Zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs) are uniquely positioned for conservation action. For 20+ years, The Ocean Project has been helping to advance conservation impact with ZAMs, based on a strong foundation of research that has indicated that their visitors not only expect, but also trust and appreciate information about how they can help in mission-related conservation.

With nearly 200 million visitors on average in the United States, alone, these science-based organizations reach a broad section of society. Furthermore, engaging people during a visit, both onsite and online, can be part of a larger effort; it is not just about individual actions but about collective influence and impact where ZAMs can make a real difference. The Ocean Project connects ZAMs with larger campaigns and movements; and we work with individual or small groups of ZAMs to develop more targeted efforts. For the last several years, we have worked specifically on helping ZAMs take advantage of their unique power in engaging and informing the broader public, and then helping bring public opinion in a science based, apolitical way with leaders including policymakers.

Download the latest resource for our partners:

30×30 Toolkit for Aquariums and Zoos (September 2020)

Most recent webinars: 

Webinar #25/October 2: Advancing Understanding of Effective Conservation Engagement. Special guests included Joy Kubarek of Inform Evaluation and Research, Amy Niedbalski of the St Louis Zoo, and Jackie Ogden of Zoo Advisors who reviewed the development of AZA’s 2020-2030 Social Science Research Agenda, and we discussed its application to opportunities for us all to help engage our audiences and advance conservation in keeping with efforts such as SAFE and 30×30Click here to view the video.

Webinar #24/September 4: Emerging opportunities to advance 30×30. Recording and PDF coming soon! With the Wyss Campaign for Nature and featuring Greg Zimmerman, Senior Fellow and Communications Director. Greg focused on the campaign to conserve 30% of the planet in a natural state by the year 2030 and discussed how zoos and aquariums can get more involved in this national and global campaign to safeguard the natural world upon which we all depend and inspire visitors to take action to conserve lands, waters, and wildlife.

For more on 30×30, please also see Webinars #19 and 20.

See below for all previous webinars and sign up here to receive emails about the webinar series.

Visitor Engagement Guide:

To help engage your visitors on fisheries and related conservation policies, download the Guide to Effectively Engaging the Visiting Public in Fisheries Policy (March 2020).


Collaborative Campaigns 

The following provide a few examples of collaborative campaigns and especially how ZAMs have worked with The Ocean Project to raise visitor awareness, document visitor opinions, and enhance visitor experiences on a variety of issues:

  • Summer 2019 collaboration with six aquariums — New England Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, The Florida Aquarium, Texas State Aquarium, and Seattle Aquarium, with thanks to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. A related pilot is highlighted in the David and Lucile Packard Foundation-supported Heartwired to Love the Ocean project. And the focus is U.S.-based visitor-serving institutions but some of the lessons learned are being applied in other countries. The US Congress is likely to revisit these fisheries and ocean conservation issues in 2020. ZAMs can play a critical role informing the public about the importance of these policies. Please let us know if you would be interested in participating!
  • Collaborated with UN Environment on a pilot campaign for World Oceans Day 2017, to engage visitors at 12 ZAMs across the United States on plastic pollution.
  • Collaborated with 8 SEA LIFE Centers in both coastal and inland locations on a campaign focused on creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This campaign based on a successful pilot from 2016 demonstrating visitor interest in expanding the US network of MPAs

Click here for more on our Innovative Solutions Grants+ program that supported ZAMs on effective ways to engage with their target audiences, especially youth and minorities. Lessons learned have been helping in many ways to advance effective visitor engagement for conservation impact.

Conservation Policy Engagement

Since our founding in the 1990s, The Ocean Project has collaborated with others to support our network of partner ZAMs to get involved on policy issues, both individually and collectively on a variety of issues (climate change and ocean acidification; fisheries; federal (US) appropriations for environmental education (at NOAA and EPA); campaigns for marine protected areas, in the U.S. and protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Ocean conservation is at an important juncture in the U.S., with reauthorization of the nation’s primary law governing management of our fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act), our nation’s principal law governing management of marine fisheries.

In 2017 we launched a new initiative to support ZAMs in getting more involved to effectively inform science-based federal fisheries policy and advance action for healthy sustainable marine ecosystems. This initiative is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

To supplement the webinars (see below) and in-person training programs, like the ‘advocacy boot camp‘ we helped coordinate at the AZA 2019 Conference, there are some great online, web-based trainings for nonprofits. Connect to the latest in the Learn Foundation Law suite of trainings to support your advocacy work, including this free course, “Advocacy & Lobbying: Rules for Public Charity Grantees of Private Foundations.” The Moore Foundation joined the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to launch this online course to help their grantees and other nonprofit organizations better understand the laws governing advocacy and lobbying.

Webinar Series: Making Conservation Happen

The “Making Conservation Happen” webinar series focuses on how to strategically, safely, and cost-effectively get more involved in conservation policy engagement and advocacy. The webinars are recommended for those who interact with guests, community partners, public officials, and supporters.

