Research Interests

  • Interdisciplinary, international marine conservation & resource management
  • Stewardship of coastal resources by communities in developing countries
  • Social-ecological assessment of conservation issues and management effectiveness, with a focus on small-scale fisheries, marine protected areas, and megafauna conservation (particularly bycatch) in developing countries
  • Working with local communities to build capacity for conservation, and exploring mechanisms for enabling conservation (e.g., through Design Thinking/Human-Centered Design)
  • Enhancing conservation-relevant communication and collaboration across projects, disciplines, sectors, and regions
  • Outreach! (e.g., blog posts related to my research here)

Current Fellowship
The true meaning of “success”: Developing adaptive social-ecological frameworks for marine protected area evaluation.  NSF SEES Fellowship project, 2014-2017.

This project has morphed from its original focus, which was to review and evaluate how MPAs fulfill diverse ecological and social management objectives.  This is an endeavor that several brilliant research groups are undertaking, and I chose to shift my emphasis to a related topic that I believe needs more attention: the concept of stewardship.  My project now focuses on developing an approach to evaluate stewardship, including its effectiveness as a means for engaging small-scale fishing communities in conservation.  It also aims to understand how to productively promote stewardship in local communities.

This work aligns with my work as a co-coordinator of the Small-scale Fisheries (SSF) Stewardship research cluster to TBTI.  Through this work, this group aims to elucidate the actual and potential contributions of SSF communities to management and conservation, in addition to assessing the relative impacts of various SSF gear and techniques.

In my own project, I will be assessing stewardship in different contexts, including a special case study on vaquita conservation, but more broadly focusing on the process and outcomes of stewardship at diverse sites globally.

Through this research, I will work with researchers, practitioners, foundations, and communities to investigate how stewardship initiatives are developed and implemented, and how to better incorporate measures of social impact in assessment process, based in large part on fieldwork to be conducted in Baja California, Myanmar, and Madagascar. I am generally very interested in learning more about stewardship efforts globally, and would welcome any communication about intriguing examples of stewardship!

Small-scale & Artisanal Fisheries Research Network (SAFRN)
In 2010, I founded SAFRN as a research focus area at CMBC, to be an interdisciplinary hub of communication for San Diego-based students, researchers, and faculty interested in studying small-scale fisheries.  Now, in 2014, SAFRN has members around the world and is linked to the global group Too Big To Ignore.  From 2011 to 2012, the Waitt Foundation funded our project, “Coordinating Research to Sustain Artisanal Fisheries,” through which we developed our website, hosted an international workshop of small-scale fisheries experts, and developed the Snapshot Assessment Protocol for characterizing small-scale fisheries.  We continue to build our focus on San Diego-based research and our local fisheries, while extending our network globally to develop and share informational resources for researchers, facilitate communication across projects, and promote interdisciplinary research that contributes to improved management of small-scale fisheries.


Dissertation Research
Conservation-scapes: An interdisciplinary approach to assessing cetacean bycatch in small-scale fisheries
For my dissertation (also at CMBC and SIO), I developed a social-ecological framework to study the accidental capture, or bycatch, of marine mammals in small-scale fisheries.  This bycatch is a serious problem for the animals, and mitigating it requires careful consideration of the human communities involved. Working with numerous collaborators, I applied this framework at four sites in SE Asia, focusing on subpopulations of the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris).  More on this research here.