A City by the Sea: Gaillimh

Welcome back to my second installment of our CBE Fellows blog report. Reporting live: From Galway (Gaillimh) Ireland !

I left you last time with the first stages of our project — valuing sea-floor resources, and it has come a long way. My colleagues at the SEMRU unit have been instrumental in helping me get up to speed and teaching me some tricks on GIS. At the end, we will be getting a report written to show what ecosystem services that these sea-floor habitats have in the study areas of the

EU-ATLAS Project. It’s been going very well, and this will be a great groundwork for further projects — This experience has been very academic, unlike some of my colleagues diving on reefs and working with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

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Community-based Natural Resource Management, Sustainable Development, Human Rights, and Food Security


I consider my summer a success. My project’s initial focus on food security led to some roadblocks, making me expand food security to a broader conception that includes social and economic food aspects (part of the FAO’s definition).  In doing so, I began to see many parallels among the Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights as well, which transformed my work into a process of showing synergies across the conservation and development spheres. The most difficult aspect of all of this remains explaining social food security. Particularly for those living in the United States and other developed countries, this sounds odd. How can food security be social? Isn’t food just a trip away to the supermarket? Well, yes, but it was not always this way. Not even 150 years ago we often had to work together in communities to harvest crops, often rotating from one farmer’s fields to another. We also had to agree on rules, enforced by local institutions, to manage natural resources, or, in other words, determine access to, say, a pasture, avoiding overexploitation and conflict with our neighbors. Now, these arrangements, institutions, and relations have been transformed and, to a large extent, outsourced to corporations and government agencies. In the developing world, however, this tends to not be the case: Communities must still agree on, implement, and enforce resource-use rules, which requires social capital, trust, and cohesion, in addition to required technical and physical capacity. In fact, when communities cannot agree on such rules (management) due to internal strife, or exclusion by outside entities such as NGOs or governments, natural resource degradation, increasing conflict, and impoverishment usually result. In simple terms, social food security represents a safety net weaved together by the relations among community members, the institutions they have established and control, and partners. If the net is damaged, cascading effects will result in the areas of physical and economic food security as trust disintegrates and a community engages in a race to the bottom.

It turns out that Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), as my semi-literature review indicated, succeeds with (1) those social elements and institutions already in place, or strengthened by CBNRM projects, (2) equal partnership among communities, NGOs, and governments, (3) integration of local knowledge and inclusion, including women and marginalized groups, and (4) capacity building, among other project design features. Those design features tend to lead to overall community empowerment.

This happens to mirror the 2015 framework for “SDG Localization,” or making the lofty and often impalpable Sustainable Development Goals into something tangible at the local level, the community level:

Subnational governments are policy makers, catalysts of change and the level of government best placed to link the global goals with local communities. Localizing development is then a process to empower all local stakeholders, aimed at making sustainable development more responsive, and therefore, relevant to local needs and aspirations. Development goals can be reached only if local actors fully participate, not only in the implementation, but also in the agenda-setting and monitoring.

Participation requires that public policies are not imposed from the top, but that the whole policy chain is shared. All relevant actors must be involved in the decision-making process, through consultative and participative mechanisms, at the local and national levels.

With that, the overlap between CBNRM and the SDGs appeared remarkably clear. I then looked at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and found that the same overlap extends across virtually every one of its articles, covering economic well-being, food security, the right to organize, to own property, to work in cooperation with national and international entities for the fulfillment of the human rights, institutions for justice and protection of basic rights, and so on.  That is why the FAO is already addressing small-scale fisheries with a “human rights-based approach,” which emphasizes that corresponding management requires not only resource rights but also the fulfillment of the basic rights from above, among others.

Of course, at this point, the commonalities across these areas seemed to be simply a question of differing jargon favored by the development and conservation spheres to discuss the same topics. Is there evidence for CBNRM actually contributing to the SDGs and Human Rights, especially food security, an objective of all three areas?


