Taskforce on Ocean Governance


The Taskforce on Oceans Governance seeks to address the daunting multi-level challenge of oceans governance in the Anthropocene. It brings together scholars from the global Earth System Governance network, with other researchers and practitioners to advance expertise and develop policy solutions in the marine area.

In terms of scholarship, the Taskforce seeks to advance interdisciplinary understandings of the complex, multi-level relationships between social and ecological aspects of marine systems, as well as linkages to atmospheric and terrestrial processes. On the side of praxis, it aims to develop oceans governance institutions that provide flexibility, transparency, legitimacy, and social justice, as well as sustainability.

The Oceans Taskforce will serve as platform in the Earth System Governance Project for oceans related research and will be actively cooperating with other research activities, as well as scientific and policy institutions, and ongoing policy processes related to the Oceans.

Research within the network is divided into twenty research clusters, which span the breadth of ocean governance issues – see the navigation menu for names and direct links to these clusters.

The Oceans Governance Taskforce is led by:


D.G. Webster, Dartmouth

D.G. Webster is an associate professor in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth. Her main research interest is in understanding the complex dynamics of large-scale social-ecological systems (SESs). She is author of two books, multiple peer reviewed articles, and a number of successful interdisciplinary research proposals. Her second book, Beyond the Tragedy in Global Fisheries (2015), explains the evolution of global fisheries governance through a responsive governance lens, showing how fisheries all over the world cycle through periods of effective and ineffective governance in what she calls the governance treadmill. Her first book, Adaptive Governance: The Dynamics of Atlantic Tuna Management (2009) posited and tested her vulnerability response framework. It won the International Studies Association’s Harold and Margaret Sprout Award in 2010. She is currently working on her third book, The Governance Treadmill, which will extend her research on responsive governance to non-fisheries contexts. In balance with her independent work, Dr. Webster actively pursues interdisciplinary research projects to develop new methods for understanding social ecological systems. The first of these, Fishscape: Modeling the Complex Dynamics of the Fishery for Tropical Tunas in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, wrapped up successfully in the fall of 2016 (NSF CNH#1010280; Webster was lead-PI). She is currently leading a SESYNC Pursuit project titled Subjective vs Objective Risk in the Provision of Aquatic Ecosystem Services, which will run from 2017-2019. Information on other lab projects can be found here. Dr. Webster teaches courses related to global environmental governance, green business, marine policy, and environmental economics. She earned her PhD from the University of Southern California’s Political Economy and Public Policy program in 2005.


square imageLeandra Gonçalves, Universidade de Campinas

Leandra Gonçalves is a Ph.D. in International Relations at University of Sao Paulo (IRI – www.iri.usp.br) in Brazil. She holds a B.Sc. in Biology (Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Campinas, São Paulo – 2004) and a M.Sc. in Biology and Animal Behavior (Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brasil, 2007).

Currently, she is a Associate Researcher at the Center of Environmental Studies and Research at University of Campinas (Nepam/Unicamp). She has been working with environmental NGOs as Greenpeace and SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation since 2007, where she could develop and improve her public engagement skills by planning and coordinating activities and by doing advocacy work for marine public policies interacting with other national stakeholders. At an international level, she worked in coalition with a network of other NGOs in international organizations such as International Whaling Commission. This empirical experience on international conferences moved her onto international relation discipline to seek answers on how to design regimes and how to govern a large scale complex and dynamic ocean system.

As a research fellow for the Earth System Governance project, she is working with other colleagues for the development of a PainelMar in Brazil with the general aim of bridging knowledge networks for better ocean governance. Also, on the international level, she is part of the Ocean Governance TaskForce with other colleagues which seeks to address the multi-level challenge of oceans governance in the Anthropocene.


square imageJudith van Leeuwen, Wageningen University

Judith van Leeuwen is Assistant Professor at the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University. Her research interest lies with the nexus between changing architectures of global environmental governance and the changing role and authority of state and business actors. Business actors who have advanced environmental management systems not only have an internal corporate environment policy but also seek colloboration with governments, stakeholders and communities to address social and environmental concerns. As a result multi-stakeholder alliances and initiatives have emerged that complement, challenge and change governmental environmental policies. Using business administration insights, Judith investigates how corporate environmental management and multi-stakeholder initiatives influences architectures of global environmental governance. During her PhD Judith investigated to what extent business actors have become more proactive and powerful and subsequently changed the institutional architecture of the environmental governance of shipping and offshore oil and gas production on the North Sea. She continued this line of research and has published multiple articles and book chapters on the environmental governance of shipping. Currently, she is also involved in the Green Shipping Partnership that is coordinated by the University of British Columbia (Canada). She has also been involved in the EU FP7 project Options for Delivering Ecosystem Based Marine Management (http://www.odemm.com/) between 2010-2013. This project focused on institional architectures for the implementation of Ecosystem Based Management in the four European Seas.


square imageCandace May, South Dakota State University

I am a Sociologist who seeks to incorporate ideas and perspectives from Geography, Economics, Political Science, and Ecology, among others to critically engage research on Commons Governance and Collective Action, as well as Sustainability, Environmental Governance, and Complex Social-Ecological Systems. I am committed to interdisciplinary research endeavors. I am continually seeking to expand my knowledge, comprehension, and experience through engagement with others and their work across the social and natural sciences. The overall end result that I strive for in my research is practical knowledge that is useful for communities, speaks to policy, and adds to the general knowledge of my field, Environmental and Natural Resources Governance.

My primary research approach is a qualitative, community-based perspective of the cross-scalar and multi-level opportunities and barriers to sustainable governance of the environment and natural resources. I have on-going projects in North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Dakota. My research in North Carolina focuses on the multi-level and cross-scale dynamics of economic, demographic, and environmental change and the consequences for coastal communities and commercial fisher participation in governance of fisheries and sustainability of habitat. In Louisiana, my research focuses on the vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation of coastal communities to market forces, climate change, and industrial activities. Research projects include the use of boat-to-fork programs to increase community resilience through shortened supply chains for locally produced seafood; a multi-disciplinary study of the conservation potential of private, absentee landowners in the context of increasing intensity of storm surge from rising sea levels and land lost to internal hydrological inundation and external erosion; and, an interdisciplinary, comparative study of the differential risk, vulnerability, and resilience of rural, racially and economically diverse coastal communities. My research in South Dakota focuses on the potential of the conservation efforts of hook-and-bullet interests to scale up to broader environmental justice outcomes and governance of the water-energy nexus.


square imageAtsushi Ishii, Tohoku University

Dr. Ishii is an Associate Professor at the Center for Northeast Asian Studies at Tohuku University in Japan. He is a lead author in the Earth System Governance New Directions Initiative launched in 2016 to develop a new, ambitious Science and Implementation Plan for the Earth System Governance Project.

Although in Japan the idea of environmental cooperation with Northeast Asia has been under discussion for some time, experts have yet to develop a well-reasoned model that indicates how Japan should work together with the nations of Northeast Asia to achieve this goal. Researchers working toward such a model should not be satisfied with merely analyzing how environmental cooperation works and what factors determine its failure or success. What they must do instead is first, to work to incorporate local perspectives into standards for evaluating environmental cooperation by collaborating with scholars from the different countries and sharing understanding with them about environmental issues, and second, to argue for more integrated outlooks toward environmental issues, which should be viewed not as a series of isolated problems but as parts of a larger whole. The Tumen River, along the border between China and North Korea, is one region where improvement and international