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A Short Course on Marine Planning

Balancing the diverse needs of tourists, industry, governments and wildlife in marine and coastal areas isn’t always easy. What do you do when those needs (and wants) overlap—such as when recreational activities take place in wildlife breeding areas? A short, engaging course in Marine Planning developed by Battelle uses the case study method to help planners grapple with these and other complex issues.

The course was developed for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Marine Conservation Initiative. In 2010, the Obama administration released the National Ocean Policy, which instructed agencies, states and regions to develop spatial plans for U.S. coastal areas. However, there was little consensus on what marine spatial planning was and how to do it. While extensive land-use plans and policies for dry land have been in place for nearly a century, planning for coastal and ocean spaces has lagged. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation saw a need to develop a course to help local, state and federal resource managers comply with the new policy and make better decisions for marine and coastal areas.

From the beginning, course developers knew they wanted to make sure the course was fun, engaging and interactive. “We didn’t just want to teach the nuts and bolts, we wanted to develop a community of people who could call on each other for guidance, and we wanted to make it a fun experience,” says Mike Barrett, Research Scientist at Battelle. The Battelle team, developed a four-day Marine Planning course aimed at government decision makers at all levels. The course was based on in-depth literature reviews, national surveys and interviews with practitioners, and guided by a Steering Committee of local, state, tribal and national experts. The first live course was delivered in the spring of 2013.

To help participants engage with the material—and each other—more deeply, trainers developed a scenario built around a fictional island. Small teams work together to complete the planning process for their area of the island. Competitions between teams and occasional curveballs thrown by the course facilitators keep everyone on their toes. “We did not want to go to these regions and tell them what their plan should be. We wanted to create a scaffold where people could build their understanding, removed from local politics, and apply what they were learning in a realistic setting,” explains Barrett. “We knew a traditional lecture approach wouldn’t have as much of an impact for people.”

Tim Goodspeed, a coastal and marine resources program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, after hearing from participants how valuable the course was, said that the course was “the resource” that everyone in his network should have.

Since its launch in 2013, the course has taken on a life of its own. In addition to the original intended audience of government planners, it attracts stakeholders from industry, non-profits, academics, and law firms. Barrett says, “Having these participants in the room was incredibly useful for us as we led the course and the discussions, but also for government decision makers who needed to meet with these people and hear their input. Not to mention, some of these stakeholders came in opposed to any sort of planning, and are now advocating for it, now that they understand it.” Battelle has since transferred management of course logistics to the Duke University Environmental Leadership Program, and has a roster of facilitators across the United States.

This is not Battelle’s only foray into natural resource management training. In 2013, Battelle developed a two-day course in wildlife management for an oil & gas company in Alaska. This course was designed to provide the client’s employees with information about the major federal wildlife laws and how these laws impact their company as a whole and their daily routines. This course was also very well received. It was built on the same strategy of active learning, which involves finding ways to get participants to share their experiences and ask questions to connect with each other. Battelle hopes to develop more courses in the future to help government and industry stakeholders better understand the complex issues related to natural resource management.