change.

Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CliZEN)

The CliZEN project is a network of zoos and aquariums, in partnership with climate change domain scientists, learning scientists, conservation psychologists, and other stakeholders that received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate and implement strategies to foster changes in public attitudes, understandings, and behavior surrounding climate change. The overarching purpose of the CLiZEN project is to develop a new approach to climate change education that connects zoo visitors to animals currently endangered by climate change, leveraging affective appeal of charismatic animals to leverage behaviors that mitigate climate change.

The partnership brings together a strong multidisciplinary team led by the Chicago Zoological Society of Brookfield, IL, including a consortium of ten zoos, which include the Columbus Zoo, Como Zoo & Conservatory, Indianapolis Zoo, Louisville Zoological Garden, Oregon Zoo, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Toledo Zoological Gardens, and Woodland Park Zoo as well as organizations such as the AZA, Polar Bears International, Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.

Audience survey results have been done in partnership with five aquariums in North America, including Shedd Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Aquarium on the Bay, National Aquarium, and New England Aquarium as well as eight Latin American partner zoos belonging to the Latin America Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Learn more about this project and download the eBook, "Climate Change Education: A Primer for Zoos and Aquariums".

Northwest Zoo & Aquarium Alliance

The Northwest Zoo & Aquarium Alliance is a consortium of six zoos and aquariums from Washington and Oregon who work together to identify and implement effective regional conservation actions through ecosystem, green practices, and citizen conservation. The Alliance actively focuses on climate change messaging, volunteer training, and interpretive experiences that are specific to their Pacific Northwest Visitors. Surveys have focused on visitor awareness of threats posed by climate change and its impacts on local wildlife, willingness to take action, perceptions of zoo and aquarium roles in recommending specific actions or behaviors, and reactions to specific messaging. Results help members of the Alliance understand visitor knowledge gaps and what resonates most strongly with Northwest zoo/aquarium visitors when it comes to climate change and its impacts on wildlife. More information is available by contacting Kerry Carlin Morgan (committee chair) or Kathryn Owen (project evaluator).  


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