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Focus Groups

Lunchtime workshops and focus groups will be held at the Waterfront Hotel Kuching from 1:15 - 14:45 every day from 25 June to 28 June 2018. Lunchtime workshops are free to attend, but there is limited capacity. Lunchtime Focus groups are open to all delegates, unless designated "by invitation only." Focus groups that require pre-registration are marked "pre-registration is required." Lunchtime focus groups are free to attend, but there is a limited capacity.

Accepted Focus Groups

Below is a list of the accepted Focus Groups for IMCC5. More details on specific locations, times, dates, pre-registration, and capacity will be shared shortly so stay tuned for updates!


Title: Determining Bycatch Susceptibility of Finfish and Invertebrates

Organizer(s): Dr. Sara McDonald, Dr. Robin Pelc, Ms. Wendy Norden

Catch of non-target marine species in fisheries (bycatch) can negatively affect species populations and diminish the health of marine ecosystems. Therefore, fisheries must minimize, mitigate and manage fisheries bycatch, among other factors, to achieve a positive sustainability rating by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program (SFW). Unfortunately, information about bycatch in many fisheries worldwide is unknown. When bycatch is unknown, the SFW Standard for Fisheries uses tables that generically score the susceptibility of different species assemblages to bycatch in different gears, called Unknown Bycatch Matrices (UBMs). The current UBMs for finfish, forage fish, invertebrates, and biogenic habitats are based on studies from fisheries operating in Canadian and US waters. SFW is updating the UBMs to coincide with our standard revision process, which occurs every four years to reflect the current scientific thinking around sustainability. We wish to host a focus group at the IMCC to elicit expert opinion regarding bycatch susceptibility of the assemblages mentioned above. We plan to conduct this elicitation in two phases. Phase one will be a web survey of experts to obtain feedback of strawman groupings within each assemblage. Phase two will be the in-person Focus Group to determine bycatch susceptibility of each assemblage grouping and the certainty around each susceptibility score. Outputs include revisions to the SFW Standard for Fisheries and a peer-reviewed publication. Anticipated meeting time is two hours in a facilitated discussion with possible breakout groups.


Title: Assessing Best Practices Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-based Leaders and Communities

Organizer(s): Dr. Jame Schaefer, Dr. David Johns

SCB members are invited to discuss the Proposed Best Practice Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-Based Leaders and Communities prepared by and for all members to consider when planning and implementing conservation research and practice projects. Built upon the 2016 Best Practices Survey, a forum at IMCC4, a symposium and workshop at ICCB 2017, and several iterations, the proposed guidelines are divided into five sections--planning the project, initiating contact with the faith leader and community, implementing the project, closing it, and follow-up. Each section contains several guidelines followed by annotations submitted by SCB members sharing the importance the guideline has had in their particular research or practice project. To show their willingness to consult with other SCB members on their experiences in the field, contributors of annotations included their contact information.

The Best Practices Project is an effort of the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group to facilitate SCB members' interacting with faith-based leaders and communities. As research has shown, approximately 84% of the people in the world identify with an organized, traditional, indigenous, or folk "religion" who may be helpful in some way in achieving conservation biology goals.        


Title: Setting the scene for a global reef conservation and innovation challenge

Organizer(s): Dr. Petra Lundgren, Mrs. Theresa Fyffe, Dr. Alex Dehgan, Dr. Britta Schaffelke, Dr. Line Bay, Dr. Kenneth Anthony, Mr. Tom Moore, Dr. TaliVardi, Ms. Jennifer Koss, Dr. Jennifer Moore

