Feb 1, 2017 – Aligning coastal restoration with ecological and societal needs

Coastal habitats play critical ecological and societal roles in nearshore and estuarine systems.  Yet despite their importance, reefs, marshes and coastal forests around the world have been highly degraded and reduced to a small fraction of their historic extent.  In the United States and elsewhere, billions of dollars are being invested in coastal habitat restoration.  New policies emphasize planning processes that work across sectors and jurisdictions to fund projects that provide the greatest returns for people and nature.  As a result, state, county and local government agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry are facing hard questions about where to invest and how to set targets to meet these dual goals.  We have formed a multi-agency and NGO partner working group aimed at increasing understanding agency needs for decision-making, assessing past restoration projects, and developing achievable metrics and approaches for aligning ecological and social goals in future efforts.

Jonathan Grabowski, Ph.D.


 My research interests span issues in ecology, fisheries and conservation biology, social-ecological coupling, environmental policy, and ecological economics. I have used a variety of estuarine (oyster reef, seagrass, salt marsh, mud bottom) and marine (kelp bed, cobble-ledge) systems to examine how resource availability, habitat heterogeneity and predation risk affect population dynamics, community structure, and ecosystem functioning. Much of this work focuses on economically important species such as lobsters, cod, herring, monkfish, and oysters, and consequently is relevant for fisheries and ecosystem management. My lab also focuses on how habitat degradation and restoration influence benthic community structure, population structure, and the transfer of energy to higher trophic levels. In addition, we are interested in how fisheries management initiatives such as the design of closed areas, delineation of stock boundaries, fishing gear modifications, and quota setting impact fish population structure and fisheries productivity, essential fish habitat protection, community structure, and the social capital of stakeholders.


My lab’s research involves highly coupled social-ecological systems and integrates social and natural science approaches. For instance, we are examining the ecological consequences of shoreline hardening on ecosystem service provisioning while also investigating how the environmental connectedness of coastal residents influences their decision-making around this issue. We are also examining factors that influence coastal fishing communities’ perceptions of and trust in management to help improve their buy in and identify potential barriers. Finally, we are determining how factors such as urbanization and resource specialization influence the perceptions and values of coastal residents so that we can design more effective environmental policies around issues such as climate hazard preparedness and coastal habitat and resource management.

How Interspecies Coastal Communities Inform Conservation of Shared Ecosystems [Wed March 16]

Dear All,

Next week’s roundtable will be led by Dr. Toni Frohoff  of Terramar Research along with, Dr. Tema Milstein at the University of New Mexico, Elizabeth Oriel of the Co-Habitation Institute and Laura Bridgeman at the Earth Island Institute.

Conservation, as we understand it, is a coupling of human and more-than-human
interests, concerns, goals, and relationships. In our view then, conservation depends
upon a building of interspecies relationships in which long-term mutual thriving is
the goal, and human interests don’t necessarily outweigh those of other animals or
plants. The central question of our time is how humans can better cohabitate
with/in as integral parts of ecological systems. This paradigm informs our research
and related advocacy for cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and coastal
communities. Cetaceans are sentinels of ocean health and their current high
mortality rates indicate massive failure of ocean protection efforts and cohabitation
efforts. Cetaceans are also valued by the public for being iconic, charismatic
representatives of the marine environment in many cultures. Yet beyond
functionality and emotionality, a phenomenon of cetacean sociable behavior
directed towards humans, unique among other free-ranging species, has occurred
and, more recently, has been systematically studied, in cetaceans. Cetaceans in
groups, and sometimes individually (the latter called “solitary sociables”) actively
seek interactions with human swimmers, waders, boaters, and divers – in the
absence of food provisioning – in certain locations globally. These situations provide
exceptional opportunities for both the study of cetacean behavioral ecology and
cognition and also for cetaceans to serve as public ambassadors of oceanic
protection. But surprisingly, these shared marine environments often become
centers of conflict about how to cohabitate in shared marine communities. Our
team is leading multi-disciplinary research, combining academic, scientific, and
advocacy platforms, and consulting on issues including successful cohabitation with
solitaries, which is part of a larger study documenting elements of successful
cohabitation among humans and coastal ecosystems. As part of this emerging
species-inclusive and non-anthropocentric paradigm, Dr Toni Frohoff developed
Interspecies Collaborative Research, in which both researcher and subject(s)
participate in a mutually interactive investigation. Our diverse approach, that
includes ethology, ecology, and social science, is ecocultural, multi-species in
orientation, and centers on serving and advocating for the interests of the species
and ecosystems we interact with and study.


Dr. Toni Frohoff

Terramar Research