Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on you—and your influence on the ocean. It is increasingly recognised as an essential pathway to not only increase public awareness about the ocean, but promote more informed behaviours towards the conservation of the ocean and its resources.
Marine education expert and 2020 Edinburgh Ocean Leader, Yolanda Sanchez, is co-founder of the recently launched RELATO (Red de Educación Latinoamericana parael Océano), a network created to promote ocean literacy and strengthen marine education in Latin America and the Caribbean.
We catch-up with Yolanda to find out more about RELATO.
What is the purpose of RELATO?
Community engagement is fundamental to make marine conservation effective. We believe marine education is a crucial tool to support ocean literacy and encourage community engagement in conservation.
RELATO was created to connect marine educators (and people interested in marine education) in Latin America and the Caribbean (LATAM). Its goal is to be a network to share ideas, resources and experiences of marine education, raise awareness of the important role of marine education and improve methodologies to increase ocean literacy.
Why did you decide the create the network?
Since 2014, I have been following and contacting different marine education networks around the world to learn from their experiences and improve my own work. At the same time, I started research in ocean literacy and methods of science education. In 2019, I was lucky to win a grant from the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) in the USA to attend their annual conference. The conference was a great experience and I found it very beneficial to have a space to share ideas on marine education.
Back in Latin America, there was no equivalent to the NMEA. So, supported by colleagues from the NMEA, I decided to create a network that could represent LATAM in the area of marine education. Fortunately, my friend and colleague Celeste Kroeger, supported the idea and a few months later, we co-founded RELATO.
Today, we have 180 participants from 13 different countries. We have to especially thank the 13 country coordinators that are supporting RELATO from different locations in LATAM, spreading our mission and helping to grow the network.
Who can become a member of RELATO and how do you support members across different countries?
The network is open to everyone interested in marine education, there are no requirements when you join and becoming a member is free.
When starting out, we understood that each country and territory has a different marine education context. We designed a survey to learn what people were expecting from the network, how they would support it and their objectives for joining. We received more than 100 responses from several different countries and this let us define a collaborative framework relevant for members from all different regions.
Have your plans for the network been impacted by COVID-19 ?
Creating RELATO during COVID-19 has been challenging, but, at the same time, it has been beacon of hope. It has been an inspiration to see how many people are interested in the idea of RELATO and are eager for collaboration to improve marine conservation.
How have you found being an Edinburgh Ocean Leader alongside creating RELATO?
Edinburgh Ocean Leaders has been a great support while I was creating RELATO, as I was able to discuss and get feedback on my ideas from the Directors and the other Ocean Leaders. The leadership coaching has advanced my understanding of leadership processes and techniques, which has been very useful alongside developing the organisation.
What are your ambitions for the future of RELATO?
Our ambitions are to continue to grow RELATO. We are undertaking a fundraising campaign to find economic support to continue the work that we have been doing with volunteers over the past year. Funding will let us continue collecting and sharing educational material in Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages represented in LATAM. It will also allow us to continue our work researching and evaluating ocean literacy and educational methodologies to improve education strategies. We plan to organise the first RELATO conference. We want to create a space to strengthen connections, exchange experiences of marine education initiatives and encourage cooperation on marine education to strengthen ocean literacy in LATAM.
You can follow @relatoceano and visit www.relatoceano.org to register in the network and complete the joining survey. Any further questions or ideas to help the network grow, do not hesitate to contact .