Apply Now for a new Ocean Nexus Center Postdoctoral Research Fellow Position (based within Dalhousie University)

The Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University, in partnership with the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington EarthLab, are hiring a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (PDRF) for a project aiming to evaluate economic security outcomes of public social safety measures in coastal and fishing communities and explore what policy solutions would best support marginalized and under-served populations of the seafood sector. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis by January 31, 2022.

Ocean Nexus Center Virtual Open House

UN Ocean Decade endorses Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center’s ‘Ocean Voices’ as an official ‘Decade of Action’ program

Ocean Nexus Center: To achieve equitable and sustainable oceans, policymakers must focus on social equity and governance before resources

Bookmark These New Websites for Future Rivers, Ocean Nexus Center & Washington Ocean Acidification Center

A website is often the first impression of an organization, especially in our increasingly digital (and virtual) world.

Along with the College of the Environment marketing and communications team, EarthLab works with our member organizations to develop websites that will convey their mission and brand. We’re thrilled to present three new websites for Future Rivers, Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center & Washington Ocean Acidification Center (WOAC).

Nature: River conservation by an Indigenous community

Ocean Nexus science director Edward H. Allison has published a new paper in Nature about river conservation by an Indigenous community.

Populations of river fish are threatened by pressures on land and water resources. Networks of reserves managed by Indigenous people at community level offer a way to conserve fish diversity and enhance yields of nearby fisheries.

Rivers are a major source of renewable water, and provide food, jobs and a sense of place and cultural identity for people living in the vicinity. For many Indigenous peoples, rivers are central to how they understand themselves, their origins and their relationships to the rest of nature. As a citizen of the Penobscot Nation in Maine put it1, “The river is us: the river is in our veins.” Writing in Nature, Koning et al.2 report ecological surveys that demonstrate how local Indigenous people in the Salween River basin on the border between Thailand and Myanmar have successfully managed the river for conservation purposes and to protect livelihoods.

Both biodiversity and the people in river-associated communities are under severe stress the world over. Across the globe, 30% of freshwater fish (see are classified as being at risk (in either the critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable categories) in the 2020 Red List of threatened species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Furthermore, it is projected3 that half the human population will live in water-insecure areas by 2050. Principal among the threats to rivers are pollution, climate change, invasive species, changes in surrounding land use, and the construction of dams and infrastructure that affect river flow. These issues need to be addressed on scales ranging from local to global, and solutions should draw on the knowledge, practices and aspirations of those whose lives are most closely entwined with river health.

Koning et al. assessed the outcome of a network of small fishery no-take reserves (areas where fishing is not allowed), and found that there was an average 27% rise in species richness, 124% higher fish density and 2,247% higher fish biomass in the reserve-associated waters compared with the corresponding values for nearby areas open to fishing. The presence of larger species and more individuals in the reserves is what drives the much higher biomass there. The authors suggest that such networks of locally managed, small, protected river areas could be used in other river systems to enhance fisheries and to conserve biodiversity.

The authors’ work highlights the importance of inland waters to food and livelihood systems, demonstrates the value of community-led conservation, and points out commonalities between protected-area conservation strategies in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Marine-protected areas, which are usually created by governments, are used widely in ocean conservation and fisheries, but much less commonly in fresh waters4. The authors characterize the reserves studied as being created by the S’gaw Karen (also known as Pwak’nyaw) Indigenous people who live in the river catchment areas. The paper thus also supports the growing recognition5 among scientists and conservationists of the effectiveness of Indigenous resource-management practices.

Koning and colleagues’ study draws on natural sciences — limnology (the freshwater equivalent of oceanography) and fish ecology — but also discusses how river management operates at a community level. Their natural-sciences disciplinary lens allows them to rigorously evaluate the benefits that protected areas confer on fish conservation and on the sustainability of local fish catches. In the area studied, Indigenous communities had planned and implemented local no-take reserves that complement other community-based conservation initiatives, including the management of adjacent land.

