Ocean Shock is a 10-part multimedia series that evolved from data analysis showing oceans around the world warming and causing marine life to migrate North and deeper. The series explained the science behind the climate’s hidden climate change and how this shift in the earth’s ecosystem was having an impact on livelihoods, industries and cultures around the world. It revealed to readers how individual creatures were at risk and also looked forward to future; to the people looking to mitigate the impending crisis and others offering advice on eating for a changing planet.
What makes this project innovative?
The data was the centerpiece of Ocean Shock and the data narrative was a motif throughout – globes showing warming oceans provided context to orient readers. For the multimedia components, we wanted each story to have it’s own bespoke visual narrative. As such, we worked and planned strategically with photographers and reporters around the world. We shot drone footage in Africa to give a broad perspective on artisanal fishing, used 360 cameras in the mangroves of Borneo to bring readers closer to how nature was being destroyed. We shot a every building across one block in a small town in Japan, allowing readers to scroll through a street that had been decimated by the loss of squid. And throughout the series, we included tiny animated gifs to add intimate texture and flipping interaction patterns to make motions reminiscent of the sea. And of course, we walked readers through an interactive narrative to explain how fish were migrating and what the data told us.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The series continues to be widely cited on other news organizations, we were the first to report the data on warming oceans. The UN uses it in their presentations and it’s been spotted on CSPAN.
Source and methodology
To examine sea surface temperatures and identify hotspots, we used data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The data estimated the mean monthly temperature in one-degree grids for the seas across the planet starting in 1970. To explore the migrations of marine creatures, we used federal trawl survey data in the U.S. North Atlantic. This tracks the location of dozens of species dating to the late 1960s. Using a Rutgers University version of the data called OceanAdapt, which is enhanced by adding the geographic center of each species’ range, we were able to quantify the number of species that had shifted north, or deeper, or both.
Sarah Slobin, Maryanne Murray, Matthew Weber, Andrew Garcia Phillips