Digital information about ocean environments is proliferating, supported by a number of technological innovations, including high resolution satellite imagery, networks of sensing platforms above and below water, electronic tags attached to marine animals, autonomous underwater vehicles and aerial drones, block chain technologies tracing ocean products, and more. Advances in computing power (data storage, software, and hardware developments), support novel analyses and produce powerful visualizations, data portals and products, often spatial, at large scales and in real time. New data technologies are central in ocean data science initiatives.
Oceans are vast, multi-dimensional, and fluid, characteristics that historically have constrained human efforts to know and use them. Yet oceans are critical to environmental and social wellbeing, rich with biodiversity, and support livelihoods for people around the world. As knowledge of oceans has increased, so too has interest in their development and conservation potential, and attention is turning to how to best manage oceans for sustainable futures.
Governance implications of renewed interests in oceans and of new scientific understanding are converging. State and non-state actors mobilize new data technologies and ocean data science initiatives to expand human reach into the oceans, often with a goal of tackling old and new management challenges related to conservation and extraction. New governance frames – such as ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue justice’ – are also emerging, and scientific knowledge informs these.
Labs are places of research and experimentation. Our lab brings together an interdisciplinary team of human geographers, marine ecologists, geospatial data scientists and information scientists to explore the role of ocean data science initiatives in global and regional oceans governance. By working across disciplines, our aim is to explore both limits of and possibilities for ocean data science initiatives to support more just and sustainable ocean futures.
Ocean data science initiatives (ODSIs) are led by scientists, non-government organizations, businesses, state or inter-state agencies – often in collaboration. ODSIs mobilize new data technologies to produce new knowledge and understandings of the oceans, with the express goal of informing or improving conditions in the oceans.
An ODSI may be active at any one or more stages of the data ‘lifecycle’ – such as data collection or generation; developing platforms and infrastructures for storing, managing and distributing data; advancing analytical techniques and tools to ‘make sense’ of data for management purposes; or serving as hubs that catalyze data networks.
Although ODSIs might handle large amounts of data, these datasets are not always so-called ‘Big Data’ and there is more than data at stake. We intentionally use the the term new data technologies to capture the complexity of ODSIs, which come in many forms and have a range of attributes.
The term new data technologies captures the many technological innovations that underlie ODSIs. Much has been written about ‘Big Data’ and its potential, but the term 'Big Data' directs attention to data, and risks masking the many steps and skills required to collect, analyse, interpret, and visualize them.
New data technologies include data, but also:
data collection platforms and devices, e.g. satellite based remote sensing and tracking, environmental sensor and observation networks, autonomous underwater vehicles and aerial drones, etc.;
computing hardware, software and applications required to support data analysis, modelling, visualization, and storage;
cloud based computing and data storage;
websites, dashboards, data portals, and other digital platforms to support data sharing, use, analysis, and visualization.
The Digital Oceans Governance Lab is co-led by Elizabeth Havice (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and Lisa Campbell (Duke University). We established DOGL to bring together an interdisciplinary team of human geographers, marine ecologists, geospatial data scientists and information scientists to explore the role of ocean data science initiatives in global and regional oceans governance. By working across disciplines, our aim is to explore both limits of and possibilities for ODSIs to support more just and sustainable ocean futures.
Dr. Lisa Campbell is the Rachel Carson Professor of Marine Affairs and Policy in Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environment. She studies oceans governance at a variety of scales (international, national, local) in relation to diverse issues (protected species, fisheries, MPAs, tourism, etc.) and is particularly interested in how science and non-state actors inform governance processes and outcomes. She has participated in and led a number of multidisciplinary research projects and experiments with methodological innovations to better understand processes of environmental governance. Based at Duke University Marine Lab, she lives in Beaufort, NC, where oceans and their governance can be experienced first hand.
Dr. Elizabeth Havice is Professor of Geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She uses the lens of governance to explore distributional outcomes in marine resources sectors and spaces, food systems, global value chains. She has been researching intersecting political economy, environmental and labor dimensions of the global tuna industry and oceans governance more broadly for more than 15 years. She works in advisory roles for Pacific Island country governments and other not-for-profit groups interested in marine resources, value chain analysis, and economy–environment intersections.