However, the context in which this management system evolved, the knowledge and politics involved in its creation, and how local forms of knowledge and practice can be supported and valued are less in focus in Koning and colleagues’ study. Pwak’nyaw communities have been profoundly transformed as a result of colonization in Myanmar, the arrival of foreign missionaries in Myanmar and Thailand, and state modernization projects in both countries. Supporting river conservation here and elsewhere at locations where other Indigenous peoples live will require a reckoning with such legacies and a willingness to make space for local and Indigenous voices to be heard, alongside those of scientists, in river-basin planning.

One of us (V.C.) is a Pwak’nyaw person, born in Hpa’an, Myanmar, on the banks of the Salween River, and believes that it is crucial that science conducted in Indigenous territory incorporates Indigenous systems of knowledge and beliefs, and for Indigenous people to have ownership over data that involve them. Although, during a period of 8 years of research, Koning et al. worked with local people for more than 18 months when living in the study area, there is scope for furthering these relationships so that Indigenous perspectives have increased visibility. An absence of Indigenous agency and control in the production of knowledge is a key issue, leading to calls for Indigenous data sovereignty and the decolonization of science6.

Koning and colleagues’ study positively recognizes Pwak’nyaw involvement in conservation, and includes some cultural context, although Pwak’nyaw perspectives are lacking. One consequence of this might be the study’s focus on what the Pwak’nyaw would regard as only part of their integrated system of land and water management. For example, Pwak’nyaw don’t commonly identify themselves by categories that are familiar to those in Western culture, such as being a farmer or a fisher. Rather, rotational farming, growing rice, gardening, hunting, gathering and fishing are integrated parts of a Pwak’nyaw livelihood.

Community-based research on Pwak’nyaw livelihoods in northern Thailand has found that fish conservation is also integrated into rotational farming practices. For instance, the concept nya pla htau, meaning fish surface, prohibits the clearing of a field on adjacent sides of a river bank in successive years to conserve fish-breeding grounds, and knowledge about fish is a factor in the selection of farmland7. In this sense, farming cannot be separated from fishing, which cannot be separated from conservation, because they are all part of a whole — and it is beneficial for them to be studied as such.

Future studies, which should involve collaboration with Indigenous researchers, could adopt approaches to integrate Indigenous and scientific knowledge and Indigenous and Western legal and management approaches in ways that recognize and draw on both8. This would help to address some of the unanswered questions in Koning and colleagues’ valuable study on the origins, sustainability and future of this successful network of reserves.

Conflict can arise in Thailand and elsewhere when there is confrontation between Indigenous people and the state, or other groups, regarding competing conservation models. Indigenous lives are in danger — around the world in 2019, more than 200 environmental activists died, 40% of whom were Indigenous people (see In the past decade, the deaths of prominent Pwak’nyaw environmental activists in Myanmar (see and in Thailand (see have hit the headlines.

Figure 1 | The Salween Peace Park. Pwak’nyaw (also known as S’gaw Karen) people living at this site in Myanmar, located on a tributary of the Salween River, use their Indigenous knowledge to obtain food. For example, the basket-style nets in this image are a traditional way to catch fish and shellfish in shallow waters. Koning et al.2 report that conservation efforts by the Pwak’nyaw community in the Salween River basin area have substantially boosted fish diversity and might increase the yields of fishing catches.Credit: Paul Sein Twa/KESAN


Indigenous resource-management systems can persist despite difficult circumstances. On the Myanmar side of the Salween River, Pwak’nyaw communities, whose livelihoods are affected by ongoing civil war, displacement and militarized development, have created a large-scale conservation project named the Salween Peace Park (Fig. 1), based on kaw (country), a holistic concept that encompasses the localized practice of social and environmental governance, based on Indigenous sovereignty. Pwak’nyaw living there conserve the environment using Indigenous knowledge (see, and are working to revive Indigenous practices lost through decades of conflict.