Major evidence mapping, systematic reviews, and many other publications demonstrate this, repeatedly referring to partnerships stretching from local to international actors, strong institutions, community empowerment, and social cohesion’s contribution to successful CBNRM projects, or emergence as a result of those projects’ design feature. These social components establish the conditions for ecological recovery through cooperation and trust for management and compliance. That ecological recovery, after a time, leads to improved ecosystem provisioning, or physical food security (the supply of harvestable resources), and economic food security through the sale of those resources for other food needs. This progression was reinforced by the collection and coding of over 100 sample CBNRM projects according to the the three types of food security and ecological recovery.

In summary, the evidence I have collected points to synergies in terms of the goals and needs of, and thus major potential for cooperation across, development and conservation initiatives. Both fields must (1) cooperate on establishing a common language, (2) design projects together, (3) monitor them with indicators from that common language to draw lessons in order to (4) enable large-scale and rapid expansion of CBNRM to achieve the SDGs, fulfill human rights, and ensure food security for the world’s 800 million to 2 billion food insecure living in extreme poverty.



Sci Dive and Enforcement Hope

I am going to apologize ahead of time for how long this post will be but a lot has happened since my last post and I will put in a lot of pictures. I do leave Pohnpei tomorrow, heading back through Guam and Hawaii (which is scheduled to have a hurricane hit right about the time my flight is supposed to leave) and finally back to SFO. While I’ll be happy to go home (especially since my stomach has not agreed with the food here and I’ve had mild stomach problems pretty much the past two months) I will also be sad to leave Pohnpei and the friends I have made here. Shortly after my last post I spent a week with the Conservation Society of Pohnpei’s dive team and Master’s students from the University of Guam conducting fish and coral studies on multiple sites throughout the island of Pohnpei, I made a training class for the Community Conservation Officers of Pohnpei as well as municipal police and Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) officers which I presented last Thursday, and I met with the new Chief of the DFW to hear about the issues they have and what he is doing to overcome them. Continue reading

The Good plastic, the Bad plastic, and the Ugly plastic

July has been a month of travel and hectic scheduling. I’ve been to three islands working on three different programs, all with the goal of making disposable plastic waste a thing of the past in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Plastic comes in all types of forms, some good and some bad, but more often than not plastic becomes something very ugly when we decide to throw it out. Plastic is meant to last forever, which is why it seems mind-boggling that disposable plastic has become such a commonplace aspect of our lives. My job in the Bay Islands this summer, along with Eliana and Saba, is to work with businesses, schools, nonprofits, and government agencies to tackle the wicked problem of disposable plastics.

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Working with youth leaders on the Bay Islands

I am working as the Education and Outreach Fellow with Think Beyond Plastic on the Bay Islands of Honduras to raise awareness of the marine plastic pollution problem and encourage local solutions.

Man, it’s unreal that we’re already halfway through our project here! Time has literally flown by! In the past month I’ve been able to organize and coordinate the Ocean Ambassador Program and Plastic Free Schools Campaign with students from all three Bay Islands. I just returned from Bay Island’s smallest island, Guanaja where I completed training and preparation to launch a plastic reduction competition among the island’s public schools. Students will be collecting the plastic from their daily consumption, documenting their reduction efforts, and creating a mural/recycled art show at the end of the competition with the plastic they collected!  Continue reading

How do we fix the way we fix things?

