Into the Field: Understanding the role of Social Networks in MPA Governance

The cumulative effects of climate change, biodiversity loss and resource exploitation could be devastating to Jamaica’s coastal-marine systems in the near future. For example, the World Resources Institute’s recent global assessment of coral reefs found that Jamaica is highly dependent upon coral reefs that rank globally among the most vulnerable to environmental change. In an attempt to navigate these effects, the Jamaican government signed onto the Caribbean Challenge and in turn initiated the establishment of twelve Special Fishery Conservation Areas (SFCAs) between 2009 and 2012, with more under consideration. SFCAs (locally referred to as fish sanctuaries) are essentially marine no-take zones, and recent efforts to expand the SFCA network build off existing SFCAs that were established well over two decades ago.

Map created by S. Lee, courtesy of CARIBSAVE

Map created by S. Lee, courtesy of CARIBSAVE

Through Memorandum’s of Agreement with local non-governmental organizations and/or fisherfolk co-operatives, the Jamaican government and Division of Fisheries have established co-management arrangements and delegated certain roles and responsibilities (e.g. monitoring) associated with the day-to-day management of the SFCAs. Such hybrid governance arrangements are believed to build resilience and contribute to increased capacity for collective action. However, research has shown that this is not always the case suggesting that there is a need to better understand the conditions which enhance or inhibit the successful management of natural resources.

Local Level Dynamics
On one level, my research is concerned with better understanding local level dynamics and the engagement of resource users in management. Specifically, I am looking to identify and examine patterns of social relations among resource users (i.e. fisherfolk) associated with the Special Fishery Conservation Areas that may facilitate or constrain collective action. While significant strides have been made in regards to identifying attributes that contribute to the collective action and governance of common pool resources, there remains a critical need to better understand the nuances and complexities of the social variables previously identified, particularly in the context of community-based and co-managed marine reserves (i.e. no take zones). Furthermore, the application of a social relational network perspective provides the opportunity to shift the broader discussion from simply if social networks associated with marine reserves (i.e., no take zones) are an attribute to more specifically how social networks enhance or inhibit collective action.

What this looks like:
Over the next several months I will be dividing my time between three different fish sanctuaries and spending time in the communities and with the fisherfolk located in and around those sanctuaries.

An Emerging Network of Special Fishery Conservation Areas
Simultaneously, I am examining the emerging network of fish sanctuaries. To this end, I am specifically interested in understanding: i) how the governance network (composed of state and non state actors) associated with the fish sanctuaries may enhance or inhibit the diffusion of innovative practices, knowledge exchange and collaboration and ii) how the fish sanctuaries are situated in the broader context of coastal-marine management and governance.

What this looks like:
Over the next several months this will involve visits to Kingston to speak with various government agencies and NGOs and to many of the other fish sanctuaries to speak with the community NGOs and/or fisherman cooperatives, managers and wardens.

The next several months will no doubt be busy. My hope is that they are also fruitful, leading to insights that not only inform the scholarly community but also the communities here, so that Jamaicans can continue to rebuild their fisheries, coral reefs and coastal communities.

Galleon Fish Sanctuary

Galleon Fish Sanctuary

Getting Ahead on the Job Front

For some time now there has been a relatively ongoing discussion about the job prospects for PhD’s both in academia and beyond the ivory towers. This discussion has surfaced in the media, on blogs and in the twittersphere. For example, The Globe and Mail has had a number of pieces over the last several months (here, here & here) speaking to this issue with Brent Herbert-Copley, vice-president Research Capacity at SSHRC proclaiming most recently that while there were indeed few academic jobs, Canada needed more PhDs. Yet around the same time, Macleans’ published a recent article where Charlie Gillis questions whether a PhD is an academic dead zone! Similarly, not too long ago, Alex Bond, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, provided a really honest reflection on the post PhD prospects for an ecologist in Canada over at The Lab and Field. On twitter, one only have to take a look at #altac or #phdchat to quickly see various musings, appeals and interweaving discussions concerning current and future job prospects.