Dr. Andre Boustany is Director of Conservation and Science Research at Monterey Bay Aquarium and a marine biologist. He advises on Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tuna stock assessment at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and serves on the US delegation’s ICCAT Advisory Committee. He is Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Subcommittee to the General Advisory Committee, which advises the U.S. delegation to IATTC on Pacific pelagic fish management. He is a permanent employee at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Conservation and Science Research Team and has direct engagement with the Policy Department.
Dr. Pat Halpin is Professor of Marine Geospatial Ecology and Director of the Geospatial Analysis Program at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University Marine Lab. His research focuses on marine geospatial analysis, ecological applications of geographic information systems and remote sensing; and marine conservation and ecosystem-based management. He leads the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab (MGEL) at Duke University (https://mgel.env.duke.edu/). He sits on numerous international scientific and conservation program steering committees related to the use of big data for oceans policy and governance, including: the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), the Global Oceans Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI), the Marine Working Group for the Group on Earth Observations - Biodiversity Observing Networks (GEO-BON), the Google Oceans Advisory Council, and the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science, among others. He advises domestic and international policy bodies on marine spatial and mobility data on the high seas (e.g. UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s agenda on Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs)).
Emily Melvin is a Marine Science and Conservation PhD Student at Duke University in the Campbell Lab and in DOGL. Her dissertation research focuses on the blue economy as a strategy for post-disaster recovery in Grand Bahama, The Bahamas, after Hurricane Dorian. She is interested in the growing role of science, technology, and innovation in redefining the blue economy in the aftermath of disaster, and the implications for ocean conservation and governance. The goal of this research is to understand what economic and social possibilities are emerging, and what are being (or at risk of being) foreclosed through projects being advanced under the banner of the blue economy.
Gabrielle Carmine is currently a Marine Science and Conservation PhD student at Duke University in the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab. Her doctoral research focuses on high seas fisheries, corporate powers, and ocean governance. Her work aims to examine high seas fisheries using Global Fishing Watch data to calculate fishing effort for corporate actors. She also applies this work to study Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and their ability to protect the high seas from overextraction in the Anthropocene. The goal of this work is to ensure protection of the high seas through accountability of non-state actors and international governing bodies, such as RFMOs.
Ana Zurita Posas is an REU fellow. She is a Pre-Environmental Health Sciences and Geography double major at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is contributing to DOGL through work on the ODSI cataglog and in the future, plans to combine her skills in public health and geography to analyze environmental health disparities across rural counties in North Carolina, including her hometown of Bladen County.
Zach Kingery is an undergraduate at UNC studying geography and food studies, with an interest in mapping the past and future of what we eat. He is supporting the DOGL project by mapping the declared relations between ODSIs, in an effort to understand world-making patterns along lines of funding and partnership. He is in the early stages of a multi-year research project on the dynamics of financial speculation in global agriculture.
Dr. Lauren Drakopulous joined DOGL as a Postdoctoral Fellow and worked on the intersections between science, digital technologies, and data infrastructure on the one hand and environmental governance, resource monitoring and management on the other. She presently works on questions of equity and justice around R&D and data & technology relationships at Sandia National Laboratories.
Katie Crisp joined DOGL as an REU fellow working on the catalog of Ocean Data Science Initiatives. She is presently a paralegal at Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
Carden Barkley worked with DOGL as a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) student in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. For DOGL, she conducted qualitative research on different applications of new data technologies and their potential implications for high seas and in-zone governance. She is presently a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow at the NOAA Fisheries Office of the Assistant Administrator.
Research Projects and Products
Tracking tuna and turtles
We have explored the role of new data technologies in the management of two iconic marine species: Atlantic bluefin tuna and marine turtles. This work has explored the policy and management implications of relying on the products of new data technologies to ‘resolve’ scalar mismatches in oceans management.
Havice, E., L.M. Campbell and A.M. Boustany, 2022. ‘New data technologies and the politics of scale in environmental management’, Annals of the American Association of Geographers.
Havice, E., L.M. Campbell, and A. Braun. 2018. Science, scale and the frontier of governing mobile marine species. International Social Science Journal 68 (229-230):273-89. doi: 10.1111/issj.12166
Catalog of ODSIs
To understand the world of ODSIs, we have assembled an open access catalog of oceans data science initiatives (ODSIs), related to fisheries extraction, biodiversity conservation, and enhancing basic scientific knowledge. We identified more than 150 ODSIs and populated the catalog with data describing key features of ODSI work including 1) the data infrastructure 2) their organizational structure, 3) the ocean worlds, or ontologies, they create, and 4) the (explicit or implicit) policy and governance ‘solutions’ and relations they promote. The ODSIs in the catalog are global and regional in scope. Additional ODSIs will be added to the data set.