The study of science, no doubt, is of utmost importance. An understanding of the body of laws that govern our natural world, biological processes and ecological principles, in my opinion, is some of the foremost valuable knowledge that one can possess, and we must continue to develop this cognizance. When it comes to protecting human wellbeing from the irrefutable ills that we have caused ourselves and this planet however, which I will categorize under the catchall of climate change, at what point can we all agree that there is ample scientific evidence to catalyze tangible action? Or is it something more than that, a fear to face the problems of our future head on, an inability to see that such endeavors are now in pretty much everyone’s own self interest, or simply bystanders along for the ride at any rate? Perhaps it is an unwillingness to give up some petty comforts? Let me tell ya’ folks, things are about to become a whole lot less comfortable. Continue reading

Conservation Enforcement

The main reason why I am out in Pohnpei is to work with the Community Conservation Officers and Department of Fish and Wildlife to come up with a training program and recommendations for improvements to different conservation enforcement programs, in particular the rangers of Ant Atoll, OneReefs main focus so far in Pohnpei. Prior to my decision to come to MIIS, I was a police officer at the California State University Monterey Bay and prior to that I had done numerous support jobs such as records and evidence and being a Community Service Officer, in total I spent almost four years working for a police department, hence my being sent to basically do law enforcement consulting in Pohnpei.  Continue reading

Unveiling Mysteries: Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Underwater photography and advancements in technology have provided us views of life under the ocean surface. Photographers from National Geographic, and the like, have connected us to the ocean and the marine creatures that were once a complete mystery to humans. Although I have been mesmerized by many ocean images, perhaps none have left me in awe quite like the photos of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. I found myself lost in the magnificence of the photos — from the bright orange and pink invertebrates to the thousands of rockfish circling in the background. These photos of Cordell Bank, as well as my conversations with those engaging with the sanctuary highlighted the beauty, the productivity, and the mystery there. Continue reading

The Roundup and Rambling

My research at Conservation International deals with expanding Community-based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) across the Coral Triangle region encompassing Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste. Of approximately 43,000 coastal communities in the region, 2,500 have CBNRM in place. Conservation International wants to double this number by 2026 or so, implying a ten-percent growth rate per year. Simultaneously, they wish to reach another 20,000 communities with knowledge-sharing materials (storybooks, videos, gamification, etc.) to teach them about CBNRM and inspire them to begin organizing themselves as well.

Examples of this expansion can be found in Papua New Guinea with the Ecocustodian Advocates who use inter-community teaching and simple tools to reach other population. Expanding the Reach is another effort in Solomon Islands and is based in the government. consisting of peer-to-peer teaching. This initiative is becoming part of mainstream operations in the country, reflecting several government trends in the regions. A network of Locally Managed Marine Areas in Indonesia is also working with Conservation International to expand, and consists already of over 100 communities. Combined with all of the other NGOs’ initiatives in the area, serious investments are flowing into this approach to manage the highly diverse marine resources in the region. Continue reading

Month One Recap- OneReef Indonesia

Today marks one month since I touched down in Bali to begin my summer as a CBE fellow interning with OneReef in Indonesia. I am serving as an economics intern hired to identify the most effective models for protecting reef patches that are deemed “super productive”. Protecting these patches will not only lead to greater ecological support, it will also allow local community members to reap the economic benefits through industries like tourism and fishing. Continue reading

The Future is Food


Hawaiian Coast

As an undergraduate I gradually erased the mental image of a bold line separating environmental concerns from development-economic issues. Environment does not equal only panda bears. Development does not equal just economic growth. Those working in corresponding fields intend to arrive at the same, logical destination whether they know it or not: sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships between humans and their source of livelihoods and sustenance, also known as the nature. Our economy runs on natural resources, transforms them into products and even services through the energy going into people and machines the machines they operate. There are a few major distinctions between development and environmental issues, but their overlap is much greater. Even professionals in both areas, however, do not always see the relationship between their fields, not to mention the general public’s perspective. That is one of the reasons I am at Conservation International for the summer.

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Product of our Environment

It is said that the hardest part is getting there. After horrendous traffic in Los Angeles, expensive surprises after standing in an hour long queue at LAX, a restless redeye, and setting a personal best mile time through the Panama City Airport in order to make my connection, I would tend to agree. I arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, and my adventure had only just begun. I was greeted by smiling faces, and what must have been 100+ degree heat and 90% humidity.  Continue reading