With growing populations and consumer demand, there has been a turn to the deep sea to meet our natural resource needs. The deep sea provides a range of benefits to humans—called ecosystem services—including carbon sequestration, fisheries, waste absorption and detoxification, and nutrient cycling, all of which are vital to life as we know it (Armstrong et al., 2012, Thurber et al., 2014).
Barriers to the effective management of deep-sea resources include: (1) a lack of understanding by society of the benefits received from the deep sea and (2) how the public values it. To address this knowledge gap, this study utilizes an iterative design-based research methodology to evaluate: (1) how to effectively use an exhibit at a science center to contribute to public literacy of the deep sea over the short and long-term and (2) how the public values deep-sea habitats.
Three iterations of an exhibit entitled, “The Deep Sea and Me” were evaluated and refined based on naturalistic observation, questionnaires, and interviews with visitors to ensure the exhibit’s short- and long-term success as a tool to communicate policy-relevant deep-sea science. Displays containing video and interactive components succeeded in communicating deep-sea information that was retained by visitors during their visit and one month later.
Visitors tended to agree with protection-oriented statements towards the deep sea. This study provides insight into how to effectively communicate policy-relevant information about the deep sea to an audience that has little to no prior knowledge of the ecosystem, yet who will be increasingly responsible for making use decisions of this habitat.