Written by Nereus Research Associate Lydia Teh,
The call for abstracts in my email inbox announced the IMBeR Future Oceans Open Science Conference in Brest, France. Not knowing what IMBeR stood for and not sure I wanted to look up yet another acronym, curiosity about the conference venue in Brest, which until then I only knew in conjunction with Paris (the pastry) or Litovsk (the treaty), got me to click on the preliminary scientific program to find out more. Then I paid attention. And after returning from the 5-day conference that took place in Brest from 17-21 June, I’m glad I didn’t give in to my initial ignorance.
The theme for the Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR) Conference was ‘Ocean sustainability for the benefit of society: understanding, challenges and solutions’. A few of us from the UBC Nereus team attended the conference and presented recent work on integrating multidisciplinary data and knowledge to answer questions about climate change and societal well-being. Colette presented on scenarios of future high seas governance under climate change; Vicky shared development of an integrated model that links fishing effort with changing productivity in the ocean to project climate change impacts on global fisheries; Tyler discussed ecosystem models and their contribution to variability in fisheries projections under climate change; and I covered the social dimension of sustainable seafood.
Concurrent sessions covered issues spanning the spectrum of natural and social sciences, from biogeochemical changes in the ocean to people’s perception of marine spatial management policies.
From my view, blue management and the fore sighting approach to future planning were popular topics, while sessions that featured ocean governance and sustainability were well attended. Besides the science, there were also points to ponder on the broader scope of our work – keynote speeches by Eddie Allison, Alistair Hobday and Samiya Selim (among others) signaled that the job of today’s scientist goes beyond the desk and rolling out publications. We can, and perhaps should, take a stand on issues and carry that through in our work. We all want our science to inform policy, but how many of us are willing to commit time doing the groundwork necessary to influence policy, such as building trust and partnerships, rather than writing one more paper? In fact, how many of us are fortunate enough to work at institutions where this is encouraged? I found these remarks to be useful reminders of where and how we want our work to make an impact.
Trying to process the week’s worth of shared research, my impressions are: for all the effort we put into building validating and comparing models, the conclusion that they all seem to point to, and the one that really matters, is that the future world will be in worse condition than now. Similarly, for all the effort we put into planning adaption strategies for a plausible future world, uncertainties and rapid rates of change mean that by the time strategies get implemented we might be dealing with an entirely different situation than that which was planned for. However, to redeem the previous two points, it is the process of having planned that makes us better prepared to handle and adapt to change when change is upon us.