Ocean users and marine scientists both have connections to the sea. This research explores how the nature of their connection to the sea leads to different perceptions of risk and comfort with uncertainty, and how these differences might be important to consider when one group has information another group needs.
Publically available short-term forecasts of currents, wind, and waves are an important type of information that aids in decision-making and risk management for scientists, managers, and a diversity of ocean users and coastal residents. Despite this, there are unique challenges that have prevented ocean condition forecasts from being as user-friendly as weather forecasts. This research examines differences in perceptions of risk and comfort with uncertainty between two interdependent communities: the “information provider” and “information user;” and how these perceptions influence the accessibility and usefulness of data.
Using open-ended, semi-structured interviews that focus on the concepts of risk exposure, effect, and mitigation, we explore the perceptions of both the academic and agency scientists that produce and disseminate the forecasts, and commercial fishermen that consume and interpret the forecasts. Commercial fishermen are selected as key information users due to their expertise at navigating the marine environment, using forecasts, and their important economic and cultural role at the Oregon coast. Documenting the “mental models” of these two communities reveals insights into ways to leverage different kinds of expertise to improve the accessibility and usefulness of ocean condition forecasts, as well as improve the science of ocean condition forecasting. This holistic approach, that uses the nature of perception, reveals complexities about information exchange and how strengthening the relationships between information provider and user advances both science and application. Results also have implications for improving collaboration and communication in other areas of marine research that link natural science, short-term forecasts, and decision-making.