Sign up hereto get information on upcoming webinars.

Held on the first Friday of each month during the lunch /brunch hour (1pm east coast/10am west coast), these webinars are a great opportunity to host a professional development session with your team. Most are 30-45 minutes.

Previous 2020 Webinars

  • Webinar #23/August 7: Enhancing Effectiveness of Public Engagement. Recording and PDF coming soon! Featuring Heartwired to Love the Ocean. The latest on their research, including results from their recent round of grants and guidance for aquarium and zoo professionals who want to continue to enhance the effectiveness of their public engagement programs and campaigns.Friday June 5 webinar cancelled in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the fight for social justice nationally and globally and we took a brief hiatus for July.
  • Webinar #22/May 22: World Oceans Day 2020: Opportunities to Celebrate our Ocean (PDF of webinar)
  • Webinar #21/May 8: How COVID-19 is Impacting Intentions to Attend Zoos and Aquariums – And What Will Make Visitors Feel Comfortable Visiting Again. Click here for an IMPACTS COVID-19 Webinar Reference Sheet with links to articles on the data discussed in the webinar.  IMPACTS is continually collecting data on intentions to visit cultural entities, the types of organizations that may experience greater demand, what people say will make them feel safe visiting again – and many other metrics. During this presentation, IMPACTS shared timely and pressing data to aid in informing strategic direction to maximize engagement upon reopening. IMPACTS is a global leader in predictive market intelligence and related technologies and informed The Ocean Project’s opinion and market research over many years.
  • Webinar #20/May 1: Protecting 30% of our blue planet by 2030, Part 2: Leading scientists worldwide have determined that we need to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030. Working together we can protect our our blue planet home. The significance and importance 30×30 was featured during Enric Sala’s address at the 2019 AZA Annual Conference. Featured speakers:  Michael Degnan, Deputy Director, Campaign for Nature; Kelly Kryc, Director of Conservation Policy and Leadership, New England Aquarium.  Moderated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor, The Ocean Project.
  • Webinar #19/April 3: Protecting 30% of our blue planet by 2030, Part 1. (Webinar 19 PDF) with Recording coming soon!) Featured speaker: Miriam Goldstein, Director, Ocean Policy, Center for American Progress; Moderated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor, The Ocean Project
  • Webinar #18/March 6: Ensuring science-based fisheries policies, a review of a successful public and policy engagement project, alongside plans under which together we can apply those lessons to support the proposed Forage Fish Conservation Act and a related national campaign you can join to help protect and restore our ocean and featuring Douglas Meyer, Strategic Advisor to The Ocean Project and who has played a key role in strategic communications, including market research analysis, and now working with many of our aquarium and zoo partners as they integrate and evaluate those insights in their own priorities and programs; and Kim McIntyre, Director, Aquarium Conservation Partnership. Moderated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project
  • Webinar #17/February 7: Hollywood has Awards Season and Zoos and Aquariums have Event Season: Party for the Planet and Make Every Day Earth Day and/or World Oceans Day (PDF of Webinar 17 FINAL), with Rob Vernon, Senior Vice President, Communications & Marketing; Katie Wood, Conservation and Biodiversity Manager, Earth Day Network; Jeff Demain, World Oceans Day Manager; moderated by and including Five Minutes Inside the Beltway with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project
  • Webinar #16/January 10, 2020: Engaging & Elevating the Impact of Climate Change by Making 2020 the Super Year of the Ocean (PDF of Webinar 16) with Justin Kenney, Senior Advisor to the U.N. Foundation for Climate, Energy and Environment; with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project

2018-2019 Webinars (title links to recording and also PDF link of presentations provided)

