Coastal and Marine Environmental Education

On Monday, May 6 at 13:00, Maria Wilke will defend her master‘s thesis in Coastal and Marine Management. Her thesis is titled Coastal and Marine Environmental Education. A study of community involvement in the Westfjords of Iceland and Southern New Zealand. The thesis presentation takes place at the University Centre of the Westfjords and is open to the public.

The thesis first advisor is is Dr. Bradley W. Barr, a Senior Policy Advisor in the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and Visiting Faculty at the University Centre of the Westfjords. The second advisor is Dr. Jenny Rock, a lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Otago, New Zeland. The external reader is dr. Anna Guðrún Edvardsdóttir, Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Iceland School of Education.


Coastal communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change and anthropogenic impact on the environment. Adaptive community-driven management is vital to build resilience. Only communities committed to ongoing learning can adapt to a continuously changing environment. This is why environmental education (EE) should be community-focussed and part of coastal and marine management.

Key informants were interviewed in Ísafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland to gather perceptions about local coastal and marine environmental issues and EE. Resulting statements were then tested on the wider community via an online survey and opportunities for EE were identified. These formed the basis for examining through an action research approach several best practice examples of EE in coastal New Zealand. The results from both sites suggested a lack of political empowerment perceived by community members, a narrow focus of EE target groups and a lack of collaboration between providing institutions of EE.

Recommendations are made on how to further links between EE and community-driven management in the study sites and beyond by widening target audiences and creating communal learning platforms supporting transparent communication. By offering community-focussed EE, coastal communities can become more empowered and adaptive in community-driven marine resources management.

Maria Wilke defends her thesis on Coastal and Marine Environmental Education.