Current Projects

MCA: Global Environmental Imaginaries & Constrained Choice: Using Electronic Monitoring to Protect the Environment & Human Rights in Fisheries

This research project strives to advance theoretical and applied understanding to help reduce human rights abuses, including modern slavery, in fisheries.  Electronic monitoring (EM) can address environmental concerns around fishing, such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing).  Electronic monitoring is a system of onboard cameras that records fishing catches for later analysis, verification, and alignment with fisheries regulations.  There is a link between environmentally harmful fishing practices and the exploitation of people, with dire consequences for workers at sea (e.g., working conditions, occupational health and safety, forced labor, and modern slavery).  Recent research showed that the environmental data captured by EM could also reveal the social and labor conditions borne by workers and human observers on vessels.  Some environmental groups and governments have articulated a vision of the potential of EM to save fish populations while also making the fishing industries’ work easier for data reporting, traceability, and increasing profit.  However, this vision pits human rights to decent working conditions and fair treatment against human rights to privacy.  This project is an exploratory study to investigate the overarching research question: How is the global environmental imaginary and competing sociotechnical imaginary shaping the current use and futures of EM in fisheries?

Reducing Resource Use at the Seafood-Energy-Water Nexus: Focus on Efficient Production and Waste Reduction – SmartFish Case Study

Global seafood provides essential food, earnings, and livelihoods to coastal communities worldwide. With growing populations, fishing effort in coastal areas will continue to increase. Coastal small-scale fisheries occupy an important part of the global supply, employing more than 99% of the world’s 51 million fishers and yielding more than 50% of the wild-caught seafood.  In Baja, Mexico communities are highly dependent on fisheries economically and culturally. Despite their importance, these fisheries are threatened by overfishing and unnecessary resource waste. In order to sustain the livelihoods and food security these issues must be addressed urgently. SmartFish, an NGO operating in Baja, is addressing overfishing and resource waste. Through a novel program design, SmartFish is incentivizing fishers to harvest sustainably and supply their high-quality seafood to the local market that demands it. SmartFish provides a unique case that can be a model for small-scale fisheries management throughout developing regions of the world. Through a case study approach, we are investigating SmartFish in order to understand the strategies that make their approach successful.  This case study will be part of a broad, overarching study, including researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the University of Florida, that is measuring energy and water use in seafood production, but will also recommend strategies for reducing resource use across seafood supply chains.


Communicating Science through Dance for Conservation Learning, Empathy, and Action

In this era of information saturation, it can be a struggle to communicate science to the public in meaningful ways. This project explores the utility of dance, for science communication, education, engagement, and action. Historically, dance was an important form of storytelling about nature. Embodying the plight of wildlife through dance can lead to a greater sense of connection to nature and a willingness to take action to protect it. Yet this promising form of nature storytelling is currently under-utilized and under-studied. The goal of this project is to conduct pilot research to answer the question: How does creating and participating in dance as a form of storytelling impact participants’ understanding of, empathy towards, and behaviors towards sea turtle conservation?  We intend to test the potential of dance through a controlled, experimental study to compare dance-based programs with other forms of engagement. This will be the first study to systematically and directly measure changes in conservation knowledge, empathy, and action because of participation in dance.

Defining Environmental Public Art for Environmental Conservation

Environmental public art, in addition to raising awareness, is perceived to shape individual behavior within a complex socio-cultural context that influence one’s beliefs, norms, and attitude. This potential to change individual behavior could lead to positive environmental outcomes. But, what is “environmental public art”? Although, artists, scholars, practitioners, and audiences may have an intuitive sense of what is or is not, there is no established definition of environmental public art. In this study, we are using the Delphi method to create a consensus definition, which will contribute to a larger project: Envisioning Environmental Public Art as a catalyst toward conservation: A conceptual framework for understanding art practice and social outcomes. The overarching project grew out of a workshop at SESYNC and is a collaboration of an international team of researchers led by Se Jong Cho

Music, Movement, and Active Learning to Improve Collegiate STEM Education

In this wide-ranging project, we seek to enhance STEM learning for all students by questioning and overturning several traditional assumptions about STEM learning. One aim of the project focuses on movement as a neglected but powerful modality by which students may explore scientific material.  This body-based exploration may be either literal (e.g., in human anatomy) or metaphorical (using poses and motions as distillations of complicated processes). A related aim broadly encourages incorporation of the arts into STEM education — for example, through the writing and discussion of song lyrics to deepen conceptual understanding. Finally, since much of STEM education continues to emphasize high-stakes exams, a third aim is to reform these exams by linking them more transparently to other course activities via the Test Question Template (TQT) framework. Dr. Jenkins co-leads this project with Dr. Greg Crowther