30.06.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Recognizing marine scientists at IOC-UNESCO Assembly

The Assembly of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), held every two years since 1961, is traditionally punctuated by the Anton Bruun and N.K. Panikkar Memorial Lectures, delivered by speakers specialized in the fields of oceanography, meteorology and marine science. Dr Véronique Garçon (France) and Dr Suchana ‘Apple’ Chavanich (Thailand) were recognized during the 29th Session.

On 22 June 2017, Dr Véronique Garçon, currently the International Chair of the Scientific Committee of the SOLAS (Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study) project, focused her Anton Bruun Memorial Lecture on the consequences of declining oxygen in the open and coastal ocean.

Low oxygen leaves a strong imprint on biogeochemical and ecological processes and also impacts ecosystem goods and services. For the future, the need to educate, inform and define deoxygenation management and policy strategies will be critical to ocean health.

“If we continue ‘business as usual’, most marine organisms will have a very high risk of impact by 2100. We, humans, have to show an unwavering will to build the future trajectory of the Earth’s climate towards sustainability, habitability and well-being,” she said.

Listening to calls by scientists and Member States demanding increased cooperation and communication around low oxygen concentration in the marine environment, IOC established in December 2015 the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), of which Dr Garçon is a member, which focuses on oxygen in both the open ocean and coastal areas, including the alteration caused by climate change and eutrophication.

On 26 June 2017, Dr Suchana ‘Apple’ Chavanich delivered her N.K. Panikkar Memorial Lecture on capacity development and technology transfer, with a focus on conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs in the Western Pacific. She is currently an associate professor at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University and Project Leader of coastal marine biodiversity and conservation in the Western Pacific under IOC/WESTPAC.

“To make a difference in protecting our coral reef ecosystems, we need to build capacity – and not just among science communities. As scientists, we need to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to the private sector, Governments, youth, NGOs,” she explained.

She particularly insisted on the importance of science communication – the more scientists share their research with people, for example through social media, the better the community will be able to understand why science is important for them. “Remember that the public often learns best through story, not theory,” she added.

Dr Garçon was awarded the Anton Bruun Medal and Dr Chavanich the N.K. Panikkar Medal by IOC Executive Secretary and IOC Chairperson, Vladimir Ryabinin and Peter Haugan respectively, for their work.

For more information on the Memorial Lectures, please visit: en.unesco.org/IOC-29/memorial-lectures or contact: Patrice Boned (p.boned(at)unesco.org).

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