As I have been doing research for my final project for Digital Storytelling class on the future of ocean communication (see the pitch here), I have talked to a number of people for whom protecting the ocean’s future is one of their top priorities. Most strikingly, I have spoken to three students who are hoping to dedicate at least part of their careers to spreading the word about ocean acidification, sea level rise, and other issues the waters that surround us are facing: Alexandra Malloy, a Northeastern journalism student currently blogging about ocean acidification who is originally from Cape Cod; Sophia Fox-Sowell, a student in Northeastern’s Media Innovation Program who recently wrote an article about marine life for a class we are both taking in climate change communication – she’s from California; and Emily Duwan, a student in Northeastern’s Three Seas master’s program who spends her days in Nahant, MA compiling virtual tours of oceanographic landscapes.

These three students will be featured in a video I am putting together about the next generation of aquatic communicators. Though each of their backgrounds, goals, and storytelling tools is different, one common thread I have observed in all three interviews is a sense of connectivity to the ocean. All three of these girls have spent time in locations where the water is a focal point, and so all of them, in some sense, embody the sense of place associated with living near the ocean.

“I’ve always grown up next to the ocean. It’s really weird for me not to be by the water,” said Malloy. “I’ve seen the beaches change, like some years there’ll be no sand on the beach, in other years there’ll be a ton. It’s definitely a very unique community to live in and grow up with and it’s really given me a sense of stewardship for that too.”

Danielle Fino, one of my colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) who I interviewed earlier this week for the same project, expressed a similar sentiment.

“A lot of our staff are from coastal communities,” said Fino, manager of Marketing & Digital Communications at WHOI. “We tend to target coastal communities – they have the greatest awareness because they’re physically next to [the ocean].”

She says one of the greatest challenges is engaging people who might not have as much exposure to the ocean. Aspiring ocean stewards like Malloy – and myself – have a responsibility to convey that sense of place beyond our own experience and to people who may not have the opportunity to spend so much time on the water.

“We’ve just got to have this huge push of trying to bring awareness: there’s this thing called the ocean, it affects you even if you don’t live next to it, and it’s super important,” Fino said. It’s a simple statement, but it captures the essence of what present and future communicators need to get across.