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Publication Title | Leveraging Tourism for Ocean Conservation

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Leveraging Tourism for Ocean Conservation

Environmental Studies Capstone Seminar New York University, Spring 2016

Instructor – Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Office hours by appointment

Course Description – Some successful examples of local marine conservation are being driven by eco-resorts with attached marine protected areas (MPAs) or marine reserves (i.e., MPAs closed to all fishing). Ocean eco-resorts are demonstrating a profitable, market-based model for protecting precious marine resources, as well as a development model that helps local economies move away from unsustainable extractive practices and towards sustainable methods of income creation.1

The recent shift in consumer awareness and the rapid growth of the eco-tourism sector imply both consumer willingness to pay a higher price for an eco-resort and a business advantage for operators who are actively engaged in marine protection. These trends show great opportunity for harnessing the power of market-driven conservation.

However, this field is highly fragmented with little to no collaboration, and there is extremely high variance in the effectiveness and profitability of these models. Research to document best practices or explore the scalability of ocean eco-tourism is sorely lacking. This course will focus on what is and isn’t working in ocean ecotourism and opportunities to scale best practices.

Course Structure – This is a problem-based, project-oriented, interdisciplinary required course for senior Environmental Studies majors. Students will work collaboratively to characterize a current environmental problem, analyze possible solutions and publicly present the results. The aim of the capstone is to improve students’ ability to synthesize and integrate material from a range of disciplines; to deploy diverse methodologies and vocabularies in a problem- solving context; to bring theoretical knowledge and skills to bear on practical problems; to work in teams with other students; and to communicate results to a variety of audiences.

Students are expected to devote time to meet outside of class for reading, research, and analysis, to work individually on weekly and semester-long assignments, and to meet with their teams regularly to discuss and plan project work. Students are also expected to read all assigned materials and to come to class with questions and prepared for active discussion.

1 Many of the world’s most important – and at-risk – coastal marine environments are under the control of local communities in low- income and developing countries. Thus, any model designed to foster marine stewardship must enhance the economic trajectory and human well-being indicators at the local level, in order to gain long-term support by communities and government.

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