Our Projects



The goal of Project IMPAACT is to provide further understanding of likely climate-change induced changes in coastal ecosystems and communities and suggest interventions that can increase the resilience of ecosystem conservation and the adaptive capacity of livelihood dependent communities in the future. Specific components relate to designing resilient marine protected area networks, enhancing community resilience and examining the role of diving as an incentive-based conservation approach.

Project IMPAACT has enjoyed support from a wide range of sponsors including SSHRC, the Trudeau Foundation, the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem of FAO, the University of Victoria and more recently the Community Conservation Research Network, also funded by SSHRC. The student currently involved in this project is Petch Manopawitr.

Incorporating socioeconomic factors into marine spatial planning in Trat Province

While Thailand has employed marine protected areas (MPAs) as their primary marine resource management tool for several decades, they have failed to address the growing number of threats facing coastal environments. In addition, the tradition top-down “fines and fences” approach employed by the Thai government has led to considerable conflict between the government and coastal communities. In response, Thailand recently passed management legislation to mandate another agency, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), to establish and manage new community-based MPAs.

In collaboration with DMCR, this research project will adopt a marine spatial planning (MSP) approach to design a marine use plan for Trat province. MSP can serve as a decision-support framework to ensure that ecological, economic, and social factors are considered in a holistic and integrated manner to meet conservation targets while maintaining human welfare. The lessons learned from Trat province will help identify the appropriate mechanisms that should be adopted by DMCR to establish new and effective MPAs.

This project is funded by Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN) and DMCR. The student currently involved in this project is Renuka Klabsuk.


The Philippines is a global priority region for marine conservation. We are currently involved in three projects in this country.

Incorporating community input in the systematic design of marine protected area networks  

Systematic conservation planning is playing an increasingly important role in designing marine protected areas (MPAs) to achieve set biodiversity targets at minimum costs to stakeholders. While this process offer many opportunities, it has had limited influence in the Coral Triangle- a global priority region for conservation. This failure has been associated with limitations in available data and the lack of adequate consideration and participation of stakeholders in MPA planning. This is particularly relevant in regards to small-scale fishers, who are the group most at risk of spatial restrictions of MPAs. This project focuses on a Philippines case study to investigate the conservation and fisheries trade-offs of incorporating various levels of fishing complexity in the MPA planning process. The results can help inform future approaches for integrating ecological and fisher-derived data in the design of effective and socially equitable MPA networks.

The project is supported by several agencies including NSERC, SSHRC, the Robin Rigby Trust, the University of Victoria, and the Digital Globe Foundation. It is led by Alessia Kockel.

Whale shark watching models

Incentive-based conservation seeks to provide incentives to local communities to protect threatened ecosystems and species. Ecotourism is often developed as one such mechanism where the goal is to make the species/area worth more as a living/functioning being than it is as a dead market product.  Shark watching is one of the world’s most rapidly growing ecotourism experiences and the whale shark is the poster child and most watched of all sharks. However, the mode of interaction with the sharks and the management systems and economic benefits involved can vary greatly. This project is examining three whale-shark watching sites in the Philippines that differ in their modus operandii to help establish optimal ways to achieve benefits from this and similar activities. The project is supported by SSHRC, and in the University of Victoria. It is being led by Jackie Ziegler in collaboration with the  Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (LAMAVE).

Improving Marine Protected Area Management at Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and World Heritage Site

MPARG group leader, Professor Philip Dearden has joined with researchers from the  Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (LAMAVE) and the Tubbataha Management Office to continue to improve management  of this globally important Marine Protected Area.  Two areas of interest relate to gaining greater understanding of shark populations and their movements and achieving optimal management of scuba diving operations. Research involves tagging grey reef and tiger sharks using both acoustic and satellite tags. Dearden is also using the extensive experience built up by MPARG over the years to assess scuba diver survey responses and improve methodology.



Developing a Marine Protected Area Network in the Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar

Myanmar is changing rapidly as it opens up to the outside world. One area of change is the realization that there is urgent need for improved conservation. The Myeik Archipelago is a maze of over 800 islands that extends north from the border with Thailand. This area is a naturally very diverse and productive area and yet populations of many marine organisms have been badly depleted. The Government and communities along the coast are anxious to implement conservation measures and develop a Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network, including Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs). Professor Dearden is working with Flora and Fauna International (FFI) to advise the Government on developing the Network.



Protected Areas and Poverty Reduction (PAPR) project

In many areas where biodiversity levels are the highest poverty is a major factor in the ability to undertake conservation activities. This project looks at the relationship between poverty and protected areas in Ghana and Tanzania embracing elements ranging from governance and management through to generation of alternative incomes and the impacts of development initiatives and climate change on communities and conservation.

This project has enjoyed a high level of support through SSHRCs partnership program enabling a large number of African students to undertake graduate studies over the last few years.  One PhD student, Arthur Jones is studying under the original and Emmanuel K. Leyani who is funded under new SSHRC/IDRC funding through the Institutional Canopy of Conservation (I-CAN project) based at McGill.

Please click here for more about the I-CAN project.