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People affiliated with CMAP are based in a number of Institutes and Departments on campus, including the Marine Science Institute; the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management; the Earth Research Institute; the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology; the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, and the Geography Department. Projects being conducted by these researchers fall within three broad themes, each of which includes interconnected and complementary research projects. Specific projects are listed thematically below, followed by a full list, with direct links to projects available to the right.

Planning for an uncertain future

Marine ecosystems and the way we use them are changing due to both natural and human causes. Making resource management and conservation decisions to help inform, and respond to, these changes, many of which are uncertain, requires new approaches and new information.  Several research projects are tackling these challenges.

  • Emerging ocean uses
  1. Spatial Tradeoffs in Massachusetts Waters
  • Decision making under uncertainty
  1. Environmental offset markets (e.g. REDD) under asymmetric information
  2. Spatial management of metapopulations under uncertainty
  3. Prices vs. Quantities vs. Effort to manage fisheries under uncertainty
  4. How much credit in seafood certification should be granted for fisheries with MPAs when the regulator is uncertain about the ecological effects of those MPAs?

People and a complex ocean

Resource management is increasingly recognizing and trying to incorporate complexity in natural and social systems, and the interactions among them.  Interdisciplinary teams are tackling these challenges through a number of related projects.

  • Marine ecosystem science
  1. SONGS mitigation monitoring program
  2. Ecological & Evolutionary Parasitology at UCS
  3. Moorea Coral Reef LTER
  4. Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO)
  • Coupled land-ocean ecosystems
  1. Santa Barbara Coastal LTER
  • Connectivity in the coastal ocean
  • Governance and Social Dynamics
  1. Program on Governance for Sustainable Development

Marine spatial planning

Resource management and conservation is moving towards increasingly sophisticated spatially-explicit approaches.  Research projects in this theme focus on the basic science and decision tools needed to support and inform these decision-making processes.

  • Cumulative Impacts
    1. Cumulative Impact Assessments
  • Bioeconomic modeling of tradeoffs
    1. Sustainable Fisheries Group
    2. Spatial Tradeoffs in Massachusetts Waters
    3. California Abolone Tradeoff Assessment
  • Rights-based management
    1. Sustainable Fisheries Group
  • Integrated land-sea planning
  • Decision Support Tools
  1. MarineMap
  2. Ocean Health Index


Specific Research Projects

Program on Governance for Sustainable Development

Sustainable DevelopmentThe Program on Governance for Sustainable Development brings together scholars and practitioners to explore the role of institutions in addressing the challenges of sustainable development. It seeks to understand the role of governance in world affairs, with a focus on the institutions that manage the complex interdependencies within our societies and economies, and between these human systems and natural systems.

Project Lead: Oran Young



marinemapMarineMap is a web-based decision support tool for open and participatory spatial planning in the marine environment. MarineMap offers a simple, flexible and powerful means of gathering expertise from resource managers, scientists, stakeholders and public in a process of collaborative decision making.

Project Lead: Will McClintock


Cumulative Impact Assessment

Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and other comprehensive planning approaches emphasize the need to assess and account for the cumulative impact of human activities on ecosystems.  A collection of related projects have developed and implemented the methodology for calculating and mapping the cumulative impact of all human activities on marine ecosystems. Regional case studies to date include the California Current, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Massachusetts, the Mediterranean, and the Great Lakes.

Project Leads: Ben Halpern, Kim Selkoe, Carrie Kappel


Ocean Health Index

OHI logoWe know the ocean's health is under threat...but how bad is it? And how will we know if our actions to help the ocean are working? Until now, there has been no consensus on what determines ocean health and no common metric to measure it. The Ocean Health Index measures the status and trends of ocean health and its components.

Project Lead: Ben Halpern

More information: Project Overview


Santa Barbara Coastal LTER

SBCThe Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research Project (SBC) is part of the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. The LTER Program was established by the NSF in 1980 to support research on long-term ecological phenomena. SBC became the 24th site in the LTER network in April of 2000.

