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Ray Dearborn's picture

How can ocean conservation get more news coverage?

on February 23, 2015 - 1:38pm

A conversation with Lindsay Abrams of Salon

This was originally published at Medium. Read the full interview there.

NGOs and journalists don’t have to act like oil and water, despite what individuals in each industry say when they get a chance to air their gripes. As my organization, Upwell, prepares to shut its doors, I wanted to make an effort to bridge the gap between the ocean conservation community and the news media. I reached out to a few journalist friends of Upwell to get their perspective on what makes a great ocean story, how ocean scientists and advocates can better work with them, and what drives engagement from their audiences.

Today I share the first of those conversations, with Lindsay Abrams of Salon.

Lindsay has a pretty broadly defined sustainability beat at Salon. In just the new year, she’s covered ocean topics like the long-term effects of the BP oil spill, Arctic drilling, ocean warming, mass extinction in our oceans, and more. As far as climate and sustainability reporters go, she’s one of the few giving the ocean its fair shake amongst other environmental topics.

A little background on why I approached Lindsay: For three years I have been leading campaigns for Upwell. By playing in online conversations for years and doing in depth conversational analysis, we’ve learned what drives attention to conservation issues. Time and again we find that news coverage is the primary driver of attention to lesser known ocean conservation issues. While topics like shark conservation and plastic pollution frequently garner attention in the absence of news coverage, more unfamiliar topics like ocean acidification or deep sea trawling need attention from journalists and bloggers in order to spark conversation.

People aren’t talking about ocean acidification of their own volition, at least not in droves. Not yet. People do start talking about it when they have something to share, and that “something” is most often a news article or a blog post from an established media platform. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions (for instance, people-powered mobilisation, or attention motivated by pop culture influence), but it is the prevailing trend that we see in our Big Listening work. (For more on how people talk about ocean acidification, check out our recently released State of the Online Conversation report.)

I’m using the term “media” inclusively, to capture all shades of grey in today’s increasingly complex media landscape. Attention is driven not just by legacy media like the New York Times and the Washington Post, but also the media platforms that were born of the Internet like Quartz, Medium, Buzzfeed and Vox.

Despite this correlation between media coverage and attention, media relations and PR professionals in ocean nonprofits and scientific institutions struggle to craft the perfect pitch and share their content in a way that makes it likely to get covered by journalists and bloggers. My hope is that this interview will help people on both sides to do their jobs and raise attention to critical ocean conservation issues.

Read the full interview at

Matt Fitzgerald's picture

Relive the Acidinar, or discover it for the first time!

on February 6, 2015 - 10:58am

Dozens of oyster-loving members of Team Ocean joined us on Wednesday for The Acidinar, a sneak peak at findings from our latest State of the Online Conversation report on ocean acidification

As promised, here's the Acidinar recording - minus (for privacy reasons) the lively Q&A discussion at the end.

For even more Acidinar goodness, you can... 

As always, you can let us know what you think by emailing us at tips at upwell dot us or tweeting @upwell.

Let's keep the ocean acidification conversation going and growing.


Matt Fitzgerald's picture

Ocean Acidification: The State of the Online Conversation

on February 4, 2015 - 10:44am

Today we're happy to announce the release of our latest Big Listening research on critical issues of ocean and environmental health.

Ocean Acidification: The State of the Online Conversation

This report is the result of crunching more than 30 months of online data to distill insights and takeaways for ocean-loving communicators, scientists, campaigners, funders and anyone, really, who wants to use their internetting for change. 

Take a look, and let us know what you think. We're all ears. 

Executive Summary

Full Report

Ocean Acidification Communications Cheat Sheet (new)

We'll be sharing and discussing the findings later today on the #Acidinar webinar (11am pacific / 2pm eastern). We'll post the recording once it's done. 


Matt Fitzgerald's picture

Announcing... The #ACIDINAR

on January 22, 2015 - 4:16pm

From the twisted minds who brought you the Upwell Sharkinar, comes the latest in our infamous webinar-inar series. 


Whereas the Sharkinar is all about defending sharks online during Shark Week, the Acidinar is about using the internet for ocean acidification communications, including what can be done about it. 

