Matt Witt and Kirsten Abernethy

Interdisciplinary research

Dr Matthew Witt and Dr Kirsten Abernethy understand the high expectations we place on our ocean resources and the tensions these can create.

In the summer months, Dr Matthew Witt, along with collaborators from Scottish Natural Heritage, may be found in the waters around the UK tracking basking sharks. He is developing research expertise in remote data collection technologies and is currently working with external partners to plan for the sustainable management of the sea, particularly in light of the human pressures from commercial fishing and renewable energy extraction.

Dr Kirsten Abernethy studies marine fisheries and coastal communities, and is interested in understanding how fishing-dependent communities adapt to environmental, economic and social change, and the incentives behind moving towards more sustainable fishing practices. Her work has included research in the Cornish fishing industry and community-based resource governance in the Solomon Islands.

Matthew and Kirsten are mutually interested in understanding not only the benefits we derive from the oceans but also what we need to do to manage this important resource for the future. Matthew’s technical expertise in remote data collection and Kirsten’s in community decision-making and co-management are both essential to solving problems such as the design of cross-boundary marine protected areas and effective site placement of sometimes conflicting human activities. They aim to reconcile ecological, economic and social objectives.

“The issues we research in fisheries and sustainability are complex and contextual, but are nearly always a mix of the social and ecological. To find solutions, scientists need to have a problem-focused and interdisciplinary approach which fundamentally requires collaboration between natural and social sciences.”

Dr Kirsten Abernethy, Lecturer in Environmental Social Science