18 August 2021
Blue Communities held its Annual Science Meeting from 21st – 29th July and once again showcased that a huge amount of progress continues to be made, despite these challenging times during the pandemic.

The objectives of the meeting were to:
  • Provide an overview of the projects and activities across the case studies especially ensuring integration and coherence
  • Highlight key outputs and progress to-date
  • Share preliminary findings with stakeholders
  • Identify key messages that are of interest to regional and international fora
  • Inform and facilitate integration and synthesis across projects and across case studies
  • Further co-develop research questions and research methods
  • Fulfil training needs & deliver appropriate training workshops
  • Further develop the Early Career Researchers Network

Where.pngSessions were packed into 4½ hours each day, starting early in the morning in the UK but mid-afternoon across SE Asia where they finished in the evening; a challenge created by virtual meetings with participation in time zones separated by 7 hours!

The first two days of the meeting were open to anyone interested in the sustainable management of marine resources in SE Asia and supporting the livelihoods and wellbeing of the people in its coastal communities. The Blue Communities researchers gave a wide range of flash presentations, covering topics from the health and well-being of coastal populations and how it is related to the state of the marine environment, to the projected changes in distribution of important seafood species as a result of climate change.

AmyThen.pngThere were fascinating progress updates on fieldwork at case study sites, which were performed under COVID-safe conditions. This often presented the researchers with new challenges to overcome, especially while conducting stakeholder engagement activities. The practicalities of minimising risk of disease spread can also impact upon the vital social interactions and relationship building that are required in such research and, therefore, the researchers needed to be even more sensitive and adaptable to each situation, which they accomplished through ingenuity, good spirit and hard work.

Following the progress update sessions, there was an international panel session that considered the opportunities to communicate the Blue Communities results and knowledge to maximise project impact on national and international policy and with other interested high-level bodies. Panellists were Advisory Group members Prof. Bruce Maycock (Asia Pacfic Academic Consortium for Public Health) and Andy Bell (Director of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve and Chief Executive of the North Devon Biosphere Foundation) as well as Nicola Willey (Regional Director for South East Asia Science and Innovation from the British High Commission Singapore).

Matt_ws.pngAfter the open sessions, the meeting changed focus to enable Blue Communities participants to discuss the final stage of the programme and a busy agenda of workshops and discussions filled the remainder of the meeting. The programme areas addressed included modelling results for publication and policy briefs, evidence synthesis, planning for development of the Trade-Off Analysis tool, communications, tropical marine ecosystems services supply and demand, marine policy and a dedicated Early Career Researcher session focused on project management.

With Blue Communities being such an enriching research programme to be involved with, and so many wonderful people working together and inspiring each other, there has been a general feeling of loss at not being able to meet in person. To help address this, informal networking sessions took place each day before and after the sessions as well as in the coffee breaks, and also included a virtual lunch/dinner as part of the proceedings. These further nurtured the strong professional bonds that have developed over the last 4 years.

Prof. Melanie Austen, Blue Communities Programme Director, commented: “The Blue Communities Annual Science Meeting is always a highlight of the year, even though the meeting had to be held online for a second year, it is such an important activity for programme partners to share information, knowledge and experiences.”

“Particular highlights for me were the progress videos from the partners in SE Asia, discussing the exciting opportunities for impact and legacy and the dynamic exchange of ideas across the 6 days.”

“With the focus of our programme shifting to finalising research and outputs, we are eager to see all the hard work over the last 4 years come to fruition and contribute to the sustainable management of marine and coastal habitats in SE Asia, to support livelihoods, health and wellbeing into the future, but also marine and coastal nature.”


The programme is due to finish in March 2020 so keep a look out for outputs on the Blue Communities website, Twitter and Facebook. We welcome suggestions, contributions and collaboration opportunities so please do not hesitate in contacting us to discuss.
Twitter Moment of the 2021 Blue Communities Annual Science Meeting #BlueComms2021

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