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Tidal hydrokinetic energy is the energy in the currents associated with the rise and fall of ocean tides. Interest in tidal energy development is driven by three aspects of the resource: it is renewable, predictable, and concentrated. Devices capable of harnessing this resource (i.e., tidal turbines) are nearing commercial readiness and much has been learned from individual pilot projects. However, a renewable resource is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for sustainable power generation. Sustainable power generation must be technically, economically, socially, and environmentally viable. At present, the tools to assess large-scale, sustainable utilization of tidal energy are underdeveloped, and a comprehensive synthesis of pilot project results has not been completed. This project uses the Puget Sound as a case study. The researchers are developing scenarios for large-scale electricity generation from tidal currents in order to balance the benefits of predictable, renewable power generation against engineering feasibility, environmental compatibility, and social acceptance. The PI for this project is Brian Polagye and the co-PIs are Alberto Aliseda, John Horne, Mitsuhiro Kawase, and Kiki Jenkins. Dr. Jenkins serves as the social science lead for the project. Specifically, the social science component of the project examines public values and perceptions of tidal energy and also explores the potential for anticipatory governance of tidal energy. The project is funded by a National Science Foundation Sustainable Energy Pathways grant.
Overfishing, a leading social-ecological problem in the marine realm, has modified ecosystem functioning and is jeopardizing the wellbeing of the billion people that depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. Over the past decade, fisher learning exchanges, in which representatives from different fisher communities are brought together to share knowledge, have become a key tool in improving fisheries management. Fisher exchanges are regarded as effective by both organizers and participants for a) sharing fisheries challenges and solutions (both between and within fleets); b) empowering fisher leaders; c) creating communities of practice and building social capital; and d) in developing conservation solutions. No comparative analysis of the effectiveness of fisher learning exchanges has been made to date, despite the large investments in them by NGOs and federal agencies, including NOAA Fisheries, The Nature Conservancy, and Environmental Defense Fund. Given the urgency of fishery management challenges plus ever scarcer conservation and fisheries management resources, Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Hoyt Peckham organized an interdisciplinary workshop to begin to objectively assess the effectiveness of fisher exchanges and to identify key attributes that can enhance the success of fisher learning exchanges, using methods, including focus groups, interviews, and reflexive discourses. The workshop was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). The workshop's final report is available here. Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Peckham are currently planning a second phase of this project that will use case studies to elucidate best practices for designing and conducting fisher learning exchanges.
Fisheries management decision often depend on models of the effects of fishing on marine ecosystems. These models are frequently based on the fisheries catch statistics reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization. But often these numbers only account for a portion of the fish removed from the oceans. Commonly unreported sources of fish removal can include recreational catch, catch by indigenous people, subsistence catch, and discards. In order improve the information available for management decisions, Dr. Jenkins and research assistant, Haley Harguth are using historic data dating back to 1950 to build a more comprehensive picture of past marine fisheries catches in the waters off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. This project partial-funded by the Sea Around Us Project is part of their larger effort to complete catch reconstructions for every marine fishing nation.
The United States has become a leader in inventing marine conservation technologies to protect marine organisms and habitat. Congress has passed a number of laws requiring that foreign fishers use marine conservation technologies if they want to sell fish in the United States. Unfortunately, programs to promote the international use of marine conservation technologies have had mixed results. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded this three-year project co-led by Dr. Jenkins and Patrick Christie to explore the key factors related to successful cross-cultural promotion of marine conservation technologies. Specifically, the research team is working in Costa Rica and Ecuador to investigate the international promotion of two methods for protecting sea turtles. One is the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce the mortality of sea turtles in shrimp trawls. The other is the use of circle hooks to reduce incidental capture of sea turtles in longline fishing gear.
Catch a glimpse of Dr. Jenkins' blog posts about this project for the New York Times' section, “Scientist at Work: Notes from the Field":
You can also read about past research projects here.