With the world locked in to a trajectory of climate change, global mitigation efforts must go hand in hand with actions to preserve and restore resilience of our most vulnerable ecosystems. In response to two years of mass coral bleaching and devastating impacts of tropical storms, Australia’s lead marine research, and management institutions joined forces behind a comprehensive proposal to deliver a 10 year, multi-institutional program focused on reef restoration and adaptation. In line with this bold ambition, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has announced a $5millon Coral Reef Innovation Facility to incubate and accelerate solutions for coral reef management.  These efforts are closely aligned with the core goals of the newly formed Coral Restoration Consortium, led by NOAA to scale-up and expand restoration work globally.  This focus group builds on these initiatives and the outcomes of two associated symposia and invites Congress delegates to work with an expert panel to identify global conservation and innovation challenges to restore and enhance the resilience of reefs to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Challenges will be focused on issues of scalability, the definition and subsequent restoration of functionality, adaptability and sustainability in a changing environment, and how to create exponential conservation outcomes through innovation and re-thinking current practice. The focus group will be facilitated by Dr Alex Dehgan from of Conservation X Labs with a mission to harness exponential technologies, open innovation, and entrepreneurship to dramatically improve the efficacy, cost, speed, scale and sustainability of conservation efforts.


Title: Overcoming ethical challenges in marine conservation communication

Organizer(s): Mr. Md. Kutub Uddin

Communications and Public Relations are getting rapidly increasing attention and allocation of resources within marine conservation organizations. But Mainstream Media (MSM) is struggling with either huge lack of institutional capacity or editorial priority to cover related affairs as part of regular news agenda. In many cases, high resource needs to operate in remote marine areas and the novelty of the subjects to the newsroom are related to this scenario.

This dynamic is making way for ‘embedded’ journalism covering conservation efforts without clearly laid-out ethical safeguards on both sides. I’ve observed many such cases in Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, and the USA, where MSM is being engaged to disseminate contents while being directly or indirectly guided and sponsored by the subjects, that is nature conservation and conservation groups, but this kind of communication and PR contents are not the replacement for objective journalism. This practice consequently deprives the nature conservation of objective reporting and critical coverage which are cornerstones for transparency, accountability and public trust. A strong, responsive and dynamic ethical regime is imperative to address this challenge.

The Focus Group is designed to gather information about ethical challenges faced in marine conservation communication, identify key values and ethics, and prepare a draft for an ethical guideline. Before the conference, the host and other contributors will prepare a working-paper and distribute among the registered participants for their feedback and inputs.


Title: Citizen Science for science: charting a path forward for collaborative efforts

Organizer(s): Dr. Christine Ward-Paige, Dr. John Cigliano

The number of scientists and organizations leading marine citizen science projects has increased in recent years. These projects require various types of people – fishers, divers, tourists, captains, etc. – to participate. For many would-be-participants, the request is often similar, if not the same, as previous requests for data, observations, opinions, etc. from other citizen science programs. Thus, well-intentioned participants are often redundantly reporting the same information to multiple projects, and some have questioned why the leaders in the field cannot find a way to collaborate? In this focus group, we aim to synthesize the field of marine citizen science, looking for broad-scale trends of similarities in the way these data are collected, analyzed and treated, including outcomes. As well, we will be looking for themes that are unique. We will do this by bringing together researchers and practitioners who utilize citizen science or who are interested in developing citizen science programs, and citizen scientists.  Following from this exercise, the goal will be to develop a path forward that could increase collaborative efforts among citizen science organizations that would reduce participant dilution and fatigue and increase overall contributor efficiencies and impact.


Title: How does scientific research ‘impact’ on-the-ground decisions? Developing a typology, model, and common language for mainstream conservation science

Organizer(s): Dr. Clare Fieseler, Dr. John Cigliano, Mr. Matt Tietbohl

Conservation scientists have stated genuine interest in conducting impactful research that is useful to conservation interventions and decisions. This begs the question: what qualifies as ‘impactful’ research? In the conservation literature, there is little generalizable evidence or  common vision. Implementing research with a clear pathway from knowledge production to knowledge use appears, at the moment, more about luck than method.  This day-long focus group answers a call-to-action put forth by an IMCC4 symposia and related publication. The article challenged conservation scientists to refine a proposed ‘typology’ of knowledge impact, preliminarily developed from coral reef cases. The long-term objective is to develop  a common way to talk about, describe, and assess the impact of research in ways that are useful to mainstream conservation science and practice. Initial work will occur in this session. First, we will review theories and concepts developed by social science fields that are relevant to understanding knowledge production, broadly. These include co-production, information usability models, usable science, and actionable knowledge. Second, we will synthesize marine conservation cases to refine the existing rough typology. Third, we will develop research questions that the field can use to validate or contest the typology. Lastly, participants will discuss adapting information usability models to more deeply envision how, why, and under what generalizable terms conservation knowledge is used by decision makers.  The organizers expect a core group of invited scholars (~10) and openly welcomes interested practitioners (~10). All participants will contribute to a peer-reviewed manuscript that will report on the group’s findings.


