About Marine Social Science

Marine social science is an interdisciplinary science that aims to bridge the gap between traditional quantitative ecology and the human dimension (social sciences). The importance of Marine Social Sciences cannot be highlighted enough; to truly have effective management and decision making for our oceans, wider societal views (through stakeholder engagement) must be accounted for within policy and management.

List of Dissertations

The following are the abstracts from past dissertations at the University of Gibraltar.

Jellyfish: A potential coastal threat?; Assessment of Public Perceptions and Integration of Citizen Science to aid global gaps in knowledge of Spatial and Temporal distribution of jellyfish (Cnidaria & Ctenophora)

John Antony Yañez Dobson

Jellyfish are keystone predators and important to many marine ecosystems. The current state of the literature revolves around a jellyfish paradigm, of whether populations are increasing over time or following their natural decal oscillation in populations. Many anthropogenic factors like eutrophication, climate change, and overfishing have been attributed to an increase in jellyfish populations, however, the current data is based on a relatively small spatial and temporal scale. Apart from the paradigm, the direct and indirect impacts stemming from jellyfish are understudied and lack sufficient data. Further, the scientific community surrounding jellyfish has failed to consider the publics’ knowledge, behaviour, and needs associated with jellyfish. This dissertation explores both the public perception of jellyfish via a survey and six sampling techniques used for jellyfish. Results showed that the public rank jellyfish as more of a concern than sharks, but when jellyfish were compared to nine other contemporary marine topics, jellyfish was given the least concern and the least level of prioritization. The survey also revealed that people overwhelmingly think about the negative aspects of jellyfish rather than the positive aspects, and when it comes to treating stings, folklore treatments such as urine are still one of the most dominant answer. The results from the survey indicate the need to expand ocean literacy within the public, and offer them jellyfish identification guides, jellyfish probability maps, and proper treatment plans. The results from the sampling methodologies, showed nets was the most used technique since 1976, and is the technique that gathers the most quantitative data out of the six sampling methodologies. The results also show that in the last four years, acoustic and citizen science approaches are increasing significantly. The increase in citizen science derived data concerning the spatial and temporal abundance of jellyfish is not only helping scientists uncover previously unknown ecological aspects, but also helping to enhance knowledge of participants towards the socio-economic impacts that jellyfish present. This dissertation concludes that the involvement of citizens should be a priority as it contextualizes the socio-economic impacts of jellyfish and allows scientists to create further impact with their studies, and hence can create coastal management policies that are more aligned with the public’s needs.
Primary Supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayake,
Secondary Supervisor: Dr Cesar Bordehore, Universidad de Alicante

Evaluation of citizenship attitudes and attachments towards the marine environment in Gibraltar with a view to informing sustainable marine governance practices

Emma Hall

The health of the marine and coastal environment is increasingly threatened by anthropogenic pressures, causing widespread impacts for habitats, species and valuable ecosystem services. A growing urgency to protect the oceans is driving participatory governance reform, which incorporates citizens in marine policy delivery and development, to help ameliorate ecosystem stressors. This study seeks to understand the attitudes and attachments held towards Gibraltar’s marine environment, with a view to establishing the potential role of citizens in supporting sustainable marine governance. Following an extensive literature review, an online survey (n = 142) was used to evaluate marine citizenship attitudes in Gibraltar. Results provided empirical evidence that respondents generally felt concerned about threats to the marine environment, displayed an awareness of pressing issues and indicated attitudes of environmental responsibility. In addition, respondents felt positively connected to Gibraltar’s marine environment and were predominantly able to identify recreational activities they enjoyed, as well as places that were special to them, in the marine and coastal zone. Attitudes were not uniform across the sample, with gender affecting responsibility and age influencing personal connection to the marine environment. Overall, attitudes were deemed conducive to the success of marine citizenship in Gibraltar and respondents further acknowledged the responsibility of citizens in helping to manage the marine environment. The implications for marine governance in Gibraltar are discussed and the potential strengths and weaknesses of adopting a more participatory approach are assessed. Increasing citizen involvement in marine governance offers the opportunity to capture socio-ecological relationships and pressures, provide meaningful engagement in environmental protection and foster the continued development of marine citizenship. By assessing attitudes and attachments typically excluded from the policy landscape, this research hopes to achieve sustainable outcomes for marine governance in Gibraltar, particularly through the amplified role of citizens in protecting marine environmental health.
Read more about Emma’s research here.
Primary Supervisor: Dr Awantha Dissanayake
Secondary Supervisor: Danielle M. Farrugia, University of Malta

Identifying the importance of cultural ecosystem services (II-CES): a non-monetary valuation

Luisa Haasova

Concept of ecosystem services increasingly gained attention during the past decades. It is mainly focusing on the material benefits that people obtain from the natural ecosystems, leaving a gap in non-material benefits, which are cultural ecosystem services (CES). CES and their non-monetary valuation received only little attention due to (i) no standard framework developed for their valuation (ii) lack of recognition and consideration in decision making (iii) there is not enough research dedicated to this subject, because majority of the ecosystems are seen through the economic lens. This paper combines existing frameworks and conducts non-monetary valuation of CES in Gibraltar. It examines environmental places, cultural practices and cultural ecosystem benefits derived from marine/ coastal ecosystems in more profound way. It also identifies the CES practices and benefits that people were lacking during the lockdown period of COVID-19 pandemic.
A part of this work is a literature review outlining (i) what non-monetary methods are used to assess CES (ii) what type of CES are studied the most by non-monetary valuation (iii) the geographic distribution of the studies where non-monetary valuations in CES took place. This thesis represents the first non-monetary valuation in Gibraltar. By understanding these environmental places, cultural practices and cultural ecosystem benefits, decision makers are provided with a framework, which shows the importance of CES.
Primary Supervisor:               Dr Awantha Dissanayake
Secondary Supervisor:          Dr Emma McKinley, Cardiff University

Thematic leader

Dr Awantha Dissanayake
Head of School (Marine Science)