My research focuses on environmental governance in two related areas: (1) the efficacy of spatial approaches to conserving marine species and habitats, and (2) mechanisms for improving the science-policy interface in environmental decision-making. I am particularly interested in the challenges of effectively implementing Marine Protected Areas and biodiversity conservation worldwide, focusing in particular on: (a) the agency and influence of different actors, (b) the role of evidence/scientific uncertainty in the policy process, and (c) managing institutional complexity on multiple scales (i.e. from the local to the national, regional, and international).
Current Research Projects
Current Research Projects
- Militarized Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - building on my previous work examining "fortress conservation" in the Chagos Archipelago, I am looking at the motivation for designating MPAs in regions that are either currently militarized, sites that have experienced military activity in the past, or regions that may be important for security purposes in the future. Are conservation and security objectives compatible? Are these areas "securing" resources for future use? The territories I am most interested in are overseas possessions of the USA and former colonial powers.
- UK marine conservation planning - this project is examining the UK government's recent public consultation process for designating Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs), focusing on two aspects, (1) how well it is including stakeholders int he process, following requirements set out under the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, and (2) understanding the role of "evidence" in MPA site selection and designation, including the structure and function of scientific assessment, as well as problems with inconsistent standards.
- Lessons learned from the IPCC for IPBES - Established in 2012, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will provide advice and expertise to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in an analogous role to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This project is examining how political decisions are taken in situations of scientific uncertainty, and the specific challenges of governing biodiversity, with a focus on marine ecosystems.
- Governing the High Seas - I recently supervised two students who conducted independent research on the developing regimes for regulating (1) mining, and (2) Access and Benefit Sharing of marine genetic resources. I am also tracking the development of a new international legally binding agreement (ILBI) for MPAs on the high seas, and implications for Arctic biodiversity conservation.
- Environmental Information: Use and Influence (EIUI, link to project website)
This interdisciplinary research initiative is examining the use and influence of environmental information produced by government agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in environmental decision-making. Globally, the volume of information on environmental issues continues to grow rapidly. Yet many environmental problems persist, suggesting that significant barriers exist between information production and its use in timely and effective policy action. With financial support from the Canadian Federal Government, this project is focusing on case studies from a range of partner organizations. Partners: Bertrum MacDonald (School of Information Management), Peter Wells (School for Resource and Environmental Studies), and Kevin Quigley (School of Public Administration), all at Dalhousie University.
- Marine Protected Area Governance (MPAG, link to project website)
This study is examining governance aspects of MPAs to improve long-term effectiveness, drawing on an analysis of five categories of incentives: legal, economic, participative, interpretative and knowledge-based. This interdisciplinary analysis draws on insights from conservation biology, recommending a complex network of governing incentives and institutions (mirroring the complex network of trophic relationships present in natural systems). Partners: Peter J.S. Jones and Wanfei Qiu, Department of Geography, UCL.
- Teaching with Technology (2011-2013)
With support from Dalhousie's Center for Teaching and Learning, my Sustainability co-instructor (Matthew Schnurr) and I examined the effectiveness of both in-person and web-based simulation techniques for teaching the complexities of global environmental governance.