Title: Prioritising marine conservation in the South Asia region

Organizer(s): Dr. Naveen Namboothri, Dr. Vardhan Patankar, Dr. Vineeta Hoon

South Asia (SA) covers 3.4% of the world’s land area and more than 25% of the world’s population is packed into the region, making it one of the most densely populous regions in the world with consequent pressures on natural resources. Five countries in SA viz. Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a maritime boundary where 7-8 million people who are directly dependent on fisheries as a source of livelihood. SA also houses the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem (the Sunderbans), contributes to about 7% of the global mangrove and coral reef cover and support marine ecosystems and populations that are of global significance and conservation value.

Despite the huge economic, social and ecological values of these ecosystems, the SA region has always received scant attention at a global scale. Even within the region, the coastal and marine systems are low in terms of conservation priority. Local capacities for conservation, scientific and technological support, funding sources and government interests are generally lacking. As a result, these systems and the people dependent on them are in an extremely vulnerable state.

The idea of the proposed workshop is to bring together various government and non-government institutions, organisations and individuals from SA to brainstorm and:

  • build a consortium of partners working on coastal and marine conservation issues
  • identify shared, as well as specific, issues and challenges
  • identify opportunities to complement each other’s efforts
  • develop a framework and strategy for regional collaboration


Title: Increasing effective partial protection approaches for tropical marine conservation

Organizer(s): Dr. Dominic Andradi-Brown, Ms. Estradivari Estradivari, Dr. David Gill, Dr. Nils Krueck, Dr. Helen Fox

Establishing effective marine protected areas (MPAs) is a major goal of many marine conservation programs, with the CBD Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 committing governments to ‘effectively and equitably’ manage 10% of global marine and coastal areas in MPAs by 2020. While many tropical marine conservationists pursue no-take marine protection, in areas with large reef-dependent communities, extensive no-take zones are often incompatible with equitable management. Therefore, increasingly conservationists are implementing spatial and temporal partial protection, with dual aims of conserving reef biodiversity while allowing sustainable extractive fisheries. Approaches can include spatial gear restrictions, periodic harvest closures, and increased local ownership and management rights. However, the effectiveness of partial protection is still untested in many locations, with variable results depending on whether evaluation is framed around human livelihood or biodiversity gains. For partial protection to contribute ‘effectively and equitably' to global coral reef management, a holistic view is required, bringing together an understanding of maintaining reef biodiversity and crucial ecosystem functions, while allowing extractive human uses. This focus group brings together conservationists implementing partial protection approaches from a range of conservation organizations. Participants will discuss and critically evaluate encountered successes and failures for both human livelihoods and the ability of the protection to support long-term reef resilience. The focus group will aim to contribute to a new evidence base for the effectiveness of partial protection approaches.


Title: How to live transdisciplinary marine science successfully

Organizer(s): Dr. Jörn Schmidt, Dr. Enno Prigge, Mrs. Wiebke Müller-Lupp

Balancing conservation with sustainable development to maximize human well-being requires a holistic understanding of social-ecological systems. The basis for this understanding are scientific and local knowledge combined in a transdisciplinary approach of co-design and co-production to derive a robust understanding of trade-offs between different ecological, economic, social, cultural and institutional objectives.

The goal of the Focus Group Session is to work on challenges of inter- and transdisciplinary research and practical ways of addressing these. These challenges involve the co-design of research questions and co-production of knowledge, as well as exploring tools and how to develop them to specifically evaluate coupled social-ecological systems. Who should be involved when in the process of defining questions, doing the research and finally implementing solutions? What are key factors for a successful stakeholder dialog and the process of co-design and co-production? When are we ready for transdisciplinarity?

