Saving the world… with my iPhone?

No, seriously

Is it possible to make a claim that your iPhone application can help to save the world?  In this one case, I think it might be justified.  Honestly, I never thought I would be the type of person to do a write up on the latest “cool app” for the iPhone.  That all quickly changed with the new year’s eve release of “Seafood Guide” for the iPhone.  Seafood Guide is a product of Seafood Watch.  According to the website, Seafood Watch is…

A program of Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. We recommend which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood. We’re also partners of the Seafood Choices Alliance where, along with other seafood awareness campaigns, we provide seafood purveyors with recommendations on seafood choices.

Seafood Guide

So what if you say, “Sean, I don’t own an iPhone”, or how about “I don’t even like seafood, so…?”  If this is you, then stay with me another minute.  There is a little something for everyone here.  There is something for the geek, the teacher, and the conscious consumer in us all.  Before we go any further, click here if you want to download the app straight away.  You hyper-connected geeks will love how the iPhone platform allows for easy access to a ton of information about the seafood available to you at local restaurants and markets.

Teaching “sustainability”

It is always been really easy for my Marine Biology students to appreciate the intrinsic beauty and fragility of coral reefs.  Spending seven days snorkeling remote reefs of the Bahamas in the month of April will do that to you.  However, I have always wanted my students to do more.  I want them to know that what happens back home matters as well.  We have only recently attempted to study conservation of ocean resources from our home near the center of the continent.  In fact, Missouri does a super job of conservation of regional natural resources at the state level.  Anyone who has ever been hunting, fishing, etc. in Missouri for a long time would know that we have a very proactive and effective Department of Conservation.  Learning Marine Biology in Missouri is a different story, however.  How can you convince teenagers that something they do at home can directly affect natural resources in an ocean so many miles away?

Kynslie snorkeling on Andros Island

Those of us in the know realize that the very air we breathe is filled with many oxygen molecules that originated in the sea.  The facts are simple, but abstract.  The challenge: find a concrete example of how a local teen can touch the ocean on a Tuesday in Missouri.  My attempt at a solution:  a project-based approach to protecting oceanic resources that includes social action.  To make a much longer story quite shorter here, download my documents for the lesson series which includes: 1) a beginning presentation making the case for action to students, 2) exploring what we know, don’t know, and can find out about local usage of seafood resources, and 3) the actual “call to action” in the form of a performance task, minimal sample solution, and the associated scoring guide.  Please feel free to ask questions, or offer suggestions about any element of this project.  We would certainly appreciate the help!

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: marine biology ecology)

Conscientious consumption

For several years now, we have distributed booklets in one way or another as an approach to a public awareness and education program.  This year’s project will be opened up considerably with regard to the ways in which students can attack the problem.  For the first two years, we used the free resources available from the Blue Ocean Institute.  The very first day I laid eyes on the “Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood,” I knew it could be a valuable tool to not only learn about these issues, but also to publicly inform others.  The newest product available for download as well, is a sushi guide.  Yum.  You can order a single free wallet-sized guide here, or ask for a class-sized volume.  I have always requested enough for widespread distribution by students.

This year, we also began using resources made available by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.  You can download a copy of the guide for your region, order a large number for a project such as the one described here, or get it on your fancy phone.  In fact, you don’t honestly need an iPhone to get the guide digitally while trolling through your favorite fish market or restaurant.  Simply navigate to mobile.seafoodwatch.org and choose the guide you need.  In the end, consumers need not remember all of the gory details of why farmed salmon are relatively damaging to marine ecosystems….  or why wild-caught Alaska salmon are a good choice due to abundance by careful management.  Many differences such as this one are not readily intuitive to consumers.  Many casual seafood buyers who are conscientious people would assume that anything “farmed” would be better than continuing to pull organisms from wild habitats.  This application can help average phone jockeys negotiate the subtleties of the situation.

Seafood Guide icon

Geeks

Go get it.  I’m sure you have far sillier apps taking up space on your phone.  I know you paid money for the Koi Pond…  my daughter thinks those little fishies are actually in there!  Do our children a favor and check out Seafood Guide available for iPhone from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  We could all carry around the nifty little pamphlet, but why would you with a computer in your pocket?  Bringing this useful guide to the finger-scrolling pleasure of the iPhone is a significant milestone in this mission.  Not only do you get the “score” for each species in your region, you can also learn a lot of the supporting details as well.

This app is a perfect compromise between paper and lugging a laptop to the grocery store.  Navigating your way through the nuances of research, conservation, environmental impact, and sustainability are not easy.  This guide is a real solution toward putting solid scientific data and decision-making into the hands of an increasingly large public.  This app makes caring simple and science palatable.

Help us to save the planet… one fish at a time.

Sean Nash

District Online Learning Coordinator (eCampus) in a large public district of over thirty individual schools. Most recently, a district instruction coordinator. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me

9 Comments

  1. I love this project–especially how it moves students from information to action.
    You might also be interested in Mobile Active (mobileactive.org), an organization that focuses on using mobile devices for social action.

    • @Suzie Boss, Thanks much for the tip on MobileActive! That is a pretty cool resource even if nothing else. Of course I joined, however. 😉

      I should also tell you that several of our departments this year adopted your text “Reinventing Project-Based Learning” as a collaborative study text towards best practice for this school year. (Social studies, Business and Family and Consumer Science off the top of my head)

      Thanks again, I appreciate your input.

      Sean

  2. Hey Nash! I now have an iphone, and I am downloading the app as I type this!! I did a speech in my Oral Comm. class last semester on this topic, and my professor really loved it, I got the chance to video tape it, and now he uses my speech as an example that he shows to all his classes! This this semester I got the chance to meet with the govenor, and I discussed a bit of this topic with him as well! So, I just wanted to let you know that I am spreading the word about “saving the world” from Missouri in my own little way! 🙂

    • @Katlin Dougherty, …you spoke of sustainability regarding seafood choices to the Governor of Missouri? How awesome is that? Wow. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall there. What was his reaction …anything other than expected?

      Thanks so much for popping in here and sharing such a cool story. I’m delighted that our classroom experience made such a lasting impression on not only you… but on the people you continue to come into contact with. That makes me very proud!

      • @nashworld, Well he came up here to Northwest to look at the pellet plant and stuff that runs our school, and I was there to represent the Environmental Organization on campus. When I told him that I was a Marine Biology major he seemed pretty interested, I was so nervous that I started babbling on about how I went on the trip with you and your class, then how I have been promoting the seafood choices and all that jazz. I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot, but at least I knew something related to the environment. I, also, told my advisor about the Marine Biology program and how much of an amazing life changing program it is. He was very impressed that the class (program) like that is offered on the high school level in the MIDDLE of the United States.

        • @Katlin Dougherty, that is truly inspiring. Seriously. Keep up the good work. The fact that you have taken the bit that you are familiar with and continue to use it for such real-time advocacy is truly the best fruit of our entire program…

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