Our planet is full of water, from lakes and rivers to the Oceans which cover 70% of the Earth. These environments play essential roles in our lives – with algae producing half of the global oxygen as well as being the base of all food resources supplied from coastal and freshwater ecosystems. The aquatic environments are increasingly under pressure, due to climate change and pollution. To understand how ecosystems are impacted, we can conduct lab experiments, or observe nature and measure “real” changes. However, lab experiments are not representative of real-world scenarios, and field experiments can have too many variables to determine which are important for the observed changes. Mesocosms represent a middle ground between these two. A mesocosm is an experimental enclosure, where water is added from the environment and manipulated in some way, for instance, by raising the temperature compared to a control system. This allows us to investigate effects that stressors can cause on a complex ecosystem. It is essential to understand this, but equally important is communicating our results to society, including the public, educators, and the media.
In AQUACONNECT, we aim to increase the ability of scientists to communicate aquatic research to the public, particularly the media, educators, and citizens. The main method of this, is to host a workshop where we bring together these different societal groups, as well as researchers to develop and share the best methods of communicating science. AQUACONNECT will also create scientific drawings of mesocosm experiments, and important biological organisms we study within these experiments, to allow a fun and active way of teaching children about mesocosm research. Through this project, we aim to increase the knowledge of marine and freshwater research, as well as the challenges and solutions for ensuring sustainable management of these precious environments.