Award-winning Authors Teach Marine Conservation Literature Course at SoMAS

Paul Greenberg (left) and Carl Safina

Two of the nation’s leading environmental writers, Carl Safina, PhD, author of six books including Song for the Blue Ocean, and Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, have teamed up with School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) Professor Lesley Thorne, PhD, to teach Marine Conservation Literature, a graduate course in the Marine Conservation and Policy (MCP) program.

The course seeks to teach students about how marine science issues have been represented in written works and the link between literature, our relationship with the oceans and how effective communication can positively affect the decisions that are made about ocean conservation.

“Establishing effective solutions to marine conservation issues, especially in coastal regions, will require conservationists who know the science, understand the policy, and can effectively communicate their knowledge of both to the public,” said Thorne. “This course will contribute nicely to our MCP students’ training in this respect.”

Though each of the professors share a passion for our oceans, waterways and coastal regions and see the need for communicating marine conservation issues to the broader public, they approach their subject from different vantage points.

Safina is a world-renowned author and conservationist. He is a MacArthur Fellow, Pew Scholar and a finalist for this year’s Indianapolis Prize, awarded each year to the person who has done the most on behalf of the world’s most endangered species.

Greenberg is a best-selling author, journalist and essayist and winner of the James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. His work focuses primarily on sustainable seafood.

Thorne teaches biology and conservation of marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles at SOMAS. Her research focuses on habitat modeling and relationships between marine predator habitat use and oceanography.

Within the course, Safina and Greenberg are concentrating on how to write about conservation issues effectively. Thorne’s primary focus is on critical reading and the interpretation of different texts, writing styles and forums as they pertain to marine conservation.

“This course isn’t a writing course, but more a course to help students communicate cogently and passionately about their work,” said Greenberg.

Lesley Thorne

The curriculum will range from pure science writing to narrative non-fiction, and will demonstrate how pieces of writing in marine conservation have made important contributions to the field. The course will provide important skills for students in the MCP program, which aims to train students for positions in government, environmental agencies, consultancy and non-governmental organizations rather than more traditional research-based scientific positions.

“Communicating well is important to success in any career,” said Safina. “I have found that anything successful was tied to writing and I saw how powerful that could be.”

For more information about the MCP program, contact MCP Program Faculty Director Lesley Thorne at lesley.thorne@stonybrook.edu, or call (631) 632-5117.

— Sara Hugentobler, graduate student in the MCP Program

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