Leadership for a Sea Change

By Amanda Stanley

Feb 13, 2020


3 Minute Read


Satellite image with geographic relief of the West Coast of North America.

For 20 years, COMPASS has been a pioneer in the effort to bring science into public conversation. We’ve trained thousands of scientists, and provided the strategy and connections to make real change possible. We know that individuals power the programs, strategies, and networks working to create a future that protects the well being of both people and nature. Over and over again, we’ve seen the transformative potential of investing in the scientist leaders at the heart of the work to connect science and society.

Leadership is about building alignment around a shared purpose. Our purpose at COMPASS feels urgent and clear: we know more than we ever have about what’s causing biodiversity loss and climate change, and how rapidly these changes are happening. We also know how necessary it is to apply that knowledge in collaborations that transcend traditional boundaries, so that we can co-create solutions that are equitable, inclusive, and just. The scientists we partner with are natural bridge builders and connectors, approaching this work with humility, generosity, and a willingness to learn. But this work is hard, and we all need a community of support to learn and grow as leaders.

Our Wilburforce Fellowship in Conservation Science taught us the power of the cohort. Having a trusted, generous group of peers to provide support, inspiration and encouragement has made an incredible difference for the Fellows as they work towards their goals. Our Scientist Sentinels: Civic Engagement & Leadership Program taught us the power of bringing scientists together around purpose. The Sentinels represent many different identities, disciplines, institutions, career stages, and geographies, but they all share the desire and drive to engage with society and use their science to improve the well-being of people and nature.

We’re excited to build on this trailblazing work, and announce our new program Leaders for Sea Change, thanks to generous support from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Sitka Foundation. Leaders for Sea Change builds on and enhances everything we’ve learned so far, with a focus on ocean change along the Pacific shoreline of North America. As COMPASS co-founder Jane Lubchenco has said, “The drastic changes we’ve seen to ocean health in the last few decades make it crystal clear: we need strong ocean champions who can work across disciplines and perspectives.”

Leaders for Sea Change is designed to elevate and support emerging ocean champions as they build their communication skills and their confidence to start new conversations about their work and what it means for ocean management and conservation. This program will bridge divides across spatial scales, among social, natural, and physical scientists, and between science and society. The scientists involved will engage with community leaders, resource managers, and policy makers to advance solutions for protecting the myriad ways that people interact with and value the Pacific coast, from the Bering Sea to the Suchiate River.

“The drastic changes we’ve seen to ocean health in the last few decades make it crystal clear: we need strong ocean champions who can work across disciplines and perspectives.”

The challenges of ocean change demand solutions that are equitable, inclusive, and just. At the end of the day, the work to find and apply those solutions is done by people – amazing, inspiring, generous people. Partnering with and supporting these scientists is one of the most powerful things we can do to make change happen.

That’s why we invest in leadership programs – because understanding how to wield your own power is transformational, and it’s how we’ll build a future where people and nature thrive together.

Image Credit: NorCalHistory, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Did you like this article? Share it out with your community.