Science Pick of the Week: UO undergrad is using social media to create more constructive dialogue about ocean conservation
If she had it her way, Ellie Jones would have started campaigning for ocean life 30 years ago. The only problem: she was not born yet.
Jones, a junior marine biology major at the University of Oregon, is the creator and administrator of Everblue, an ocean conservation awareness project. The project is simple: sift through scientific journals and databases to find facts or new discoveries related to ocean ecosystems. Jones along with her diverse team of undergrads, graduate students and professors from across the country translate these findings into tips, which are pushed out through Everblue’s Instagram, Facebook — and as of last week — Twitter.
“Pairing it down to just one or two sentences has definitely been a challenge,” Jones said. “If you’re scrolling through Instagram, nobody is going to take the time to read paragraphs.”
Besides recruiting fellow science majors, Jones gets help from journalism and graphic design majors as well. She said the goal of Everblue is to address climate change-caused problems in the ocean by influencing individual decision making, rather than pushing for large-scale legislation.
“We are just inundated constantly with all this negative news about how we’re destroying everything,” Jones said. “So then I think people really are looking for ways they can help, even if they are small — especially if they are small.”
Everblue posts appear in two forms: research posts and tip posts. A research post presents a marine biology fact or statistic, accompanied by a photo from Everblue’s large database of marine photography. Jones and her colleagues take their photos during various scuba diving and ocean adventures.
A tip post follows a research post in quick succession. Tip posts demonstrate how research post fact could inform individual decision making. For example, a Feb. 8 research post on the Everblue Instagram page cited a study that found plastics are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of ocean debris. The sequential tip post suggested people shop at grocery stores that use compostable produce bags instead of plastic.
“That’s what the goal of our project is: to let people know that they can make a difference, give them ideas, plant the seed of that idea.”
Occasionally Jones and her team will publish what she calls a “hope” post, highlighting a promising aspect of marine conservation. “It’s to just give people that little extra vote of confidence,” she said. “It’s not all gloom and doom. We’re not just hitting our heads against a brick wall.”
Jones forged the framework for Everblue last winter break during a visit to a coffee shop. Walking in with an idea, she walked out four hours later with nine pages of notes detailing how Everblue should function.
“I feel like I am really blessed to be able to have this education that I do,” she said. “So I want to take that and use it to teach other people. And also, scientific data is great but if we don’t do anything with it then it just sits in this big database of ‘the literature.’”
Jones said she loves her undergraduate classwork and acknowledges she must ascend the proverbial scientific ladder. But Jones wants to take action now.
“It’s a lot easier to talk about trees and the environment and the weather change — all that stuff,” Jones said. “But when it’s under the water and out of people’s line of daily thought then it is really easy to lose sight of how [the ocean] affects all of us.
Everblue is partnering with the Oregon Marine Biology Institute Student Association to host a screening of the documentary “Chasing Coral” on Thursday, February 22 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Lease Crutcher Lewis room at the EMU.
Follow Franklin Lewis on Twitter (@flewis_1)