OFFICE OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF | Communicating Complex Science

OFFICE OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF | Communicating Complex Science

STEM Matters were appointed by the Office of the Great Barrier Reef (Qld) and the Australian Government Department of the Environment to create and implement the content and communications strategy for the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (Reef Plan) and 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement.

While the joint workgroup had developed a Reef Plan and Scientific Consensus Statement, they were still encountering barriers when trying to engage with the farming community throughout Queensland. The core aim of the project was to open up the lines of communication between government and priority audiences (identified as farmers, agricultural bodies, extension officers and communities living in the Reef catchment) and review existing communication and create new content that would engage these audiences.

For the duration of this project, our Science Communications Director was embedded within the Qld Government Office. Our team worked closely with Communications and Science teams to develop and implement the content and communications strategy.

STEM Matters delivered a range of accessible, shareable tools for time-poor farmers and those who work with them in industry and extension services. These included:

  • A podcast series sharing stories about water quality from many different perspectives. Guests included scientists, farmers, water quality modellers, extension officers and government employees.
  • A video series presented by growers and scientists, speaking in their own words about local water quality issues and challenges.
  • A re-design of the Reef Plan website to make it visually pleasing and easy to use. Navigation was changed to suit visitor needs and questions. New content was written in everyday language, answering frequently asked questions and offering short summaries (in written and video form) of lengthy policy documents.
  • Short explainer videos for social media
  • A list of key messages and language for consistent, non-threatening, easily understood communication of the science messages, including ‘calls to action’ for how each group can contribute to a healthy Great Barrier Reef.
  • Video production training for in-house scientists



  • Content received positive feedback from growers and industry groups. Canegrowers (peak body for Australian sugarcane growers) shared our material on their social media pages.
  • Content was adopted and shared locally by Reef catchment regional groups such as Terrain (NRM)
  • 50+ staff (from the Office of the Great Barrier Reef, Great Barrier Reef Foundation and partner groups) completed science communication training and content creation workshops.
  • New website project completed in four months including review and update of all existing content plus new layout, images, videos, podcasts, explainers and hubs for each grower type.


Project links