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Copyright © 2002 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance.

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Hoffman, P. 2002. Building bridges across the gap. Conservation Ecology 6(1): r15. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/resp15/

Response to Jack Stilgoe 2002. "Some reservations about the gap concept"

Building Bridges across the Gap

Philip Hoffman

Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management

Published: June 27, 2002

Although it may still be true that there is a "gap" or "lag" between the understanding of a new concept by scientists and the understanding of that concept by the public, ongoing work in the fields of coastal ecology, coastal ecosystem management, and the design of Marine Protected Areas is pointing the way to an integration of public and scientific perceptions. Here in Florida, the experience has been varied, but, in general, much public pressure for ecosystem management, protection, and restoration has been exerted when scientists have found a way to take their knowledge, and their lack of knowledge, to the public in a meaningful way. By honestly saying "We know this, we don't know this, and we want to know what you know and perceive," those of us working to protect and conserve fragile coastal ecosystems, which are often highly impacted by human use, can, I believe, make greater strides.

A good example of this for me is the current debate about what, if any, area within the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (California) should be closed to public and commercial use. All the players, including the commercial fishermen, have a seat at the table, and the knowledge base has been greatly expanded as a result.

My take-home message is this: the general public is not ignorant, and people often know things about ecosystems and their functions that we scientists have yet to address. To me the gap problem is one of communication, not of understanding. It might be useful to start by rephrasing the entire question, because scientists are members of the public too, and if we can explain what we know and do to our neighbors, our civic groups, our religious institutions, and our children's schools, then we can explain it the public at large, and the gap won't appear so great anymore.


Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a comment, follow this link. To read comments already accepted, follow this link.


Stilgoe, J. 2002. Some reservations about the gap concept. Conservation Ecology 5(2): r2. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol5/iss2/resp2

Address of Correspondent:
Philip Hoffman
Pinellas County Department of Environmental Management
300 South Garden Avenue
Clearwater, Florida 33756 USA
Phone: (727) 464-4798
Fax: (727) 464-4403

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