New Shifting Baselines Video Shines Spotlight on Puget Sound Conservation


The Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Partnership, led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego Professor Jeremy Jackson, was launched six years ago with the goal of communicating to the broad public a clear description of the decline of the world's oceans. The partnership, based on the "shifting baselines" idea of losing track of standards and failing to realize how much has changed, has now turned its focus on the ecological decline in the waters of Puget Sound.

Jackson and his Shifting Baselines project have teamed up with the newly created Puget Sound Partnership to produce a 5-minute Flash video written, directed and narrated by Shifting Baselines Director Randy Olson. The rock group Pearl Jam, led by Seattle native Eddie Vedder, lent its song "Oceans" to the video, and Tree Media (producers of the recent environmental documentary feature film, "11th Hour") provided the graphics and Flash programming.

"This was exactly our goal in creating Shifting Baselines," Jackson said, "to work with local projects such as Puget Sound Partnership in promoting the term 'shifting baselines' as a communications tool for helping the broader public understand the severity of problems with coastal ecosystems."

The video's goal is to help the people of the Seattle region understand that although the waters of Puget Sound look perfectly healthy and even pristine when viewed at the surface, the truth is that much wildlife has vanished and the quality of the marine environment has been substantially compromised.

In 2007 Washington Governor Chris Gregoire created the Puget Sound Partnership ( a $50 million budget-specifically to restore the health of Puget Sound by 2020. Phone polling last year revealed that while more than 90 percent of Puget Sound residents want the Sound to be protected, more than 70 percent think the Sound in its current condition is healthy and needs no restoration. This disconnect between public perception and reality is the first challenge the project faces, and is the reason they brought in Jackson's Shifting Baselines message (

Jackson and marine ecologist Nancy Knowlton recently published an essay in Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology describing shifting baselines issues for coral reefs and other marine ecosystems as they face threats from global change and human impacts. Jackson also coauthored a companion paper in PLoS ONE on results from the Line Islands Expedition, a project in which Jackson and his colleagues evaluated the impact of fishing and other human threats across four coral reefs in a central Pacific archipelago (See news release:

Jackson co-founded the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media project in 2002 along with scientist-turned-filmmaker Olson (director of the recent documentary feature film, "Flock of Dodos: the evolution-intelligent design circus" ( currently airing on Showtime), and veteran movie producer and avid sport diver Gale Anne Hurd (producer of "Terminator," "Aliens," "The Abyss" and "The Hulk"). Over the past five years they have produced a series of national television commercials and short films starring comic actors including Jack Black, Henry Winkler, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller and the Groundlings Improv Comedy Theater.

Shifting Baselines also has developed an annual summer workshop in filmmaking for new Scripps Oceanography graduate students, who have produced 17 short films and public service announcements with a conservation message.

The Puget Sound video will be used in outreach communication by the Puget Sound Partnership and the associated ocean conservation organizations in the Puget Sound region.

Related Video: Shifting Baselines in the Sound

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