Noella Gray

Research Interests

My dissertation contributes to a growing body of social science literature related to marine protected areas (MPAs). I conducted ten months of fieldwork in Belize (2006-2007), focusing on two MPAs that are co-managed by government and a local NGO, Friends of Nature. I am interested in how different actors (fishers, tour guides, NGOs, conservationists, the state) engage with this particular institutional arrangement (co-management) to produce marine protected areas as a social outcome. Rather than contribute to the more technical debate over why MPAs ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’, this project analyzes the politics and knowledge practices that underwrite MPAs as ‘conservation encounters’ and examines how these relate to multiple perceptions of success. The question is not whether MPAs succeed, but how their success is produced through networked relations.

In addition to my own research, I am collaborating with the Marine Management Area Science Program at Conservation International. The ‘Cultural Roles’ team that I am working with aims to “bring the ‘socio-cultural reality’ of MMA processes to light in the context of specific locations in Belize”. This project is part of a larger, multi-site, multi-disciplinary assessment of marine managed areas (MMAs).

As part of my PhD research, I also conducted a survey of participants at the first International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC), held in Geelong, Australia in October 2005. The survey aimed to assess experts’ views on the role of science, and scientific advocacy, in the design and management of marine protected areas. Results of this work were published in Conservation Biology.

In previous work, I explored value conflicts related to ecotourism development in Costa Rica (Gray and Campbell 2007). This project centered on a case study of the volunteer ecotourism and sea turtle conservation project run by Asociación ANAI.