No matter what your outlook, you will be applying for jobs soon, if you haven’t already. Every so often I come across a nugget of advice that I tuck away knowing that it could help me down the road. A while back I stumbled upon a post by Doug Kalish titled 7 Ways To Stand Out From the Crowd, which was part of the Graduate Student Advice Series. In the piece, Kalish provides a suite of tips to help make ones self known.

1)   The Four P’s: Publications, Posters, Presentations and Patents
2)   Start an ‘achievements’ file right now
3)   Scrub your online presence
4)   Join professional organizations in your field
5)   Set up professional social media accounts
6)   Build an online reputation
7)   Get business cards

The majority of these seemed quite common sense. However, the one that stood out to me as being especially useful was number two: Start an ‘achievements’ file right now. It stood out enough so that I continued to reflect upon it for some time realizing, or perhaps believing, it had even more potential than what Kalish had initially shared.

This is what Kalish had to say:

No one updates their CV or resume as often as they should. And I find that it can be hard to remember everything I’ve done when I finally get around to it. Start a paper or electronic file to hold evidence of your achievements. Any success or recognition, new skill or achievement goes into the file. Did you present your research to another lab? Write it down. Did you attend a lecture series on starting a company? Make note of it. Two years from now you may be crafting a cover letter and some obscure class you took or skill you have may make a difference. Not everything in the file needs to go into your resume, but you’ll appreciate having the documentation when you do get around to the updates.

Why start and maintain an achievements file?
Such a file provides a rich source of material that can be drawn upon for:

Cover Letters
Kalish notes above how invaluable such a file can be when composing a cover letter. Specific examples certainly strengthen cover letters.

CV/ Resume
Kalish couldn’t be more spot on with regards to the frequency, or lack there of, with which one updates their CV. I’m certainly guilty of this. Having all of that extra “source material” may also come in handy tailoring your CV and/or resume, especially for those considering jobs outside of academia!

Reviewing your file, or parts of your file could help refresh your memory as to what you have done and in turn arm you with numerous tangible examples that can be drawn upon while interviewing for a job.

There is no lack of applications to be filled out including scholarships, fellowships, grants, and jobs to name a few. As above, specific examples will help to strengthen your application and you never know when some of that extra “source material” may be just what you needed for a particular section or question! Even once you have a job, you might find it useful for grant applications (part of the continuous search for funding) or perhaps when going up for a promotion (e.g. tenure).

What to include:

Various activities that you might note include: service, teaching, presentations, guest lectures, workshops, mini courses, seminars, outreach, etc. I would argue that it is important to include not only what you did, but how you were involved. Furthermore, wherever possible, note specific impacts or outcomes. For example, note what occurred during your tenure as a graduate student representative to your department’s curriculum committee and how you personally contributed. Or perhaps you organized a workshop that not only had strong attendance but also inspired a secondary workshop. These are important details to record while they are still fresh in your mind.

Not only include the award, but note the criteria that are used. In other words, what does the award recognize or look for (i.e. service, leadership, innovation, merit).

It is never too early to start scoping out and noting altmetrics (which has seen a recent rise) to document the wider impact of your various activities. Jason Priem and Heather Piwowar even recently published a paper in the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology entitled The Power of Altmetrics on a CV (sorry behind a paywall).

Annotated Resume
A few years ago, as part of one particular graduate school application, I was required to include an annotated resume that was not to exceed nine pages in length. This was by far, one of the most challenging, yet beneficial exercises I had encountered. Turning a resume into an essay where one not only includes various educational experiences and seminal jobs, but also notes how those have contributed to your personal, academic, or professional growth requires significant reflection. I believe this same idea of an annotated resume, though perhaps only requiring bullet points, serves as a useful model to think about maintaining an achievements/ activities file.

The key is that the file should not just be a laundry list. Rather, strive to include as many pertinent details as possible. Looks like I’ve got some work ahead of me!