Fishing for Supporters

This week, I was finally able to begin handing out some seafood guides around the aquarium. Due to the standard format of most speaker led shows, changing the script of a presentation to fit with my project was unfortunately not an option. Nervous that I would not have enough data to complete my research project, my supervisor and I decided to have me set up a table somewhere in the aquarium to hand out seafood guides.

To bring some interest to the table, I created three fake menus, one with appetizers, one with entrée options, and one with just sushi. Each menu contains two items that are Seafood Watch Best Choice recommendations, two are Good Alternative options and two are options to Avoid. Additionally, I have printed the infographic and menu insert that I created, and I have been borrowing a couple sustainable seafood cookbooks from the gift shop to fill out the table. The first day, I was located in the main lobby for two hours, but It must have looked more like an information table than anything else. Many people came up to ask me questions, but seldom did they ever have to do with sustainable seafood, instead I was asked countless times where the Splash Pad and Dolphin Cruise were located.

For day two, we decided to add chalkboard sign to the table that says, “What’s your sustainable seafood IQ?” Instead of setting up in the main lobby downstairs, I set up my table in a fairly empty area between galleries on the second floor. With the sign adding some interest to the table, several people stopped to speak with me about sustainable seafood. Each time when they stopped, I would ask, “Have you heard of sustainable seafood?” Some of the people had heard of the subject, and had a vague idea of what it actually meant, so I attempted to add to what they knew and offered both a sushi guide and South East seafood guide to each person, and told them about Seafood Watch’s smartphone app.

I will continue to distribute seafood guides to aquarium visitors over the next two days. Each day I will have a different sign to see if the message affects audience interest in the table, and I will possibly move around to different spots in the aquarium, but I don’t really want to be in anyone’s way, so I may stick to the empty area I found today.

Saved by a Brainstorm!

Over the last few weeks, I have been fearful that I would not be able to collect enough data to really complete my research project, but things have been turning around! Last week I began to compose my final research paper, and really started stressing out about how my actual internship is not lining up with the internship I outlined in my research proposal paper, but after some much-needed relaxation and brainstorming with my husband, things are thankfully coming together. One essential component of my proposal is the distribution of seafood guides to aquarium visitors during one of the many shows, but as weeks are quickly passing us by, I realized that this initiative is not really in the cards. So as an alternative, next week I will be setting up and manning a table in the main lobby of the aquarium to hand out seafood guides and help introduce visitors to sustainable seafood. I will be keeping track of all guides distributed, and this information will be used as data to help determine the results of my project. So happy to finally have the ball rolling on this piece of my project.

As for the rest of it, several social media posts have already gone live, along with all of the programs webpages, and the business partnership program is ready to start reaching out to some local restaurants! This week I completed a two-sided information card to distribute to the program’s business partners. On one side, the card addresses the below commonly asked questions about sustainable seafood:

  • Q: What is sustainable seafood?
    • A: Sustainable seafood is harvested from sources that can maintain or increase production without damaging the structure or function of fish stocks or source ecosystems.
  • Q: Why do seafood choices matter?
    • A: Buying sustainable seafood expresses your preference for these products, and supports sources that use responsible harvesting practices that help to maintain healthy marine environments.
  • Q: How do I know where my seafood comes from?
    • Seafood is typically labeled with source information including, where the item is from, and if it was farm raised or wild-caught. If source information is not available, we recommend that you ask a simple question: “Do you know where this seafood comes from?”

The back side of the information card has additional information on where to find sustainable seafood guides for download and a QR code to download our partner, Seafood Watch’s app for smartphones. I also designed a Seafood Now business card, and now I am just awaiting approval from marketing, and then every piece of my project will officially be launched! Additionally, several interesting things happened this week including penguins walking through the office, my supervisor took an armadillo to surgery, and I found some photos of a dolphin autopsy, the aquarium is truly a special place.

Infographics & Menu Inserts

Last semester we were assigned a project to create an infographic, and luckily I chose to do mine on sustainable seafood. Over the last few days, I have been working with the marketing and social media departments to adapt my infographic, to help spread the word about the Florida Aquarium’s Seafood Now program. The infographic will be used on the program’s website, as well as being post and blog content for the aquarium’s social media accounts.

