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Justice and sustainability: Geographer focusing on fair ocean governance in international project

From our economy to our culture and health, our interactions with the ocean are a part of our daily lives in Newfoundland and Labrador.



It is only fitting, then, that Memorial University is one of the research universities that is part of the Ocean Nexus Center.

Based at the University of Washington EarthLab and in collaboration with the Nippon Foundation, Ocean Nexus is an international network of interdisciplinary researchers with a focus on justice and sustainability.

“I’m leading some of the Nexus work primarily thinking about the oceans as they relate to our planning for sustainable development and achievement of sustainable development goals,” said Dr. Gerald Singh, who began as faculty in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, in August 2019. Dr. Singh is deputy director of research and represents Memorial in Ocean Nexus, a 10-year, (USD)$32.5-million project.

“Memorial will kind of be the hub for a lot of the international work on that,” he said.

Ocean Nexus

Ocean Nexus focuses on five major themes: ocean and human health; ocean economy and livelihood; ocean people and society; fair ocean governance; and ocean climate and extreme events.

Dr. Singh’s work with PhD students and post-doctoral researchers at Memorial will focus on ocean governance in Canada. The interdisciplinary scope includes fisheries management related to climate change and potential environmental impact of offshore oil and gas development.

Interdisciplinary work is valuable, says Dr. Singh, who is also a former fellow of the Nippon Foundation in Japan.

“I do a lot of work on risk and human impacts on the ocean, and what that means for the benefits people derive from ocean ecosystems and marine systems,” he said. “I also increasingly do a lot of work at the intersection of fisheries and planning for sustainable development.”


Dr. Singh moved to St. John’s and Memorial from Vancouver to join the Ocean Frontier Institute, a research network of Atlantic Canadian universities. That was an exciting opportunity, he says. But meeting his colleagues in the Department of Geography and across the university also influenced his decision.

“It was one of the most collegial working environments I’ve ever experienced.”

Environmental changes in our oceans have widespread effects across all sectors of society, he says. Studying those effects reveals solutions that don’t further marginalize those at risk when oceans change. Dr. Singh’s role with Ocean Nexus helps place Memorial at the forefront of those important discussions.

“There’s a lot of good work done out here on emerging coastal development and ways to use different sustainable development planning tools,” Dr. Singh.

“We’ll definitely be able to use some of that existing expertise.”

This article was originally published in the Memorial Gazette.