  • Webinar #1: The Policy Arena and Your Untapped Advocacy Potential (PDF) with Andrea Densham, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy, Shedd Aquarium; Matt Mullin, Marine Fish Conservation Network; and with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project (April 13, 2018)
  • Webinar #2: Using Your Existing Resources to Have Your Voice Heard (PDF) with Katie Cubina, Senior Vice President, Mystic Aquarium; Mark Antoniewicz, Director of Communications, Hip Hop Caucus; and with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project (May 4, 2018)
  • Webinar #3: Fishing for Public Engagement: Results of Three Pilot Projects in Public Engagement(PDFwith Kelly Matis and Katie Cubina, Mystic Aquarium; Melanie Baker, Seattle Aquarium; Melanie Kudra, Texas State Aquarium; and with Douglas Meyer, Strategy Advisor for The Ocean Project (June 15, 2018)
  • Webinar #4: Looking Ahead to the new Congress and Opportunities for Zoos, Aquariums, and Museums(PDF) with Jean Flemma, Ocean Defense Initiative; Colin Sheldon, Assistant Director of Federal Affairs, Wildlife Conservation Society; and with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project (December 7, 2018)
  • Webinar #5: No Time to Engage Like the Present(PDFwith Amy Kenney, Executive Director, National Ocean Protection Coalition; Rich Block, CEO, Santa Barbara Zoo and Chair, AZA Government Affairs Committee; and with Tom Adams, Policy Advisor , The Ocean Project (January 11, 2019)
  • Webinar #6: Beyond Congress: Executive Branch Processes that Can Advance Conservation for the Ocean, Fish and Other Wildlife (PDF) with Kris Sarri, President and CEO, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation; Kerston Swartz, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager, Woodland Park Zoo; and coordinated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor for The Ocean Project (Feb 1, 2019)
  • Webinar #7: World Oceans Day 2019: Engaging your visitors in conservation action (PDF) with Samantha Mackiewicz, World Oceans Day Director, The Ocean Project and Baylee Ritter, Program Associate, The Ocean Project (March 1, 2019)
  • Webinar #8: Youth Activism for Conservation: Empowering young people to become ocean champions (PDF) with Rachael Coccia, Director of Youth Initiatives, The Ocean Project; Rachael Bell-Irving, Digital Outreach Coordinator, Online Programs at Ocean Wise; Danni Washington, Co-Founder of Big Blue and You and Co-Founder of Sea Youth Rise Up (April 5, 2019)
  • Webinar #9: AZA Advocacy Day Briefing and Strategic Messaging Tips to Advance Conservation (PDF) with Jennifer Keaton, VP for Congressional Affairs at AZA; Josh Mogerman, National Media Director, Natural Resources Defense Council; and coordinated by Tom Adams, Strategic Advisor for The Ocean Project (May 3, 2019)
  • Webinar #10: Want to bring the visiting public into public policy? Here’s your chance! (PDF) This webinar showcased the results from a recent survey about zoo and aquarium interest in engaging visitors on public policy issues; and presented an opportunity for interested zoos and aquariums to ‘test the waters’ by participating in an emerging campaign based on a successful pilot project. Featured participants from the pilot project sites; coordinated by Douglas Meyer, Strategic Advisor to The Ocean Project (June 14, 2019)
  • Webinar #11: Improving Management & Conservation of Forage Fish (PDF) with Charlotte Runzel, Policy Associate, National Audubon Society and Tom Adams, Strategic Advisor to The Ocean Project  (July 12, 2019)
  • Webinar #12: AZA Conference Engagement Workshop & Panels Preview (PDF) with Stephanie Joseph, Curator of Educator, NY Aquarium/WCS; Rob Vernon, Senior VP, Communications & Marketing; Tom Adams, Strategy Advisor, The Ocean Project (August 2, 2019). AZA 2019 Conference conservation engagement opportunities that The Ocean Project is involved with include: Conservation Engagement and Advocacy Skills Boot Camp – day-long pre-conference workshop; Empowering our Youth: Giving Passion a Platform; Becoming True Agents for Change: Mobilizing Our Audiences to Take Meaningful Action for Conservation; Making the Most of Special Conservation Days
  • Webinar #13/October 4: The 116th Congress Approaches its “Half Time” (PDF) with Colin Sheldon Assistant Director of Federal Affairs, WCS; Tom Adams, Strategy Advisor, The Ocean Project
  • Webinar #14/November 1: Starting Early — The Importance of Cultivating State and Local Officials Early in Their Careers
    • Building relationships with local and state officials, including examples of how other institutions are engaged in this area, and featuring the National Aquarium’s state legislature cultivation program
    • Engagement tactics you can use/some of the techniques you use to cultivate a potential board member, donor, or partner are virtually the same needed for doing so with public officials
    • Featured Speaker: Maggie Ostdahl, National Aquarium’s Conservation Policy Manager, will discuss how their recent reception for state legislators and their families fits into their cultivation program and how these relationships benefit them at the State Capitol, and beyond. Moderated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor, The Ocean Project
  • Webinar #15/December 6, 2019: 2020 Preview: Conservation Engagement and Action Programs, Activities, and Policy Opportunities (PDF)
    Featured Speakers:
    • Jennifer Keaton (Vice President for Legislative Affairs, AZA) will share the Government Affairs Department’s 2020 plans and key events to put on your calendar
    • Kim McIntyre (Aquarium Conservation Partnership Director) will discuss ACP’s ongoing activities and how they will carry over into 2020
    • Bill Mott (Executive Director, The Ocean Project) and team, will discuss The Ocean Project’s three main initiatives for 2020, including update on World Oceans Day, and with Baylee Ritter on youth initiative and Douglas Meyer on visitor engagement for conservation impact.
    • Moderated by Tom Adams, Policy Advisor

Let us know if you have suggestions for upcoming webinars. Send an email to bmott (at) theoceanproject.org