The outcome of the session should be a short and concise session report with best practices and case studies. This 240-minute session (ca. 30 participants) consists of a set of 3-5 impulse presentations (max. 10 minutes each, including interactive discussion during the presentation), highlighting different aspects of transdisciplinary research and the development of tools. In addition, we specifically invite the presentation of case studies, highlighting challenges and solutions (max. 4 minutes) in the session. Key questions will be addressed using a World Café format and a final plenary discussion.


Title: Coastal and Marine Climate Adaptation: Methods to better connect climate information to conservation and management contexts

Organizer(s): Ms. Adrienne Antoine, Ms. Chelsea Combest-Friedman

Overview: Climate variability and change is a growing concern for many decision makers working to protect and conserve coastal and marine environments. Marine and coastal resource managers are challenged to determine how best to capitalize on available climate knowledge and information to improve planning and management, particularly when climate is only one of many stressors.

This session will facilitate conversation around the use of participatory and process approaches in climate adaptation. The goals of the session are to identify 1) a set of techniques for developing effective partnerships, 2) approaches to build mutual understanding or ‘co-produce knowledge’ to better align climate-related science and information with decision maker’s needs, and 3) tools and resources for the translation and use of climate information at applicable scales for actionable marine management. About 30 participants are expected from various scientific and management backgrounds. 

Session Format: This will be a two hour focus group. The first hour will include highlights from several NOAA and NOAA-funded programs focused on building capacity nationally and internationally for the communication and use of climate information in coastal and marine conservation and management. During the second hour, facilitators will lead a conversation where participants can respond to a set of guided questions and share their experiences and key insights. Note takers will capture ideas and comments to develop a consolidated and refined output of key points, which could be used to produce a white paper.


Title: Scale and feasibility of novel interventions conservation and management of coral reefs under climate change

Organizer(s): Dr. Line Bay, Dr. Kenneth Anthony, Mr. Tom Moore, Dr. Margaret Miller, Dr. Petra Lundgren, Dr. Amelia Wenger

This focus group will produce a white paper and research article on cost and benefits of target novel interventions for the conservation and management of coral reefs. It will build on the symposia “Novel approaches to the conservation and management of coral reefs” and “Coral reef conservation in a rapidly changing world: traditional strategies and new paradigms.” It will explore four key areas: 1.) Nursery rearing of corals for restoration. 2.) Promoting resistance to environmental stress and pest and disease management under climate change. 3.) Building political and social capital for emerging technologies? 4.) Fostering enabling conditions for conservation implementation success

The workshop will run over two or three days (pending funding and availability) and consist of interspersed sessions of breakout group work and feedback from the broader group. Four mentors, each a specialist in economics, communication, natural resource management and/or policy will engage with the groups individually and at feedback sessions as the work progresses. The groups will brainstorm research, development and innovation in their key areas. They will then systematically evaluate the benefits, cost, risks and scale for each proposed approach. At the end of the event the groups will deliver a filmed presentation, a dot-point summary of major findings and a written contribution towards the focus group goal (i.e., white paper, publication). They will also deliver presentation to the broader group (including the panel of mentors) and potentially to the general public through the presentation and recording of a webinar.


Title: Mapping Priority Areas for Marine Conservation

Organizer(s): Dr. John Cigliano, Prof. David Johns, Prof. Chris Parsons

Research has shown that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and especially no-take and adequately staffed and funded MPAs, work to safeguard and recover marine species and ecosystems. Many marine scientists have argued that at least 30 per cent of the global ocean needs to be in such reserves, including both high seas and national waters. To be effective, however, it must be the right 30 percent, representing all ecosystems in all biogeographic regions, and taking into account special elements and foreseeable anthropogenic impacts. Identifying that 30 per cent or more is an important initial step in putting MPAs in place. Conservation resources are limited and the forces diminishing ocean life and health are great. This focus group will bring together experts at the conference, and others by electronic means as possible, to create and begin to carry out a strategy for identifying MPA locations and connectivity. Prior to the focus group the organizers will bring together existing data on, e.g. EBSA’s (ecologically or biologically significant marine areas), and provide this information to prospective attendees as well as an agenda for the focus group. The focus group will be open to conference attendees, as well as invited experts from every marine region.  


