Skip to content

Toggle service links

Coronavirus: Course registration is open, but please be aware it may take us longer to respond than usual. Find out about our coronavirus response and current contact hours.

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Impact
  3. Transforming attitudes about the health of our oceans

Transforming attitudes about the health of our oceans

Whale shark in the sea with a pink plastic bag floating in front of it

Research scientists in The Open University’s School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences helped shape the content and direction of the landmark BBC series Blue Planet II, which prompted unprecedented public and government action to protect our oceans.

Key impacts include:

Influencing the BBC’s decision to give greater prominence to environmental issues in a TV series which engaged more than 37 million UK viewers and more than 500 million worldwide, prompting changes in policy and in public behaviour.

A research survey of British consumers found that 88% of people who watched the series have changed their behaviour as a result.

Blue Planet II was highlighted by both UK and European Union politicians as the driving force behind new policy initiatives to control plastic pollution, culminating on 24 October 2018 when the European Parliament voted for a complete ban on single-use plastics across the EU.

What this research has done

The 2017 BBC–Open University co-production Blue Planet II catapulted issues of ocean health into the public consciousness, changing attitudes and behaviour at individual and government policy level. The series prompted massive public action on plastic pollution, raised awareness and changed attitudes to other environmental issues such as ocean acidification and global warming. The Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund experienced 169% and 51% jumps respectively in traffic to their websites after the first Blue Planet II episode.

The unparalleled appeal and reach of Blue Planet II was strengthened by The Open University’s oceanographic research. Four researchers from The Open University’s School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences served as Scientific Advisors to the series from 2014 and 2017. Their guidance underpinned the series’ scientific content and was directly based on their long-standing research programmes in the areas of large-scale ocean circulation, the carbon cycle, ocean acidification, coral reef ecosystem and animal behaviour and evolutionary biology.

The OU experts were able to advise on ocean acidification, the biological pump, coral reef ecosystem, the ocean’s carbon cycle, ventilation of the deep ocean and large-scale ocean circulation patterns.Their advisory roles were complemented by outreach activities. These included distributing on request over half-a-million free ‘Ocean’ posters, an interactive ‘gaming’ app which is both a stand-alone learning resource and a bridge to the OU’s courses, and a series of public talks at locations across the UK.

Outreach activities by the OU scientific advisory team included distributing on request over half-a-million free ‘Ocean’ posters, an interactive ‘gaming’ app which is both a stand-alone learning resource and a bridge to the OU’s courses, and a series of public talks at locations across the UK.

Research publications

People