Additionally, I have also been working on designing a small handout with some basic questions and answers about sustainable seafood, and details on where to find seafood guides. Eventually, the handout will be given to each of the Seafood Now business partners for distribution to customers to help them make informed seafood choices, while simultaneously promoting sustainable seafood in the local Tampa community.

I have also been working with the marketing team to begin editing the Seafood Now webpages. Initially, the program had one page that was rather boring, full of text and only a couple images. To liven up the site and make it a little more interactive, I have added an informative video generated by our partners at Seafood Watch, and updated the content. I have also added two new subpages to the Seafood Now parent page, one being Consumer Information, and the second, Business Partners. I have included some basic information about the Seafood Now program, along with some basic questions and answers about sustainable seafood, downloadable PDF versions of Seafood Watch’s seafood guides for Florida and Sushi that consumers can print themselves, links to Seafood Watch’s smartphone app, and a widget that is connected to the Florida Aquarium’s Pinterest board featuring sustainable seafood recipes. The business partner page is pretty basic so far, and only includes an overview of the initiative and a link to connect with Seafood Now about becoming a partner. Once business partners have been confirmed with a signed agreement, we will be adding the business’ logos and links to their websites for cross promotion.

We still have a long road in front of us, which is pretty daunting since it does not seem like my research will be concluded in enough time to really get a good idea of which promotion methods are effective, which will definitely not be beneficial for my final paper. Ten weeks seems like a long time on at first, but when every component of the project has to be cleared by numerous different departments things seem to move very slowly. I wish I had more time to see all of this through, but I can’t really continue working for free. Though, it will be nice to know that I have basically set up an entire sustainable program for promotions in the Tampa community, and I hope that this endeavor will eventually help residents and visitors to think a little more about the impacts of individual actions.

A Seafood Now Bulletin! (Board)

Last week was technically my first full week working at the Florida Aquarium, and the added time definitely made it my most productive week yet. Early on, I was assigned a fun and easy task, update the sustainable seafood bulletin board that resides back of house in a hallway. The boards along this hallway are use for employee education, and the sustainability board had not been updated in about six years! It had been so long that much of the information was outdated, including the suggestions listed as sustainable seafood best choices. Embracing the opportunity to put my arts and crafts skills to the test I quickly jumped on this project! Designing the board was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated, and took about two days to complete. The difficulties I encountered revolved around clearly conveying the importance of sustainable seafood to an audience who may not have heard of these options before, perfect practice for many of the components I will be generating for the outreach initiatives of my project.

Later in the week my supervisor and I were able to meet with the Social Media Manager and Marketing Director to get a better idea of how to implement my project’s outreach initiatives. Throughout these meetings I quickly realized that the aquarium’s image is very carefully is crafted and maintained, and due to the necessity of maintaining a certain image, several pieces of my project proposal are really just not feasible. For instance, I intended to create new social media profiles for the Seafood Now program rather than using the aquarium’s existing accounts, but instead all social media content must be carefully crafted and cleared through the social media manager, and posted to the aquarium’s one profile. We also established the need for a Facts and Questions sheet about sustainable seafood so that the social media manager has reference material to address any questions or comments made by users. The FAQ’s sheet will also be a useful tool to include on Seafood Now’s website, and on the intended postcards and menu inserts that are still in development.

As the weeks quickly pass, I am now afraid that I will not be able to complete the intended month long implementation and monitoring for each initiative. My data samples will unfortunately be short sighted compared to what could have been captured over a four week or longer period of data collection. This experience has already begun to show me the many roadblocks and obstacles that can crop up during project development and implementation. It has also reinforced the validity of a concept we covered several times throughout my sustainability course work, an efficient system is fully connected and works together. While the aquarium’s staff seem very happy with their place of employment, the actual daily operations seem fragmented, chaotic and disjointed. Bringing a little systems thinking style organization to how this place runs could really streamline efficiency, but that’s a whole different project…

Surviving A Series of Unfortunate Events

On Wednesday, April 20th, my husband and I landed in Chicago to attend a beautiful wedding for one of our very favorite couples, but upon our arrival to the Windy City a series of unfortunate events began to unfold before us. As we spent our first hour curbside at the airport waiting to be picked up by my cousin, our generous host for the first few days of our trip, it should have been immediately apparent that this was no ordinary vacation. My cousin, a high school teacher, had just come home from his Spring Break and birthday trip to Mexico City the evening before, to find that during his absence his cell phone service had been disconnected, leaving us with no means of communication, and his driver’s license had expired, necessitating him to venture to the DMV the same morning of our arrival. Luckily, after an hour of stress and nerves he magically found us forlornly standing by our luggage, and all was well, at least for a few days.