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) forests are located at the land-ocean margin in temperate regions of both the northern and southern hemispheres, and represent one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. The primary research objective of the SBC LTER is to investigate the relative importance of land and ocean processes in structuring giant kelp forest ecosystems.

Project Lead: Dan Reed


SONGS mitigation monitoring program

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Mitigation Monitoring Program is based at the Marine Science Institute, University of California Santa Barbara. Long-term monitoring and evaluation of the SONGS mitigation projects is a condition of the coastal development permit issued by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) for the operation of SONGS Units 2 and 3. The Permit requires Southern California Edison (SCE) as majority owner and operating agent of SONGS to design and build mitigation projects that adequately compensate for the adverse effects of the power plant’s once-through seawater cooling system on coastal marine resources. UCSB scientists working under the direction of the Executive Director of the CCC are responsible for designing and implementing monitoring programs aimed at determining the effectiveness of these mitigation projects. Funding for the SONGS Mitigation Monitoring Program is provided by SCE as a requirement of their coastal development permit for operating SONGS.

Project Leads: Mark Page, Dan Reed, Steve Schroeter


Ecological & Evolutionary Parasitology at UCS

Ecological ParasitologyOur lab's mission statement is to analyze and reveal the role of infectious processes in ecosystem dynamics. We apply these principles to applications including the assessment of ecological functioning of estuarine ecosystems in the context of environmental mitigation and restoration projects, biological control of introduced marine pests, reducing losses to fisheries caused by parasitic diseases, and biological control of human schistosomiasis.

Project Leads: Armand Kuris, Kevin Lafferty, Ryan Hechinger


Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research site (MCR LTER)

MooreaThe Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research site (MCR LTER) is the complex of coral reefs and lagoons that surround the island of Moorea, French Polynesia. Coral reefs represent one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Unfortunately, the world's coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate. Current estimates indicate that almost 20% of the world's coral reefs have been lost and another 35% are in serious danger of being lost by 2050 due to the effects of coastal development, over-fishing and multiple factors associated with global climate change (GCRMN 2008). The primary goal of the Moorea Coral Reef Long-term Ecological Research site is to explore the effects of these external drivers on the fate of coral reefs. The MCR LTER was established in 2004 by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a partnership between the University of California Santa Barbara and California State University, Northridge. MCR researchers include marine scientists from the UC Santa Barbara, CSU Northridge, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, CSU San Marcos, Duke University and the University of Hawaii. Field operations are conducted from the UC Berkeley Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia.

Project Leads: Russ Schmitt, Sally Holbrook


Sustainable Fisheries Group

SFG logo updatedThe Sustainable Fisheries Group (SFG) at UCSB provides leadership to develop some of the diverse elements required to drive fisheries reform and sustainable ocean use more generally. SFG’s work seeks to utilize market approaches to increase the ecological and economic performance of fisheries and the sustainability of coastal communities. We bring the necessary scientific expertise and intellectual capital to key partnerships with leading conservation organizations, local NGOs, and diverse stakeholder groups in order to find solutions to critical environmental problems affecting the oceans and to affect management reform and policy change. Our interdisciplinary research combines the skills of quantitative ecologists and economists to address a wide range of environmental problems – from theoretical to applied – including those related to market-based fisheries reform and marine protected areas.

Project Leads: Steve Gaines, Chris Costello, Sarah Lester



Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans

PISCO logo

The Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans is a long-term ecosystem research and monitoring program established with the goals of:

  • understanding dynamics of the coastal ocean ecosystem along the U.S. west coast
  • sharing that knowledge so ocean managers and policy makers can take science‐based decisions regarding coastal and marine stewardship
  • producing a new generation of scientists trained in interdisciplinary collaborative approaches


Full project description can be found at PISCO's website, noted below.




Environmental offset markets (e.g. REDD) under asymmetric information

Project Lead: Chris Costello


Spatial management of metapopulations under uncertainty

Project Lead: Chris Costello


Prices vs. Quantities vs. Effort to manage fisheries under uncertainty

Project Lead: Chris Costello


How much credit in seafood certification should be granted for fisheries with MPAs when the regulator is uncertain about the ecological effects of those MPAs?

Project Lead: Chris Costello

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