Distant water fleets and food security webinars

Announcing two upcoming webinars where Austin Humphries and I will be presenting our draft results on the impacts of distant water fleets on domestic food security in four places: Peru, Madagascar, the Philippines and the Pacific Islands region. 

If you didn’t make it to the webinars, recordings can be found here. 

New paper on theory-based evalution

A bittersweet moment that our SESYNC research team’s third (and final) paper came out last week in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management. When I began my research with SESYNC on the social and ecological outcomes of marine spatial planning (MSP) around the world, I didn’t expect to be publishing on the nitty gritty details of a theory-based approach to MSP evaluation. But, that is exactly where our research team found ourselves. The evaluation of complex, multi-objective MSP initiatives is a sticky challenge that requires new approaches and interdisciplinary thinking. With the research, we tested a theory-based approach (with theories of change) for MSP to not only evaluate WHAT happened, but better understand WHY it happened, HOW it happened, WHO it happened to, and WHO it happened for.

Since this is our research team’s last paper, I’ll thank all of my collaborators on the work. Jon Kramer and Nicole Motzer (formerly at SESYNC) who entrusted me to lead this work and provided substantial guidance and insight on how to conduct successful interdisciplinary, team research. Our expect research team who I learned so much from: Natalie Ban, Anne Guerry, Ana Spalding, Ben Halpern, Rafael Magris, Shauna Mahajan, Vanessa Stelzenmuller and Wes Flannery. I hope to have the privilege of working with every one of them again. And to our funder, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation – especially our Program Manager, Mary Turnipseed, who always had thought-provoking questions and challenged our group to pursue research questions with actionable results. 

Our paper “Exploring the potential of theory-based evaluation to strengthen marine spatial planning practice” can be found here. If you don’t have journal access, please email me for a PDF. 

New collaboration at the University of Rhode Island

I’ve recently started a new position at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center (URI-CRC). Together with Dr. Austin Humphries, Dr. Elin Torell and Lauren Josephs, and in partnership with experts at the U.S. Agency for International Development, we’re conducting research to examine the social and ecological impacts of distant water fleet (DWF) fishing. My piece of the research is focused on the impacts of DWFs on food security in the places where they fish. 


More about the project here and here

Enabling conditions for effective marine spatial planning

Our SESYNC group recently published a paper introducing a framework of enabling conditions (critical factors related to planning and ongoing governance processes) for effective marine spatial planning. In the paper, we discuss each condition and suggest that the framework can provide a useful tool during pre-MSP planning and during MSP evaluation. 

More about this project here. Find the full paper here

Narrowing the gap between MSP aspirations and realities

New publication out in ICES Journal of Marine Science! This is the first of three papers that are the products of my work at SESYNC with a wonderful team of natural and social scientists, governance and policy experts, and conservation practitioners. Below is a short description of the research that I wrote up for the journal. The paper can be found here or you can always email me for a copy of the PDF. 

With the increasing industrialization of our oceans, many governments are turning to marine spatial planning (MSP) to protect ecosystems and the services they provide for people, empower stakeholders, coordinate across levels of government and sectoral interests, and deliver environmental, social, and economic benefits. Many countries are currently revising their marine spatial plans or developing new ones, creating a pressing need to understand how successful these plans are in achieving their ambitious and diverse goals.

MSP monitoring and evaluation is, however, commonly underfunded and underprioritized. Although assessments are underway with available methods, data, and resources, challenges remain in understanding MSP outcomes. One of the fundamental challenges is determining the set of metrics best suited to evaluate a plan. Should a plan be evaluated against its stated goals or a more general list of social and ecological outcomes aspired to by the wider body of MSP literature? Do the outcomes of these approaches differ? To explore this debate, the authors of the latest Editor’s Choice paper conducted a comprehensive literature review to identify MSP aspirations and reviewed 50+ marine spatial plans to quantify MSP realities.

They found that goals identified in the MSP literature span a wide spectrum of social and environmental categories, including climate change, conflict reduction, cultural heritage, economy, ecosystems and biodiversity, and human well-being. However, not all of the categories translated to real-world objectives in plans. Although climate change, the support of traditional and Indigenous rights, the preservation of cultural heritage, and the improvement of human well-being are increasingly discussed in the literature, many adopted plans lack objectives related to these areas. Because of this mismatch, the authors conclude that the ideas and aspirations of MSP are in many ways incompatible with their realities. Authors note that conducting an MSP evaluation based only on stated objectives might mask a lack of progress towards essential social goals, making it less likely that plans will lead to real benefits in those categories. 