Without such contextual cultural and political knowledge, it is difficult to say how easily the successes in the Salween River basin, convincingly enumerated by Koning and colleagues’ study, can be achieved elsewhere by trying to transfer this approach. The key insight here may be that the small reserves are potentially useful conservation measures that need to be understood from the perspectives of those who created them. Such reserves should be supported and legitimized where they exist, revived where they existed previously, and perhaps tried out where they haven’t been used before, as part of efforts to meet global river-conservation challenges. This would support a growing movement led by Indigenous peoples to focus on putting rivers at the centre of conservation efforts — including by assigning legal personhood to rivers, as part of a ‘rights of nature’ approach to environmental governance9.

Nature 588, 589-590 (2020)

Second edition released: Adapting research methodologies in the COVID-19 pandemic

This article was originally published by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Adapting Research Methodologies in the Covid-19 Pandemic, 2nd Edition (PDF)

UTS researchers and the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington EarthLab have collaborated in the creation of a resource for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers employing qualitative or mixed methods, whose work is being affected by the current measures in place worldwide restricting mobility, gatherings of people, and face-to-face meetings for interviews.

This second edition of “Adapting research methodologies in the COVID-19 pandemic” includes new insights from interviews with researchers who have had to change their methods – includes discussion of ethics implications when using enumerators, and the potential for decolonizing research. The first edition was published in July 2020.

Read or download the PDF report

Congratulations to the UW Highly Cited Researchers

Today the University of Washington announced that more than 50 UW researchers were featured on the Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list, as reported by the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate. We’re proud to share that three researchers on the list have affiliations with EarthLab:

  • Edward (Eddie) Allison, Ocean Nexus Center
  • Julian Olden, Future Rivers
  • Spencer Wood, Nature and Health

Congratulations to these researchers!

The full UW article is reprinted below in its entirety.

UW celebrates more than 50 researchers on Highly Cited Researchers 2020 List

The highly anticipated annual list identifies researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. Their names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index.

The list includes:

  • Edward Hugh Allison
  • David Baker
  • Michael J Bamshad
  • Mike Brauer
  • Guozhong Cao
  • William A. Catterall
  • David H. Cobden
  • Aaron Cohen
  • Louisa Degenhardt
  • Patchen Dellinger
  • Evan E. Eichler
  • Jerry F. Franklin
  • Valery Feigin
  • Michael J. Gale
  • Simon I. Hay
  • Celestia S. Higano
  • Alex K. Y. Jen
  • Eric B. Larson
  • Choli Lee
  • Chang-Zi Li
  • Alan Lopez
  • Gary H. Lyman
  • Michael J. McPhaden
  • Sergey Menis
  • Ali Mokdad
  • Chris Murray
  • Mohsen Naghavi
  • Marian L. Neuhouser
  • Graham Nichol
  • Deborah A. Nickerson
  • William S. Noble
  • Julian D. Olden
  • David M. Pigott
  • Colin C. Pritchard
  • Ganesh Raghu
  • Philip J. Rasch
  • Brian Saelens
  • Kyle L. Seyler
  • Jay Shendure
  • David Smith
  • John A. Stamatoyannopoulos
  • Yang-Kook Sun
  • Joel A. Thornton
  • Cole Trapnell
  • Piper Treuting
  • Theo Vos
  • Daniela M. Witten
  • Harvey Whiteford
  • Spencer A. Wood
  • Xiaodong Xu
  • Jesse R. Zaneveld
  • Maigeng Zhou
  • Junfa F. Zhu

The methodology that determines the “who’s who” of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate. It also uses the tallies to identify the countries and research institutions where these scientific elite are based.

The full 2020 Highly Cited Researchers list and executive summary can be found online here.

How social science is continuing to change and improve marine ecosystem conservation and management: Part I

This article was originally published in The Skimmer.