If you talk about acidification online, or if you're acidification-curious, join our merry band of activists, scientists, bloggers, journalists, super-tweeters, and nonprofits to discuss how we can change the online conversation about ocean acidification in the best way, together.

The Acidinar will be held on
Wednesday, February 4th, at 11am pacific / 2pm eastern.

Why not register now?

During the Acidinar we will:
    •    Share findings from Upwell’s new report, Ocean Acidification: The State of the Online Conversation
    •    Answer your questions and discuss your takeaways, with an eye toward mutual communications support
    •    Provide tips for increasing the volume and engagement level of ocean acidification online mentions

Register today!


Ray Dearborn's picture

Bittersweet news: Upwell is shutting down.

on January 12, 2015 - 12:16pm

“It's time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I'd much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.” - Ernie Harwell, broadcaster. 

Happy New Year to all of you on Team Ocean. We hope your holidays were restful and delicious, and that you’re excited for a 2015 of #oceanoptimism.

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 marks the fourth year of Upwell's existence. The Tide Report first fluttered into your virtual mailboxes in June 2012, and as you can see, it’s evolved a lot since then. We’ve covered a lot of ground: from ocean plastic cleanup schemes to ocean acidification warnings to Gangnam Style (remember when that was a thing?) on the Rainbow Warrior. Plus, of course, there have been plenty of random but necessary pictures of sea otter cuteness:

Yes, exactly like that. And outside of the Tide Report, Upwell has sharkinared and attention lab-ed, and oystered New York, and oh so many things, and none of it would have been possible without all of you, and it’s been wonderful which makes it so difficult to write this next sentence, but here goes.

Upwell will be closing up shop this spring.


We know, we know. We feel the same way. But, while we are sad to deliver this news, we are also filled with hope.

Here’s the honest truth about how and why we’ve made this decision. 

After two years of exploring a variety of funding options and models, we’ve been unable to secure dedicated ocean funding that is sufficient to maintain our core ocean programming. In partnership with our major funders, we’ve made the difficult decision to close down our program, with a likely end date of March 31.

We really tried to find a way to sustain Upwell, promise. Upwell has been interesting, fulfilling work for all of us. And it was worth fighting to keep this project alive - up to a point. Now, closing down is the right path for us as individuals and as an organization. While bittersweet, this is the right thing to do.

We were fortunate to be able to do this movement-level work, collaborating with so many organizations, scientists, journalists and passionate activists. We’re grateful to our funders and collaborators, and to our current fiscal sponsor the New Venture Fund, for believing in this work and helping achieve the great many successes we’ve seen since we began our little organization back in 2011. Many took a chance with us, in hopes of creating change and deep impact.

Thank you for your trust. Thank you for the many times you amplified the story that the ocean is in crisis. Thank you for all of your good advice and tips. Thank you for not giving up on the ocean.

We are not done yet.

Our focus for the next couple months will be learning and sharing. Over the past three years we’ve advanced Big Listening - a way to measure and understand conversations at scale - and found ways to amplify great content through networked campaigning in order to increase the attention to the most pressing ocean conservation issues. We’ve been so grateful to work with a community that is not only open to, but excited to learn about this new way of working, and we’ve so enjoyed watching Team Ocean grow.

From Sharkinars to acidification memes to baby seals, we’ve got lessons and memories abound. We want to hear yours too.

Here’s how you can help.

Consider this the beginning of a conversation about how the movement can carry forward this work. Tell us what you’ve learned through working with Upwell, and ask us your burning questions.

We'll be extending invitations to celebrate and learn from this community in a variety of ways over the next couple months - over email, social media, coffee, and video chats. (There may even be some rum involved.) To begin, we’ll be having an “open house” over Twitter tomorrow. Come to us with your questions and ideas, and the team will be standing by to answer.

Tuesday January 13, 11-1 PST/2-4 EST.
Upwell Open House - Participate in the conversation with the hashtag #upwell.

As always, send us your tips (or hopes, fears, missives, manifestos, dreams or ocean gossip) to It goes from you, to all of us.

Rachel, Ray, Matt & The Good Ship Upwell

P.S. The most excellent Upwell team, past and present, has every intention of continuing to work in this (these!) veins. You should hire them, say I, Rachel. They are hilarious and brilliant and brave. Individual contact info here.