Title: Bridging the gap of local scientific and management needs in marine biodiversity

Organizer(s): Mr. Chai Ming Lau, Mr. Julian Hyde, Mr. Alvin Chelliah

Making Marine Science Matters is to bridge the gap between differing needs of science and management of marine resources. Often this gap causes impractical solutions which lead to unsuccessful conservation efforts. Hence, we are proposing a focus group to discuss on where we draw the line between management priorities and scientific curiosity. This is so that we can manage marine resources effectively without compromising ecological understanding while simultaneously conducting researches that are of local management priorities. Our goal is to explore the best possible ways to incorporate limited localised scientific knowledge and data into local level management to address marine conservation issues at a specific site. Despite having abundant studies of coral reefs in various topics from around the world that addressed some conservation issues, there is no one model that fits all. Most of the 71 important questions for the conservation of marine biodiversity will not only be addressed but can be applied into management strategy as well. We expect to publish an advocacy report that draws upon recommendations to how to prioritise localised research that provide value to practical management solutions in which will assist us in applying these recommendations at our project sites. We are proposing a one and a half hour town hall forum format with Reef Check Malaysia being the moderator. We expect 20 participants from various background including active conservationists, academic researchers from biologists to social scientists, marine resource managers and various stakeholders. 


Title: From science to evidence – innovative uses of biodiversity indicators for effective marine policy and conservation

Organizer(s): Dr. Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Dr. Ian Mitchell, Dr. Saskia Otto

In this focus group we will examine and synthesise emergent themes around using biodiversity indicators for applied marine policy and conservation highlighted in the preceding symposium of the same title. The key objective of the focus group will be to synthesise the state of the art, agree best practices, discuss lessons learned from failures, and articulate a suite of solutions to common challenges faced in the application of biodiversity indicators to marine policy and conservation. We will end by discussing next steps in the field with the aim of addressing our overarching discussion question of ‘How can we move forward with biodiversity indicator use in marine policy and conservation?’.

A particular challenge of this rapidly developing applied field is that much of the work takes place outside of academia, with publication in the scientific literature occurring later as time or funding allows. Additionally, there is a paucity of non-western examples of biodiversity indicator application in the literature, which is due to accessibility challenges. IMCC provides a unique opportunity to collaborate on this subject with workers in both academia and management agencies and from both western and eastern regions of the globe. We therefore intend to produce a scientific paper from the symposia and focus group discussions; ideally the paper outline will be drafted by the end of the focus group. We anticipate that such a paper will have wide-ranging relevance and stress that participation from workers in all geographic regions is particularly welcome.


Title: Indicators of climate change vulnerability: practical measures from conservation physiology for monitoring and management

Organizer(s): Ms. Rachel Skubel, Dr. Jodie Rummer, Dr. Bjorn Illing

As the impacts of climate change in marine ecosystems become more frequent and severe, there is a growing need for resource managers and users to monitor ongoing impacts and plan for change. Climate change can lead to spatial shifts of target fishery species and/or increase stress on local populations. In turn, a socio-economic system including fishers, resource managers, distributors, and other stakeholders may need to adapt to sustain their activities in this changing environment.

There is a growing body of climate vulnerability assessments that take a coarse scale ‘triage’ approach, as well as more focused studies that experimentally assess response to climate stressors. The wide range of methodologies and indicators employed across these assessments and studies presents a challenge in terms of finding common ground and interoperability. Here, we propose a symposium to present and discuss physiological and ecological indicators of vulnerability to climate change in marine species and populations and practical pathways to implement these indicators in management and monitoring. 

 Talks are solicited which address both (1) traits or results indicating vulnerability (e.g. physiological, habitat use, life history, etc.), and (2) how these findings/methods can be used pragmatically in an assessment context to inform management decisions/stakeholder groups. As a product from this session, symposium participants will have the opportunity to participate in a synthesis paper. This paper will address indicators across the continuums of data-poor to data-rich (accessibility and historical monitoring or study of a species/population) and resource-poor to resource-rich (human, financial, and/or institutional capacity for assessment).