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Josh Cinner, about the study of society and coral reefs

July 11,2010 by: admin

An interdisciplinary social scientist works to further understand the interaction between seaside communities and their marine environment, most particularly how these people manage and take care of their coral reefs.

Josh Cinner had worked in dozens of fishing villages bordering and in the Indian Ocean, and had studied how human activities affect the nearby coral reef ecosystems. He had also participated in the challenging work of making management plans in these developing country communities, and he found that making use of traditional methods in management strategies could work in benefiting fish populations in the area.  

Cinner had begun his interest in the social and economic fields in the latter half of the 1990’s. He had graduated from the University of Colorado with a double major in environmental conservation and geography at that time, and he became a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. That time was when tourism operators had imposed a spearfishing ban in Montego Bay Marine Park, but the locals were not happy with the ban and were against it to the point of vandalism and threats of violence.

That was when Cinner realized that one has to understand the culture and context of the place before being able to do anything. Hence, his interest in social and economic contexts started. He earned a master’s degree in marine affairs at the University of Rhode Island after his work in the Peace Corps.

By 2002, he researched about the impacts of markets on fisheries in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. He was part of a research team lead by Zoologist Tim McClanahan from the Wildlife Conservation Society, and spent a year living in coastal villages to study first-hand the traditionally managed fishing activities of the natives.

According to Cinner in the Sea Web website, they found that economic development was the main impetus of overfishing on the coral reef areas of the Western Indian Ocean rather than growing population. He also added that they found that the moderately developed communities have the technology of overfish their coral reefs but they do not have the institutions to regulate the activities. Hence, they are responsible for more overfishing those other communities.

His findings were published in the February 10, 2009 issue of Current Biology and were presented in American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting as “Linking Social and Ecological Systems to Sustain Coral Reef Fisheries.” He also made the data into a Ph.D. which he completed by 2005 at the James Cook University in Australia.

Cinner is now working at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at said university, where his job is the equivalent of an associate professor in the U.S. With his career track, Cinner, would be able to have access to several research scholarships.


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