Back when I was reading Stormwater Management Plans (SWMPs) for fun, we used to struggle with the section on Public Outreach and Education. Does it work? Can it work better? How, we wondered, do you tell if your message is resonating with people—if that ad you put on the side of a bus really causes a change in behavior? There were only imprecise ways to estimate how many people could be reached by an environmental message—and even less ways to follow the impact it might have.
Then along came Facebook—and all of a sudden, we could track the spread of the message and the way people share something important with their friends and social networks—and it turns out, lots of people think our message is important!
Stormwater is a HUGE issue for sea otters, which already face many challenges; disease, food limitation, and high contaminant loads to name a few. Many of these problems can be linked back to water quality, and stormwater is the number one source of non-point source pollution in the coastal ocean. Given that stormwater pollution is such an amalgamous mix of substances from activity all over the urban spectrum, it can be hard to know where to start addressing the problem. And even those of us who live by the sea don’t always make the connection between our activities on land and what goes into the water.
This is why it’s SO important for people to hear the message. Not just from the ad on the side of the bus, or in a public service announcement, but from their friends and colleagues and family members. If you posted any of our stormwater tips or invited any of your friends to join our cause or group, you helped spread an important message—and the fact that it’s important enough to you to post probably impacts their behavior more than a thousand bus ads.
So thank you for participating in the Sea Otter Stormwater Challenge. We’re still working on how to use Facebook and other social networks to spread our message, and we’d love to get your feedback. So far though we’re pretty happy with the support you all have show for sea otters and the work we’re doing to save them.
Finally, congratulations to Angela, Kathryn and Cindy, our top recruiters! We’ve got your prizes ready to go, so just let us know where to send them.