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Dive in and protect the ocean

A chance to meet weird and wonderful sea creatures on an underwater journey is launching at the University of St Andrews Wardlaw Museum this week (Friday 8 October).

Dive In! Protecting our Ocean will take visitors underwater to understand how humans are damaging even the deepest, most inaccessible parts of our planet.

A collaboration between the Museums of the University of St Andrews and marine scientists at the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS), the exhibition goes further than traditional displays, not only seeking to inform, but openly challenging visitors to change their behaviour and take steps to save our ocean.

Visitors will be immersed in the different depths of the ocean, where they will meet strange creatures from the deep, colourful fish, seals and puffins. The team has worked with an expert in behavioural psychology to understand how to encourage people to see the threats, understand the solutions and make changes to live a more sustainable life.

Matt Sheard, Head of Experience and Engagement at the Wardlaw Museum, says: “Our ocean is under threat, but the good news is there is a solution, so we don’t want visitors to leave feeling gloomy, but leave with a sense of optimism and a desire to take steps, maybe just small ones, to protect our ocean.

“Visitors will be encouraged to take on one of four characters, each one a different sea creature, that represents a different level of confidence around sustainability and climate change. The krill, for example, represents someone who wants to make a difference, but isn’t sure what to do. Or we have a harbour seal, which represents someone who is already very confident and wants to think about how they can go further.

“As visitors follow their character around the exhibition, they’ll see ideas tailored to their circumstances that suggest what they can do to protect our oceans and, because what happens in the ocean and on land are closely connected, protect the world around us also.”

Dr Adam Corner, a behavioural psychologist working with the museum, adds: “If you’ve been presented with some actions you can take that seem doable, that seem fair, that seem realistic to you, and you can sort of start to see yourself as the sort of person that does those things, I think you then don’t really need persuading to change your behaviour.”

The exhibition is the first of a series of experimental approaches the Wardlaw Museum is taking to see what positive impact museums can have on the world.

“We see the Wardlaw Museum as a laboratory,” adds Matt Sheard. “The University of St Andrews is all about innovation, about trying new things for the benefit of wider society, and we in the University’s museum very much want to reflect that. We’ll be doing research to see what effects we have and inform other museums who want to do something similar.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a range of events, from panel discussions on ocean sustainability to a hands-on adventure day on Saturday 23 October, giving families the opportunity to explore the issues in a fun, interactive set of activities.

Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean is part of the University of St Andrews’ response to COP26 and is supported by Museums Galleries Scotland and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch).


The Wardlaw Museum

The Wardlaw Museum takes visitors inside the University, with four new thematic galleries on its groundbreaking research and global impact, showcasing its extraordinary art, history, science and natural history collections.

Complemented by an exciting programme of temporary exhibitions, interactive experiences for all ages, and a beautiful sea view from the terrace and garden, the Museum is a major new cultural space for St Andrews. The Museum is open from 11am to 7pm on weekdays and 10am to 5pm on weekends.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK

The fundamental purpose of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is to improve the quality of life for all humanity through art, charity, science and education. The Foundation is committed to the future, to the most vulnerable and to the value of culture.

Based in London, the UK Branch is fortunate to sit at the heart of a world centre for philanthropy, enabling the Foundation to deliver on its overall mission by using its particular skills and experience. The Foundation looks ahead, thinking globally and acting locally to create the conditions for beneficial change by making connections across borders of all kinds – national, cultural, organisational, disciplinary and social. We prioritise the vulnerable and underserved in the UK and elsewhere.

Museums Galleries Scotland

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) is the National Development Body for the Scottish museums sector. MGS supports 419 museums and galleries, through strategic investment, advice, advocacy, skills development and other means.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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