In 2017, MEAM (now The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management) interviewed 17 social science and interdisciplinary researchers from around the world to learn how their work could improve marine conservation and management practice. Since then, the social science of marine management has developed further in these areas and branched out in many other valuable directions. In this issue of The Skimmer and the next, we update our previous coverage by interviewing an ensemble of other social science and interdisciplinary researchers doing innovative social science work with great potential to improve (or a proven track record) of improving marine conservation and management practice. This work ranges from the use of cognitive mapping to create mental models of how fishers in the Caribbean view and organize the world…to testing how “nudges” could cost-effectively increase compliance with conservation regulations…to innovating how communities participate in marine planning processes to reduce feelings of exclusion and suspicion.

Here is the first set of interviews. As with last time, we hope that you find these research and practice profiles as energizing and inspiring for your own work as we found editing them.

Yoshitaka Ota and Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor: Without new scholarship on ocean governance and equity, we risk a future that further separates the haves and have-nots

Editor’s note: Yoshitaka Ota is the director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center and a research assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. He can be contacted at Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor is deputy director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center and a research associate at the University of British Columbia Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. He can be contacted at and on Twitter @AndresMCisneros.

What we are working on: Working with partners all over the world, we have created the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington EarthLab. We do research on oceans, but our focus is on people. Our aim is to close the gap of inequality over the long term and meet the urgent needs of people today. We will do this by recognizing the root causes of inequity; recovering an equitable approach to managing human-oceans activities; and ultimately building new evidence, tools, and narratives that reverse these harms and create a future where oceans are for all people.

Potential and observed influence: After spending a decade working on interdisciplinary socio-ecological research with the Nereus Program to predict the future state of our oceans, it was clear and unsurprising that global environmental changes will negatively impact sustainability – the ability to sustain habitat, biodiversity, and cultural landscapes; protect traditional stewardship; and maintain livelihoods and food sovereignty in coastal communities. What is even more important is that this work has revealed systemic inefficiencies within ocean governance. Decision-makers are unable to respond to sustainability issues in ways that do not exacerbate inequalities between those who benefit from the oceans and those who do not. There are limited governance structures for empowering economically and politically marginalized oceans populations – the people who will be disproportionally affected by the very environmental problems we are trying to solve. Without new scholarship on ocean governance and equity, we risk a future that further separates the haves and have-nots.

To avoid this future, management options must be examined within a much broader context of political powers and social organizations. This does not mean we are getting away from protecting the health of our oceans, but we must prioritize people within the ecosystem that we are trying to improve. In terms of marine management, we must reassess how we make decisions. The usual order linking climate, environment, economy, society, and a policy response may not be the appropriate model. Solutions based on a domino or donut theory, always starting from environmental changes, may fail as an adaptation policy and furthermore cause imbalanced burdens and injustice in our relationships with the oceans (and with each other).

Applicability of this work elsewhere: We view this approach as scalable to other environmental issues because it asks the question: shall humans use and control the environment for our own good or shall we learn to live in harmony for our environment?

Learn more: Learn more about the Ocean Nexus Center and its work here.

To read the other interviews, visit the full article here.

Meet the Ocean Nexus Indigenous Ocean Ecologies Fellows

Ocean Nexus is proud to welcome five undergraduate student fellows and one graduate student fellow in Indigenous Ocean Ecologies, a new program created in partnership with the UW Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies (CAIIS) and Department of American Indian Studies. This year-long research fellowship is focused on the intersections of sovereignty, wellbeing, and environmental justice among Indigenous coastal communities, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Undergraduate fellows are enrolled in a year-long two-credit micro seminar where they will meet with community mentors who are recognized leaders in Indigenous ocean science and governance. They will also design their own engaged research projects, culminating in a public symposium this spring. In addition to Ocean Nexus, the program has received funding from CAIIS’ Native Knowledge at UW fund and the Research Family peer mentor program. Each undergraduate fellow will receive a stipend of $2,000 over the course of the 2020-21 academic year.

The program was created and is facilitated by P. Joshua Griffin, assistant professor in American Indian Studies, the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA), and a Nexus principal investigator. Izzi Lavallee, a Nexus graduate fellow and SMEA MMA candidate, serves as a teaching assistant and project co-facilitator. 

