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Connecting the Drops

Surfers and kayakers socializing with the ocean; courtesy D. Reineman

In winter quarter, the Stanford Coastal Society (TCS) created a new seminar series, "The Social Ocean", to highlight the human activities that affect the ocean, explicitly focusing on the social – rather than natural - dimensions of ocean management. “The overarching goal of the class was to show that to manage and conserve nature, we have to understand people. These dots aren’t connected in most ocean science classes. Our focus on the social science led to our title: The Social Ocean,” explained organizer Dan Reineman (PhD 2nd).

Sponsored by the Center for Ocean Solutions (COS), the series featured lectures by several COS Early Career Fellows. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to expose the student community to COS and the research they do, much of which is highly applicable to the goal of the series,” said Dan. Other speakers came from academia, local government, environmental groups, and even a political action committee. Seminar attendees were equally diverse, including undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and other members of the Stanford community from a wide range of programs, backgrounds, and interests.

TCS co-president Aaron Strong (PhD 1st), concluded, “The seminar ended on a striking note: students introduced ocean problems that hadn't come up yet in class, such as the loss of seagrass beds, plastics in the oceans, and international fishing enforcement issues, and proposed practicable, interesting and creative solutions. I left the last day of presentations thinking, ‘This is what people who care about the oceans think about and how they approach problems.’"

Plans for next year’s seminar series are already underway. "Capturing and building on that energy and creativity is the primary mission for next year's seminar, which will dive deeper into integrating management, scientific data collection, and communication in an often dynamic ocean," Aaron predicted.