The first time Karen snorkelled with her father she was totally blown away. She was in awe of the majesty she saw under the sea on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. It was there her fascination with the ocean first began.
Fast forward to today, Dr Karen Evans is a leading voice and advisor on building ocean literacy in Australia and around the world. She is part of a global team of ocean scientists appointed as expert advisors. They are working together to help drive the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
“Everyone, no matter what they do or where they live, has a connection to the ocean,” Karen says.
“The ocean regulates the weather. It provides food directly from the sea, or by influencing the weather it allows food to grow on land. And it is a sea highway for the transport of goods globally.
“The ocean supports the livelihoods of many people across the globe. Life in the ocean produces oxygen. And the ocean is essential for nurturing biodiversity.”
Leading our Ocean Decade
Launched in 2021, the UN Ocean Decade calls on science, business, industry, government, and communities to come together to harness scientific advances to better understand, and interact with, our ocean.
Karen brings a wealth of experience in delivering ocean research for Australia and our region to this expert advisory role. Her research has focussed on improving marine resource management and fisheries, particularly in relation to threatened, endangered and protected species.
“I’ve been focusing on multi-disciplinary approaches to investigating the connectivity of shared fisheries resources. This research directly helps to sustainably manage local and international fisheries,” Karen says.
“I’ve also been exploring how indicators of biodiversity and ocean processes can help assess the health of the ocean at regional scales.”
Karen has played a major role in the development of assessments like the Second World Ocean Assessment and the 2016 Australian State of the Environment Report.
Ocean (fun) for all
Organisations across the world are taking part in the Ocean Decade. This includes developing programs and activities that seek to better communicate the importance of the ocean, and the role it plays.
“Building acknowledgement and respect for the ocean across all parts of society is a key theme for the Decade’s activities,” Karen says.
“Museums, art galleries, and educational and community groups are getting behind the Ocean Decade. With things like exhibitions or discovery programs for the whole family.
“Apparel companies like Piping Hot Australia are doing their part to build ocean literacy too. They are including scientific messaging on a range of Ocean Decade-inspired clothing.”
In her role, Karen has advised a range of Australian organisations. She is helping them to develop activities the United Nations can officially endorse.
“It’s inspiring to see a whole range of groups getting behind the Ocean Decade,” Karen says.
“I’ve lost count of the number of information sessions I’ve given to people who are passionate in this space and exploring options for action.”
“I’m also working with the Australian National Marine Science Committee. I’m helping them to exchange information about Ocean Decade activities across the country,” she says.
Hot collab for the ocean
Karen first met the team at Piping Hot Australia at an event to raise awareness about the Ocean Decade. Speakers at the event were discussing how various ocean organisations were addressing sustainability.
“I found the work Piping Hot was doing on exploring ways to reduce microfibre shedding super interesting. And developing new biodegradable and ocean-based materials to replace plastics in their garments,” Karen says.
“One thing led to another, and I ended up providing advice on fun-facts about ocean science. These could help improve ocean literacy for people purchasing their products.”
Piping Hot Australia’s activities to build ocean literacy were formally endorsed under the UN Ocean Decade in 2021.
This work is just one example of how Karen is using her science knowledge to influence and grow Ocean Decade-endorsed activities across Australia.
Seas the opportunity
“The Ocean Decade is an important opportunity to raise widespread awareness about our oceans and the role of science,” Karen says.
“The last time we had a decade focussed on an ocean-related topic was in the 1970s. So we really need to seize the opportunity while governments across the world are coming together to discuss the ocean.
“The Ocean Decade is a chance to drive a step change in the way our world sees and values the oceans. And in the way science can contribute to sustainable benefits that we derive from our seas,” she says.