Meeting the Challenges of Communicating About Climate Change

Fisheries encompass a wide variety of roles in recreation, food security, and the global economy, however, the changing climate is threatening the balance of aquatic ecosystems, altering habitats, effecting water quality, and threatening livelihoods. Understanding how these climate impacts are relevant to our current lives is an essential step in evaluating what actions can make a difference and our own capacity for change.

The wider fisheries community, be it the scientists and managers, or constituents that use the resource, have their own personal experiences and perspectives about our aquatic environments.  Understanding how to approach these variety of viewpoints to find common ground is challenging for most issues, but it is especially difficult in the politically charged arena of climate change.  Through much trial and error, communication specialist have learned that one size does not fit all when it comes to educating the non-scientific community on the impacts of climate change.  The good news is that innovative methods and techniques have emerged with a better understanding on how to garner strategic action and gain support for policy change.

The Climate Ambassador Program

Administered by the American Fisheries Society, the Climate Ambassador Program will provide a specialized communication skills training program that focusses on climate change.  This training will then be applied to informing and educating others about climate change and the impact on aquatic environments.  Founded on the latest research on science communications, program trainings will be in-depth, interactive, and provide the tools for fisheries scientists to more effectively communicate with thought leaders, journalists, stakeholders, and lay audiences. 

This program is seeking passionate and dedicated aquatic scientists that want to reach a variety of audiences and expand their thinking on the impacts that humans have on our aquatic environments.

Objectives of the Climate Ambassadors Program

  1. Build a team of aquatic scientists to partake in a communication training program specialized for climate change.
  2. Apply this training to inform target audiences on the critical issues of our changing climate and the impacts this has on fish and fisheries. This will include the development of outreach materials, presentations, and speaking engagements.
  3. Share the methods and skills gained through this program to train successive classes of ambassadors to build a network of skilled science communicators.

Expectations and Commitment for Ambassadors

The commitment to be a trained as a Climate Ambassador is a two year commitment, with the hope that all ambassadors will continue to be involved with the program beyond year two.

Expectations for all ambassadors include:

  • Participate training workshops tailored for the CAP
  • Partake in online communication coursework
  • Actively participate in monthly Ambassador team meetings
  • Commit to engaging with and presenting to non-science audiences
  • Develop materials and resources to be posted on the AFS Climate website for other practitioners to access
  • Review, analyze, and evaluate best methods for engagement on climate change
  • In year two, use the skills gained to develop training for another cohort of climate ambassadors.

Benefits of the Climate Ambassador Program:

  • Receive specialized communication training at no cost
  • The development of valuable career skills, including media and journalism experience
  • Collaborate with climate scientists
  • Develop of leadership skills
  • Build professional networks and collaborate with peers
  • Gain experience with the policy process

Applying for the Climate Ambassadors Program

  • Ideally, this specialist group will represent regional, ecosystem, and discipline diversity.
  • There are up to 30 specialist positions available in 2023-2024.
  • Expertise in climate science is not required.
  • While this program will link the effects of our changing climate on fish and fisheries, a wide diversity of experiences and disciplines within the aquatic sciences are acceptable.
  • Applicants at all career stages are welcome.
  • Prior communication training is preferred, but not required.
  • Ambassadors must be or become members of the American Fisheries Society.

Submission process:

The following information will be required for the online application form:

  • Statement on your area of interest or expertise
  • General questions about your experiences
  • Statement of interest in the program
  • Communications experience (if applicable)
  • Apply by October 1, 2022