Lead: Dr Caroline Garaway, UCL Anthropology Main Collaborator: Matthias Stevens, UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE)
This project addresses two current global challenges in sustainable stewardship: coordinating science/society initiatives, and developing marine monitoring which lags far behind terrestrial monitoring.
It consists of anthropological data collection in a threatened marine ecosystem (molluscs) not systematically surveyed before, that will develop emerging technologies for participatory GIS and Human-Computer-Interaction to generate uniquely collaborative mutually constitutive data. This early-stage cooperation avoids the recurrent problem of new technology emerging without use-appropriate rich socioecological data to apply it to, and vice versa.
Shellfish beds are now among the most endangered natural habitats globally, giving the project wide relevance. Molluscs - including oysters, mussels, cockles - and their habitats are an undervalued natural resource socially, nutritionally, economically and environmentally. In 2012, 50% of UK marine landings by value were shellfish, approximately 75% of which was exported, primarily to the EU, with exports to Asia increasing. Supporting local communities and commodity networks, molluscs also provide vital benefits to estuarine and coastal ecosystems including nitrogen balance, habitat maintenance and water filtration.
Yet because they occupy a liminal position in the intertidal and inshore zones between land and sea, fishing and farming, terrestrial and marine law, mollusc farmers, harvesters and beds are frequently overlooked in resource management policy, allocation of tenure and use rights and pollution regulation, sustainability challenged by competing local conservancies and agencies and conflicting UK/EU regulations. Ideal for new technology and citizen science, this complex constituency and shifting environment urgently demand new models and methods of sustainable stewardship, the ultimate aim of this research.sustainability