Gillian Curren, MMM Candidate

Dalhousie University, Marine Affairs Program

Bio: I completed my BSc in April 2018 with a major in Marine Biology and minor in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Environmental Impact Assessment at Dalhousie University. During my undergrad, I completed a coastal ecology field course where I had the opportunity to study Nova Scotia’s diverse coastline. I have also volunteered for the Canadian Sea Turtle Network, gaining valuable experience in environmental education.

Supervisor(s): Dr. Lucia Fanning

Institution: Dalhousie University, Marine Affairs Program

Start to Finish: 9/2018 to 12/2019

CHONe Project: 2.2.4 Ecosystem resilience, multiple stressors and scale: Developing a framework to inform management

Project Title: Evaluating the use of cumulative impacts assessments in the management of Canada’s marine conservation areas (anticipated title)

Project Description: 

One of the major threats to the persistence of coastal and marine ecosystems is the cumulative effects of human and natural stressors. Therefore, understanding how multiple stressors interact and accumulate in the environment, as well as their impact on oceanic ecosystems, is critical. However, despite continued research and the establishment of best practices for studying cumulative effects, it appears there is a lack of understanding of how to effectively evaluate and incorporate them into marine management plans. Furthermore, much of the impact assessment literature focuses on the ecological components of the environment and does not adequately capture the socio-economic aspects that are inherently linked to marine ecosystems. My research will focus on assessing how marine conservation managers in Canada currently incorporate cumulative effects into management plans and policies and evaluate the extent to which socio-economic components are considered. I will conduct a survey of several federal managers to broadly examine what types of cumulative effects and multiple stressors are incorporated into marine conservation area management plans. Additionally, I plan to identify the types of assessment methods and indicators used in their assessments. Interviews will also be conducted with a smaller sub-set of managers to gain a deeper understanding of how cumulative effects are specifically being integrated into the management of Canada’s marine conservation areas. Finally, it is anticipated that this study will help determine how current practices may be improved to better inform marine management plans and policies.

The specific project/thesis aims are:

  1. To determine how ocean managers assess cumulative effects and multiple stressors as well as how they apply the outcomes to management plans and policies.
  2. To analyze the degree in which socio-economic factors are incorporated into cumulative impact assessments and management plans.
  3. To provide recommendations to ocean managers in Canada towards improving the inclusion of cumulative effects and socio-economic indicators when developing marine management plans and policies.

How this specific project links with broader CHONe goals:

Maintaining the health and integrity of our oceans requires long-term management plans guided by well-informed decision-making. Gaining insight into how ocean managers integrate the impacts of multiple stressors and cumulative effects to managing ocean spaces as well as understanding the human relationship to the world’s oceans is essential for developing effective conservation and sustainable-use strategies.