Visitor Engagement at Aquariums, Zoos, and Museums for Conservation Impact

Zoos, aquariums, and museums (ZAMs) are uniquely positioned to help advance conservation. Since our founding in the 1990s, the primary focus of The Ocean Project has been supporting our partner network of hundreds of ZAMs to get involved with effective visitor engagement, from behavior change to conservation policy. All our work is based on a solid foundation of public opinion and market research and continually learning from applying the research and evaluating the outcomes. Please visit our news pages for a variety of case studies on how we have helped support our partners on visitor engagement for conservation.

In Spring 2018, The Ocean Project partnered with three aquariums -- Mystic, Texas State, and Seattle -- to test whether the community can effectively engage the visiting public about science-based fisheries management in a way that raises their awareness, documents their opinions, and enhances their experiences. Overall results were remarkably clear and consistent, and in keeping with the foundational finding from our earlier efforts that ZAM visitors expect, trust and appreciate information about how they can help advance conservation efforts, even when engaging them directly on a policy issue as opposed to a personal behavior (the focus for much of what we had done in the past).

Results from this pilot have been highlighted in the David and Lucile Packard Foundation-supported Heartwired to Love the Ocean project.

As a result of the successful pilot project, during summer 2019 we expanded our efforts with six aquariums and are continuing to grow our visitor engagement support with ZAMs throughout 2019 and 2020. For the latest on advancing visitor engagement and advocacy on at the New England Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, The Florida Aquarium, Texas State Aquarium, and Seattle Aquarium, please check out this recent blog post.

We are working in a variety of ways with other ZAMs in key regions of the country throughout the next two years on science-based fisheries policies and marine sanctuaries/MPAs as well as other issues. Let us know if you'd like to get involved!

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. with Sanctuaries, Monuments, and other "blue parks" and also rallying our global network of organizations to help with protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean; supporting ZAMs and others to get more involved in plastic policy.

With thanks to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, 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. 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), one of the strongest national statutes governing management of marine fisheries. The Ocean Project is now expanding our collaborative conservation policy engagement initiative. The focus is U.S.-based visitor-serving institutions but some of the lessons learned are being applied in other countries.

Please let us know if you would like to get involved or have any suggestions on how we might be able to better support your efforts around visitor and policy engagement for conservation.

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 here to get information on upcoming webinars.

Held (mostly) 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.

Previous and upcoming webinars (click webinar title for link to recording and/or link to PDF of presentation)

  • 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)

    • Conservation engagement opportunities at AZA 2019 include:
      • September 7: Conservation Engagement and Advocacy Skills Boot Camp
      • September 9: Empowering our Youth: Giving Passion a Platform
      • September 11: Becoming True Agents for Change: Mobilizing Our Audiences to Take Meaningful Action for Conservation
      • September 11: Making the Most of Special Conservation Days
  • Webinar #13: The 116th Congress Approaches its “Half Time” (PDF) with Colin Sheldon Assistant Director of Federal Affairs, WCS; Tom Adams, Strategy Advisor, The Ocean Project (October 4, 2019)

Next (first Friday) webinars:

  • November 1 * focus and speakers tbd
  • December 6 * focus and speakers tbd

Sign up here to get on email list for upcoming webinars.

Latest News and Info

To complement the webinar series and provide the latest updates on the conservation policy engagement initiative, we have an ongoing blog series, including posts from some of our key partners who are doing cutting edge work in this space. Like the webinars, part of the purpose of the blogs is to help demystify advocacy and provide ZAMs and our other partners with a better understanding of how your institution can meaningfully engage on issues important to your mission.