Growing attention to declining ocean health has propelled marine governance to the top of the international conservation agenda. Conservationists are increasingly promoting the designation of marine protected areas (MPAs), a relatively new variety of marine enclosure, or conservation territory. Most recently, the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity called for a global network of MPAs to cover 10% of oceans by 2020. This doctoral dissertation research develops new theoretical and empirical understanding of the multi-scaled institutional dynamics that are shaping contemporary efforts to protect the world's oceans. The project will use and build theory on scale, narrative, and conservation territory to achieve three objectives: 1) theorize the process through which new institutions for ocean governance emerge; 2) investigate the discursive strategies used to promote and legitimize new institutions for ocean governance; and 3) contribute understanding of the conditions that affect implementation of multi-scaled institutions for ocean governance. The research approaches these objectives through a case study of interlinked international and national protected area policies in marine biodiversity hotspots. The particular policies of interest are the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment among five nations and territories in Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau's national program for the implementation of its commitment to the Micronesia Challenge. The Micronesia Challenge is serving as a model for marine conservation in other oceanic regions (e.g., the Caribbean and Indian Ocean), making the case more broadly relevant to understanding new institutions for ocean governance. The study will yield fine-grained knowledge on institutional dynamics in context through a multi-site ethnography. Data will be collected through in-depth interviews, document review, and participant observation. Data analysis will be guided by constructivist grounded theory and fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis.

This research brings historical, political, and geographic perspectives to an empirical analysis of institutional dynamics. Results will contribute to theory development and debates about new geographies of environmental governance. The broader impacts of this project lie in its commitment, first, to train and employ students to aid in data collection and processing and, second, to refine policy processes. Policy relevant research results will include increased understanding of the mechanisms for institutional emergence; the strategic use of policy language and the implications thereof; and conditions that facilitate and hinder the implementation of multi-scaled institutions. Results will be broadly relevant to policy actors worldwide as they design and implement policies to increase MPA coverage. As a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement award, this award also will provide support to enable a promising student to establish a strong independent research career.

Project Report

The purpose of this research was to develop new and timely understanding of multi-level policy processes that are shaping contemporary efforts to manage and protect the world’s oceans. Toward this end, this interdisciplinary project brought together perspectives across human geography, political ecology, and common pool resource theory to examine how global targets set by multilateral environmental agreements are being implemented in the U.S.-affiliated islands of Micronesia through interlinked regional and national policies for ocean conservation. Results yield new understanding of the processes through which large-scale ocean conservation policies are designed and implemented, as well as the social and environmental impacts thereof. The policies of focus are currently serving as a model for policy development throughout other large ocean regions, making results broadly relevant to governments and non-governmental organizations working to implement global commitments to multilateral environmental agreements worldwide. This research brings historical, political, and geographic perspectives to an empirical analysis of multi-level policy processes. The overarching intellectual merit of this research lies in demonstrating the value of constructive interdisciplinary dialogue across multiple social science disciplines. We do not argue for complete theoretical integration, but rather, for analytical utility in engaging key elements from each perspective to inform a more holistic analysis. The case study also builds general hypotheses and propositions about emerging models of marine conservation policy that may serve as the foundation for future research and policy development in other contexts. Broader impacts stem from the development of policy-relevant knowledge and the training of twelve Palauan and American students in social science research methods and data processing tools. Results are most immediately relevant to decisions regarding the implementation of case study policies in Micronesia and the replication thereof throughout the Caribbean and Western Indian Ocean. /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Daniel Hammel
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Duke University
United States
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