Global Ocean Science Education for the Human/Ocean System


  • Gail Scowcroft University of Rhode Island


ocean literacy, human ocean system


Most global citizens are not aware of how the state of the ocean and its resources affect their daily lives. They are also not aware of the extent of the services that the ocean provides, which are related to environmental, human health, economic, social, and geo-political factors. The importance of ocean science research in support of these services is critical to society, yet the arena of ocean science and related marine enterprises remain a mystery for a large portion of the global population. The global ocean system can’t be extracted from the Earth’s complex intertwined Earth systems nor can it be separated from human health, social, or cultural systems.

The pressures of a growing human population, increased development and demand on natural resources, and climatic warming necessitate decision making in support of national, regional, and international goals. It is more important than ever for all citizens to be knowledgeable and aware of their relationship with the ocean, how it affects them, and the scientific research that is addressing pressing ocean-related concerns. This is the essence of ocean literacy (OL) - an understanding of the ocean’s influence on people and people’s influence on the ocean. The U.S. ocean science research and education community has worked together for over 25 years to expand and enhance ocean science education efforts. These efforts have included the national OL initiative, a collaborative undertaking of several U.S. organizations and institutions, which developed the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts (OLPFC) for primary and secondary schools.

Recent collaborative efforts by COSEE (Consortium for Ocean Science Exploration and Engagement) and the College of Exploration have striven to move beyond a single sector/single nation approach to ocean education and literacy through the engagement of multiple sectors connected to the human/ocean system, specifically the research, education, business, and policy sectors. This work, initiated in 2015 via the Global Ocean Science Education (GOSE) Workshops, is intended to move the dialog beyond the knowledge requirements of the OLPFC toward an understanding of anthropogenic impacts on the ocean and attitudes toward important ocean-related activities and behaviors. Systems thinking across nations, sectors, and natural systems is critical if the global citizenry is to become ocean literate. In addition, an understanding of the complex relationships in the ocean/human system is imperative in achieving the goals of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Deacde; 2021-2030). The 2019 GOSE Workshop will provide a forum for the international, cross-sector ocean science community to plan for the upcoming Decade and explore connections between ocean and systems literacy.



Author Biography

Gail Scowcroft, University of Rhode Island

Gail Scowcroft, an ocean scientist and education professional, is the Associate Director of the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, a national facility for ocean science research and education. She is the Executive Director of the Consortium for Ocean Science Exploration and Engagement (COSEE), an independent global network of ocean science research and education institutions. Gail served as Director of the National Science Foundation’s Alliance Office for the Climate Change Education Partnership, a network of U.S. climate change education programs. For the first 18 years of her career, Gail conducted ocean science research focused on climate reconstruction and global climate change. For the last 20 years, she has also directed ocean and climate science education programs. Gail is an international leader in ocean and climate science education, lecturing across the globe on related issues. She is currently working with the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to develop international collaborations related to ocean literacy and workforce development for the blue economy. She has also served a four-year term on the U.S. Ocean Research Advisory Panel, the federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice and guidance about ocean related issues.



How to Cite

Scowcroft, G. (2020). Global Ocean Science Education for the Human/Ocean System. Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2019 Corvallis, OR, USA, 63(1). Retrieved from