URI Visiting Scholar looks on the ‘bright side’ when it comes to the world’s coral reefs

Joshua Cinner, environmental social scientist, accomplished researcher speaks as Dept. of Marine Affairs celebrates 50th anniversary

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Joshua Cinner
URI Marine Affairs alumnus Joshua Cinner, professor and chief investigator at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Cinner)

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 3, 2019 – A University of Rhode Island alumnus and accomplished scholar specializing in marine conservation will return to the University Thursday, Sept. 19, to discuss bright spots among the world’s coral reefs.

Joshua Cinner is being welcomed back as part of the University’s Distinguished International Visiting Scholars Program and the 50th anniversary of the Department of Marine Affairs. Cinner, a professor and chief investigator at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, will speak at 5:30 p.m. in the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, 140 Flagg Road on the Kingston Campus. Cinner earned his master’s degree in marine affairs in 2000.

His lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled, “Locating and Learning from Bright Spots Among the World’s Coral Reefs.”

Cinner’s research lies at the intersection of social science and ecology – fostering a greater understanding of the wide range of issues facing coral reefs to develop solutions for the millions of people who depend on them. He has traveled the world and worked with coastal peoples in the Pacific Islands, South East Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean to better understand how socioeconomic factors influence the ways in which people use, perceive and govern corals reefs.

“We are extremely excited to kick off the 50th anniversary of the University of Rhode Island Marine Affairs program with a visit from Dr. Cinner, who is a highly respected, internationally recognized alumnus of our program,” said Tracey Dalton, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Affairs. “Dr. Cinner has extensive experience studying how humans interact with coral reef ecosystems around the world. The collaborative, interdisciplinary and applied nature of his research is relevant to biologists, anthropologists, political scientists, fisheries scientists and those far beyond the University.”

His lecture will focus on systematically identifying and looking more deeply into the “bright spots,” or positive outliers among the world’s coral reefs – places that should have been degraded but weren’t and had more fish than expected given the conditions to which they were exposed – rather than simply documenting their decline. By learning more about how some places have successfully confronted the drivers that threaten coral reefs, he and his team are working to provide lessons for other places.

Cinner’s visit is timely, given URI’s recent efforts to build research capacity in coral reef systems, and will be an important opportunity to bring together students, faculty and staff working on complex issues in relation to coral reefs.

“Dr. Cinner’s work with coastal communities, government agencies and international organizations in an effort to ensure that his research has a positive impact on coastal policy really embodies the spirit of the URI Marine Affairs program,” said Dalton. “His work over the past 20 years has given him a rich set of experiences that we can all learn from.”

URI was the first academic institution worldwide to establish a graduate program in ocean and coastal policy, management, and law in 1969. Initially a one-year program designed specifically for individuals who already had an advanced degree or five years of experience in marine related fields, the Masters in Marine Affairs program was expanded to include a two-year program in 1977 for those who did not already carry an advanced degree or the requisite experience. In the 1980s an undergraduate program was created, followed by a doctoral program in the late 90s. The mission of the Department of Marine Affairs has always been to advance research on and provide leadership for the management of complex coastal and marine environments worldwide. Its graduates come from across the United States and more than 40 countries and work in government service, non-governmental organizations, industry, and academia.

Cinner will also be hosting a one-day workshop for students and early career researchers on “Navigating the Publication Process.” The workshop will be held in the Hardge Forum of the URI Multicultural Services Center on Friday, Sept. 20. For more information, visit: https://web.uri.edu/maf/.

In addition to receiving his master’s degree in marine affairs from URI, Cinner received his Ph.D. from James Cook University and in 2011 received the JCU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence. In 2015 he was selected for a prestigious marine conservation fellowship by the PEW Charitable Trusts and in 2017 received the Elinor Ostrom Young Scholars Award.

The URI Distinguished Visiting International Scholars program aims to demonstrate the University’s commitment to research and scholarship, strengthen emphasis on global learning and discovery, build international collaborations and enhance the visibility of URI around the globe. The program is sponsored by URI’s Office of the Provost. For more information or to RSVP for the public lecture, visit the University events page.