Drakopulous, L., E. Havice and L.M. Campbell. 2022. ‘Architecture, agency and ocean data science initiatives: Data-driven transformation of oceans governance’, Earth Systems Governance.
Drakopulos, L., Havice, E., Crisp, K., Zurita Posas, A. 2022. Catalog of Ocean Data Science Initiatives Havice, Elizabeth. Qualitative Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.5064/F6ZQWQJS. QDR Main Collection.
All program code for analysis and cleaning of the catalog can be found at github.com/ehavice/DOGL.
ODSI case studies
Based on the catalog of ODSIs, we are exploring in-depth case studies to better understand the role of ODSIs as governance actors.
Havice, E. and L.M. Campbell, 2023. ‘(How) will new data technologies support oceans governance?’ Environment and Planning D Society and Space Magazine. April. In Contesting the Ocean Decade: Plural Provocations in the Universal Sea. Kate Sammler and Kimberly Peters (eds).
Stay tuned for more case study results…
ODSI learning modules
In the future, DOGL will provide learning modules to facilitate interdisciplinary experimentation with the potentials that ODSIs present for more sustainable ocean futures. In lab sessions, participants will articulate the vision, theories of change, and mindsets that inform their use of new data technologies in order to develop aspirations for future design. Participants will experiment with data synthesis and analysis to support governance arrangements amenable to environmental sustainability, human well-being, justice and equity.
Our work has been supported by the National Science Foundation Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program and the National Geographic Conservation Trust.
Other relevant work products
Acton, L., L.M. Campbell, J. Cleary, N.J. Gray, and P. Halpin. 2019. What is the Sargasso Sea? The problem of fixing space in a fluid ocean. Political Geography 68 (1):86-100. doi: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2018.11.004
Boucquey, N., K. St. Martin, L. Fairbanks, L.M. Campbell, and S. Wise. 2019. Ocean data portals: Performing a new infrastructure for ocean governance. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 37 (3):484-503. doi:10.1177/0263775818822829
Campbell, L.M. 2007. Local conservation practice and global discourse: A political ecology of sea turtle conservation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 97 (2): 313-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.2007.00538.x
Campbell, L.M. and M.H. Godfrey. 2010. Geopolitical genetics: Claiming the commons through species mapping. Geoforum 41 (6):897-907. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2010.06.003
Campbell, L.M., K. St. Martin, L. Fairbanks, N. Boucquey, and S. Wise. 2020. The portal is the plan: Governing US oceans in regional assemblages. Maritime Studies (MAST) 19 (3):285-97. doi: 10.1007/s40152-020-00173-3
Campbell, L.M., N.J Gray, S.B.J Zigler, L. Acton, and R. Gruby. 2021. World-making through mapping: Large scale marine protected areas and the transformation of the global ocean. In The Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography, ed. E. Havice, M. Himley, and G. Valdivia. 1st ed. Abingdon, UK: Routledge
Campbell, L.M., N.J. Gray, L. Fairbanks, J.J Silver, R.L. Gruby, B. Dubik, and X. Basurto. 2016. Global oceans governance: New and emerging issues. Annual Review in Environment and Resources 41 (1):517-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-102014-021121
Fairbanks, L., L.M. Campbell, N. Boucquey, and K. St. Martin. 2018. Assembling enclosure: Reading marine spatial planning for alternatives. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 108 (1): 144-61. doi: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1345611
Fairbanks, L., N. Boucquey, L.M. Campbell, and S. Wise. 2019. Remaking oceans governance: Critical perspectives on marine spatial planning. Environment and Society: Advances in Research 10 (1):122-40. doi: 10.3167/ares.2019.100108
Fawcett, L., E. Havice, and A. Zalik. Forthcoming. Privatize, democratize, decolonize: Frontiers of ocean knowledges in the 21st century. In The Handbook to Ocean Space, ed. J. Anderson, A. Davis, K. Peters, and P. Steinberg. Abingdon, UK: Routledge
Havice, E., L.M. Campbell, L. Campling, and M.D. Smith. 2021. Commentary: Making sense of firms for ocean governance. One Earth 4 (5):602-4. doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2021.04.022