If I had to classify myself, my research interests could be called applied science and technology studies. I am broadly interested in the relationships between humans and nature as well as how these links may be strengthened for a more sustainable outcome, as measured by ecological function, economic feasibility, and preservation of cultural heritage. In particular, I’m interested in the nexus of knowledge and power, production of expertise, and means of encouraging creativity in conservation. My research program addresses the human dimensions of applied conservation largely through looking at new models of participation.

A small group at a workshop for fishers and scientists for my dissertation research. They are drawing their perception of the local aquatic ecosystem.

A small group of fishermen and scientists talking about their estuary and what factors affect it, both positively and negatively, that need more attention.

Broader Research Themes:

Ways of Knowing in Conservation

There are myriad ways to learn about the environment, from depending on its resources to reading about ecological theory in a textbook. How is expertise and power ascribed to each way of knowing? Do these ways of knowing and their associated philosophies and worldviews each have something different to bring to conservation? Does including diverse ways of knowing in research produce more novel research or more directly applied research? Is participatory science a means of stepping from science to action? My work in ways of knowing adds to the rapidly growing but new network of democratized science, both on the logistical end of project organization and on the greatly needed evaluation end through documenting flows of knowledge and power.

Community and Environmental Sustainability

My research sites are all in places where the environment is both valued and depended upon for livelihoods through fishing, farming, and forestry. These spaces provide a case study for questions like 1) What does environmentally responsible mean in a natural-resource dependent rural area? 2) Can environmentally responsible also mean socially responsible and vice versa? 3) Can citizens’ close connection to the environment make the transition from local ecological knowledge to grassroots conservation? My research adds to a growing body of case studies linking economic, cultural, and environmental sustainability; these efforts help fishers tangibly define what a sustainable fishery looks like for their consumers.

Hydrosocial Cycles and Systems

Water rarely flows without human influence from mountains to sea and therefore represents an opportunity to study nature and culture as manifested in a single resource. Human culture both physically and conceptually changes water hydrology and ecology into a single socionature. Does conceptualizing an ecosystem with its human culture help address conservation challenges such as water pollution? Can we extend Swyngedouw’s (2004) work on urban water systems through estuaries to marine systems? My research documents the water/culture nexus in the sparsely populated environment bridging land and sea, helping conceptualize a peopled seascape.

Kelp fishermen in Samani, Japan, show us how they care for their kelp beds off-season.

Current  Projects:

Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management

EBFM is inherently stakeholder-driven and place-based, integrating social and natural factors in one comprehensive look at an ecosystem. I’m working to develop a ‘check-up’ for the Chesapeake Bay that includes indicators across the array of management goals in EBFM – indicators that together integrate the social and the ecological and capture the status of estuarine dynamics. Since one of the biggest hurdles EBFM has thus far faced is in implementation, I’m also creating road map for how to use existing communication networks and established law to meet the new goals associated with EBFM. Baby steps first, we just need to figure out what the appropriate steps are.

Citizen Science 

While the term ‘citizen science’ bothers many people, as an umbrella term it encapsulates a broad social movement to include non-professional scientists in understanding our world. I’m looking at what it takes for a citizen science program to really be included in the conversation around a particular management issue, which models of citizen science are most effective in informing policy, and what aspects of citizen science might work to bring underrepresented voices to the science table.

Technology and Diversity in Science

Gone are the days when the ‘expert’ from a far-away country comes and studies an ecosystem with its connected culture. Here are the days when members of that culture can form their own voice and document nature entirely embedded in cultural context and worldview. What tools are needed to help facilitate this shift in the culture of science? Communication technology and low-cost scientific equipment are both part of the answer, for example, open-source underwater robots that allow pacific island citizens to measure the underwater parts of their traditional management territories. How can we get those tools in the hands of the people that need them most?

For past work on the inner workings of collaborative fisheries research, how we think about mercury in the aquatic food chain, and historic sustainability practices in rural Japan, check out the resulting journal articles, linked on my online cv.