“It’s truly an honor to work with this remarkable group of young scholars,” said Griffin. “Each project in some way addresses the complex entanglements between Indigenous self-determination, cultural resurgence, and ecological resilience. Our fellows’ commitment to community–including to one another–is an inspiration.”

The Nippon Foundation and UW EarthLab launched Ocean Nexus Center to create a future where oceans benefit people equitably in a culturally-relevant manner. Science shows that human activities are creating the environmental changes in oceans and coastlines, which are widening the inequality already felt among those who are benefiting from oceans and those who are not. Working in partnership with scholars and institutions around the world, Ocean Nexus Center aims to transform ocean governance so it is socially equitable and prioritizes the diversity of current and future relationships that exist between people and the ocean.

Meet the Fellows



Autumn Forespring, Undergraduate Fellow
Nákʷs, my name is Autumn Forespring and I am a Cowlitz Tribal Citizen. I am a senior working toward my B.A. in American Indian Studies, with a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduation I plan to work with my tribe to incorporate Indigenous knowledges and place-based healing into mental wellness programs for Indigenous women in the PNW. It will be an honor to collaborate with my Indigenous peers during this fellowship.



Sesilina Lane, Undergraduate Fellow
Hi! My name is Sesilina Lane and I am a sophomore at the University of Washington. I am currently majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Oceania and Pacific Islander Studies, and I hope to also declare for Environmental Studies! I am a Tongan-American and I am passionate about issues impacting both Indigenous and Pacific Islander communities.


Izzi Lavallee, Graduate Fellow
Izzi Lavallee is a first-year graduate student at the UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs working towards a Masters in Marine Affairs (MMA) and certificate in American Indian & Indigenous Studies (AIIS). Previously, she received an interdisciplinary degree in ‘Coastal Marine Watershed Resilience’ from WWU’s Fairhaven College. Izzi has worked to cultivate change as a student organizer, research diver in Quintana Roo, Mexico, environmental educator at the Padilla Bay NERR, and underwater cinematographer for Children of the Setting Sun Production Films: “Salmon People” & the award-winning “Women of Journeys – Finding Our Medicine”. Beyond an innate passion for marine flora & fauna, Izzi is eager to dive deeper into Marine Affairs & AIIS as they strive towards unsettling & (re)imagining our relationship to water.


Stephanie Masterman, Undergraduate Fellow
Stephanie Masterman is a second-year transfer student at the University of Washington, working toward her Bachelors degree in American Indian Studies with a minor in Arctic Studies. Stephanie belongs to the Tlingit tribe of Southeast Alaska and was born and raised in Seattle, WA. Stephanie is passionate about Indigenous language and cultural revitalization, environmental justice, women’s rights and reproductive justice, and economic sustainability. Stephanie has served in leadership roles for her tribal community including as a Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Emerging Leader and Tlingit & Haida Seattle Community Council Youth Ambassador. She aspires to contribute to her community’s effort to strengthen their self-determination through engaging in policy and international relations.



Sierra Red Bow, Undergraduate Fellow
Háŋ mitákuyepi. Pheži Ĥóta Naĝí-wiŋ emáčiyapi kštó. I am an Oglála Lakȟóta student double majoring in American Indian Studies and Environmental Science & Resource Management. I look forward to advancing sustainability efforts that respect the sovereignty of Indigenous communities and feature intentional co-management for the seven generations.



Isa Kelawili Whalen, Undergraduate Fellow
Hafa Adai, my name is Isa Kelawili Whalen, I am a senior at the University of Washington, Seattle, majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Diversity and Oceania & Pacific Islander Studies. I look forward to exploring the changes in both social and environmental aspects by engaging with the experiences of our AAPI Community. After graduation, my goal is to take my knowledge and experience to expand the world’s view of Oceania through an indigenous academic lens, become involved with agencies that better the cultural programs for minorities in America, and tend to academic and environmental programs in our islands back home!