As more countries adopt MSP, it is critical that planning and evaluation are adjusted towards taking a more comprehensive view of socio-ecological sustainability. This research stimulates an ongoing conversation about what MSP can achieve, how these outcomes can be evaluated, and how researchers can help to ensure that MSP reaches its full transformative potential.


New publication on pelagic-benthic coupling in kelp forests

I’m excited to announce a new publication out in Marine Ecology Progress Series! This is one of my dissertation chapters and focuses on the connections between the nearshore kelp forest in central California and the adjacent open ocean ecosystem. For the work, I used stomach content and stable isotope analyses to explore the extent of pelagic-benthic coupling in this system and what it means for nearshore rockfish species. 

Figure 1 from the paper – results from mixing models that show substantial use of pelagic carbon by all four focal rockfish species!

As part of this paper, I collected a whole lot of stable isotope data that I didn’t end up using – for juvenile rockfish (of several species and different life phases), juvenile lingcod, several invertebrate kelp forest consumers, kelp and red algae. I am happy to share any of those data and/or the underlying data from this paper. If you’re interested, please reach out via email. 

And check out the paper – https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13937

Getting “out” of the office: recent guest lectures on MSP

I’ve recently had the opportunity to give several guest lectures on marine spatial planning (MSP) – one at UC Santa Cruz and one at Oregon State University. Even though these were given from the home office that I’ve been in for a year now, it felt wonderful to get out and do a little teaching and to interact with new groups of scientists. 

I am always happy to share these presentations with anyone interested (maybe you’re teaching a marine policy course? Maybe you need to give a primer on MSP for your marine conservation class?). Drop me an email and I can send the slides.

First week as a postdoc at SESYNC

I’m excited to announce that I’ve started a postdoc position at the National Center for Socio-Environmental Synthesis (SESYNC). In my two years here, I’ll be working with mentors at SESYNC, collaborators and funders at The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and an extremely knowledgeable working group of experts on marine spatial planning from around the world. In the first year, we’ll finalize development of an evaluative framework that allows us to ask whether marine spatial planning has delivered social, ecological and/or economic benefits relative to stated objectives of the plan and to broader expectations of what ocean planning should achieve. From there, I’ll lead efforts to test the framework using marine spatial planning case studies that can help us understand the role that marine spatial planning might play in ocean governance moving forward, and the conditions that lead to positive socio-environmental outcomes for ocean ecosystems and coastal communities. 

I was drawn to this job for several reasons. First, while fisheries certainly play a major role in marine spatial planning, this project will allow me to expand my research and thinking beyond fisheries to more uses and users of the ocean environment. And second, I’ve wanted to work at SESYNC since I learned about their existence in 2014. It is a truly unique research center, at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research and synthesis. While I’ll absolutely miss being part of a fish ecology lab, at SESYNC my colleagues and officemates are in public health, anthropology, political science and a wide range of other disciplines. The opportunity to be surrounded by such a diverse group of thinkers, and to further develop my skills doing synthetic research drew me here and have me very hopeful about what the next two years will bring. 

Ocean Wealth article in Keys Weekly

Snapper in the Florida Keys (photo credit: The Nature Conservancy). 

Our work mapping fish biomass on the Florida Reef Tract was written up in Keys Weekly! Rob Brumbaugh, our collaborator at The Nature Conservancy, discusses the larger ‘Ocean Wealth’ framework that our models and maps contribute to, and I touch on our approach to this work, and the potential for the maps that we generated to inform management. 

Check out the article here


FIU Ocean Life Series lecture – September 26th

I’ll be giving the September 26th FIU Ocean Life Series lecture in Key Largo, FL.

In the past few months I’ve finalized my models and maps of fishing impact and coral reef fish biomass for Florida’s reef tract. I’ve given numerous presentations to coral reef and fisheries managers to get feedback and comments on my work, and working closely with the management community to finalize mapping products has been a really useful experience. That said, I’m super excited for the opportunity to give a presentation that’s open to the public, including members of the commercial and recreational fishing communities! Here’s hoping that people show up and ask questions.