On Saturday, April 23rd, as the bride, ten bridesmaids, three flower girls, and countless other visitors, photographers, videographers, makeup and hair specialists fluttered around a massively crowded presidential suite in the heart of downtown, I proceeded to full force kick the metal leg of a very fancy, and very evil ottoman. As a lifelong clutz, I quickly recognized the familiar immense pain of a broken toe radiating from my right foot. Ignoring the annoying shooting pain associated with each step, I happily gritted my teeth and endured what felt like millions of unnecessary stairs, hundreds of unnatural photo poses, and hours of dancing. All in all, it was worth every ounce of pain to attend one of the most beautiful and extravagant affairs I will ever be apart of, but then again this pain was mild compared to what the universe had in store for me next.

On Monday, April 25th, my husband and I decided to walk the last few blocks to the newlywed’s house for a relaxing grill out. As we limped down the sidewalk by a construction site, Chicago’s famous wind kicked up some dust, and my husband and I both got some grit in our eye, not a big deal, or so we thought. Waking up the next day, preparing for our flight home, I still had something in my left eye, not fun, but certainly not alarming, so I kept some eye drops handy. A little tired, I slept the whole flight home, and when we landed in Tampa, I took two final exams, and all seemed well again.

On Wednesday, April 27th, we awoke to find that my left eye was almost fully swollen shut, so we contacted several Ophthalmologists and made the first available appointment we could find. The doctor did not find any debris in my eye, but swelling and abrasions to the interior of my eyelid were evidence enough to prescribe a steroid eye drop. Applying as directed, 5 drops per day, I made it through 7 total drops before I discontinued use, and began taking Benedryl due to the appearance of a rash on the left side of my forehead above the affected eye, which we presumed was an allergic reaction to the new medicine.

On Saturday, April 30th, with my left eye swollen shut, a rash developing on the left side of my face, and a incredibly painful migraine throbbing through the left side of my head, my husband rushed me to the ER. As soon as the nurses started my work up, they ominously claimed they knew what I had, and the attending doctor confirmed, Herpes Zoster, colloquially known as Shingles. I mean, a Shingles diagnosis for someone in their late 20’s is by no means something to freak out about, unless the virus is in nerves inside your actual eye ball, then it may be time to worry. To sum up this very long story, I proceeded to spend the majority of May 2016 healing and recovering, but the nerve damage caused by the virus entails a very long and slow healing process. Though swelling has since subsided, and my eye is function, it has been thoroughly damaged, making it extremely sensitive to light and easily strained, limiting my ability to go outdoors, drive, use a computer, read, etc.

On Tuesday, May 24th, I was thrilled to leave my house and venture out for the first day of my internship at the Florida Aquarium. Despite the difficulties I had driving there, I arrived hopeful that I could survive the full day, and I did, but at a cost of agitation and swelling for my eye. In effort to minimize damage and facilitate the healing process, my amazing aquarium supervisor has allowed me to work most of the first couple weeks of my internship from my own personal darkened cave (previously known as my living room).

Despite my remote location, we are on track for my research project, and have begun developing each of the outreach components we will use to promote the aquarium’s sustainable seafood education program, Seafood Now. I have pinpointed twenty local restaurants that we will be inviting to join us for the business partnership peice of the program, and also developed a rating rubric to help assess the sustainability of seafood selections at these establishments. I have also begun compiling a list of relevant content we can include on posts for the social media outreach components, and developed a plan for updates to the program’s website. Over the next week, I will be meeting with the aquarium’s marketing and social media departments for approval, and we will begin implementing the full campaign Monday, June 20th, just two days before my husband and I fly to Chicago for yet another wedding….