GLORES Partner Spotlight: Dr. Simon Pittman

This week, we are excited to shine the Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES) Partner Spotlight on Dr. Simon Pittman, a member of our esteemed GLORES Science Council!

Dr. Pittman is an Associate Researcher at the University of Plymouth in the UK and Director of Seascape Analytics. He has been instrumental in building the foundations for the newly emerging field of seascape ecology and is the editor of the first book dedicated to the subject. It features contributions on topics such as marine protected area (MPA) design, ecological connectivity, seascape mapping and modelling, pelagic seascapes, seascape economics and holistic systems science.

 

Dr. Pittman with the book, Seascape Ecology, which he edited and co-authored. Photo: Kate Moseley

 

Dr. Pittman has been working in and around MPAs for 25 years, providing ecological information, training and decision-support tools to reserve managers and marine spatial planners. He has trained park rangers to monitor MPAs in Kenya, the Seychelles and the Caribbean. Dr. Pittman has worked with NOAA for the past 15 years and collaborated closely with staff of the National Park Service, NGOs, community groups and local government agencies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). He lived in the USVI for several years, providing science to support ecologically meaningful management. This work has produced in-depth assessments of MPA ecological performance, helped determine threats to marine ecosystem health and identified priority areas for conservation action, such as vulnerable coastal habitats, diverse coral reefs, and fish spawning areas.

 

Dr. Pittman conducts research off Puerto Rico to tag and track tiger grouper. Photo: University of the Virgin Islands

 

Dr. Pittman’s work has contributed to marine spatial planning in Hawaii, the Gulf of Maine and Oregon to help guide environmentally-informed decision-making, including planning for offshore renewable energy operations.

His current work has become more holistic, with a focus on blue urbanism and the concept of community-led marine parks for coastal cities as a spatial nexus to address multiple sustainable development targets.

He serves as a science advisor to the World Commission on Protected Areas’ Specialist Working Group on Marine Connectivity Conservation and is a core member of the University of Plymouth’s Marine and Coastal Policy Research Unit. He is affiliate faculty of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Institute for Geocomputational Analysis and Statistics (GeoCas), which he co-founded in 2009, and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, where he mentors graduate students.

 

Dr. Pittman presents on MPA planning and design at Society and the Sea, London. Photo: Rebecca Shellock

 

We asked Dr. Pittman why he joined the GLORES Science Council:

“My passion, scientific interest and concern for the global ocean combined with my personal insight into the management of marine protected areas has strengthened my desire to contribute more to marine conservation. I have renewed optimism for ocean protection in light of recent global actions, including the boom in MPAs over the past decade.”

“As an undergraduate, I was first introduced to MPA science by Professor Jenny George, one of the founders of Lundy Island Marine Nature Reserve established in 1986, which stood alone for far too many years as the only MPA in England. There are now several hundred MPAs in UK waters offering varying levels of protection. In Kenya, with the University of York’s Tropical Marine Research Unit, I learned about the local community-led establishment of Africa’s first marine park at Malindi in 1968 (the year I was born) and also witnessed firsthand the Kenyan Wildlife Service’s enforcement operations in action. In the US Virgin Islands, I spent many hours underwater collecting monitoring data and discussing with managers the conditions and changes observed in some of the oldest coral reef MPAs in US waters.”

 

Dr Pittman at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys. Photo: Kate Moseley

 

“It is clear that well-designed, well-managed and well-resourced MPAs with strong community support have an important place in our toolbox of interventions to restore and protect healthy, biodiverse and productive ocean spaces. It is also clear that many other factors are also important in securing successful performance in MPAs, including their connectivity, context and communication. Through the Science Council, GLORES is actively bridging the gap between science and management by applying scientifically derived criteria with which to assess and incentivize elevated performance in MPAs. Not only is GLORES acknowledging achievements in MPA performance and management effectiveness, through the Science Council we are able to offer specialist advice on specific MPAs to help MPA managers shape and evaluate their operations to ensure successful future outcomes.”

To learn more about Dr. Pittman’s work, please visit his website: seascapeecology.com

 

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