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Shout Trout Workout: creative methods for communicating fish migration

August 23, 2021
Frame from the Shout Trout Workout cartoon. Image: FIRE Lab

The threats to freshwater ecosystems can sometimes be difficult to recognise. Aquatic life going on beneath the water’s surface is often hard to see, and pressures such as pollution can often be tricky to observe through opaque and murky waters.

The impacts of other key issues, such as habitat fragmentation, may not even register in public awareness of freshwater ecosystems. And, given the ongoing series of calls from conservationists for urgent action to halt the loss of global freshwater biodiversity, being able to engage people with the multiple threats faced by freshwaters is a key contemporary issue.

In this context, an international team has developed creative ways of engaging young people with issues around fish migration. The Shout Trout Workout is a lyric poem, comic and music video designed for 8–14 year olds. It uses artistic methods to communicate complex issues around declining migratory fish populations.

“We’re very passionate about fresh waters here at FIRE Lab.” says project lead Dr. Merryn Thomas, part of Swansea University’s Freshwater Interdisciplinary Research and Engagement Laboratory (FIRE Lab) which explores young peoples’ relationships with freshwater environments.

“We wanted to explain about fish migration in an educational and informative way, and think we achieved this through our interdisciplinary collaboration with passionate creatives and academics,” Dr. Thomas continues.

Frame from the Shout Trout Workout cartoon. Image: FIRE Lab

The project was developed in 2020 through a collaboration involving an environmental scientist, social scientist and artist from the FIRE Lab, alongside a fish scientist, illustrator and media production company.

The Shout Trout comic, designed by American illustrator Ethan Kocak, tells the story of a migratory sea trout’s lifecycle, through birth, migration and spawning. It highlights the habitats the sea trout passes through in its lifecycle, and the threats it faces at each stage. The lyric poem and video sets the comic themes to music.

“We learned a lot about co-creation along the way, which we hope will be useful for others who are interested in collaborating across boundaries to design inspiring engagement materials for young people about our natural environments,” says Dr. Thomas.

The research team have recently published an open-access journal article reflecting on the production of the project in the British Ecological Society’s People and Nature journal. The article discusses how their interdisciplinary collaborations required an openness to co-creation in shaping how key themes were communicated.

Significantly, they highlight the role of scientists in project contributing creative input to the production process to shape how scientific research is translated into artistic outputs. Here, as in other creative freshwater communication projects such as Water Lives…, the team highlight the need to balance scientific accuracy with artistic licence.

The team suggest that it is vital to engage young people with issues such as threats to fish migration in order to develop their environmental literacy for the future. They highlight how such projects have the potential to travel widely through online channels, through educational use in schools, and through workshops and events such as World Fish Migration Day.


 Swansea University Freshwater Interdisciplinary Research and Engagement Laboratory (FIRE Lab)

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