RESEARCHER OF THE MONTH

Meet Dr. Monica Engel, OFI Module I PhD graduate

by Dr. Monica Engel

The new ocean narrative for this coming decade should not be centred on instrumental and economic marine values. Rather, a new narrative should be about taking responsibility for marine health. 

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Fishing and listening; Newfoundland; ©Monica Engel

Dr. Monica Engel has completed her Doctoral and Master's degree at Memorial University’s Geography department, and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Unisinos University in Brazil. Her research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resources and wildlife governance and conservation. Over the past nine years, Monica has been involved in a variety of projects in different countries and contexts, investigating issues ranging from people’s coexisting with jaguars, to rewilding landscapes, and protecting wild birds. Monica’s doctoral research within OFI Module I-3 centred around examining coastal communities’ relationship with the ocean in Newfoundland from an environmental psychology perspective. 

What is your research about? What are you currently working on? 

Costal residents' relationship with the ocean and seals in Newfoundland.

What drew you to explore this topic originally?

To explore and investigate the various ways in which we relate with the ocean and make a contribution to marine governance and conservation. 

What is the most interesting aspect of your research? Share something you have discovered through your research so far.

 

The new ocean narrative for this coming decade should not be centred on instrumental and economic marine values. Rather, a new narrative should be about taking responsibility for marine health. 

How does your research address present day fisheries issues in Newfoundland and Labrador and elsewhere? How does it help inform governance responses for coastal communities in the province in a context of change?

With this research I documented that costal residents, in general, believe that the ocean is not governed properly. There is a lack of trust on both Provincial and Federal government in managing the sea, and a concern about the decline of certain species, like capelin, squid and crab. For some people, foreign factory trawlers are a big issue for ocean sustainability as well as the high number of ghost gears in the waters around Newfoundland. There was a strong appreciation for the opportunity that was given for people to share their views; therefore, listening to people and taking into account their views is the first step in any governance process.  

What is the one thing you would like the general public to know about your research?

The ocean is changing and our actions and decisions have an impact on whether changes will get worse or not. While investigating the various ways in which coastal Newfoundlanders relate to the ocean, I found a deep, emotional, and complex relationship between people and this environment. But while there is a strong sense of care and concern about the health of the ocean and fear about the future, plastics and other debris are found along the coast, and pollution is one of the top of mind associations people make with the ocean. There is also a concern about the impact of oil and gas exploration. In fact, what I found is relatively low support for this industry. In relation to seals, despite the historical ethical debate around seal hunting, coastal residents, in general, support this activity and don't think it is cruel, even urban and young people, which sometimes are thought to be against the hunt. 

What are the next steps and what do you want to achieve with your research?

I intend to continue analyzing the data I have and contribute to the marine social sciences in the context of Newfoundland. Considering all the stories that were shared with me and documented with my research instrument, I envision that this is just the beginning of a long journey in understanding the complexities of human/ocean relationship, and the way we make decisions at the individual, social and political levels. I envision using this research to guide a broader discussion on sea ethics, on decolonizing the relations with the Atlantic Ocean, and on the integration of all sea voices - the voices of those who can impact and are impacted by decisions. 

What do you like doing when you are not working on research?

Hiking along the coast of this rocky island. 

Learn more:

Contact Dr. Monica Engel at m.engel@mun.ca and on social media @engelmonica

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Written by Dr. Monica Engel

Dr. Monica Engel has completed her Doctoral and Master's degree at Memorial University’s Geography department, and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Unisinos University in Brazil. Her research focuses on the human dimensions of natural resources and wildlife governance and conservation. Over the past nine years, Monica has been involved in a variety of projects in different countries and contexts, investigating issues ranging from people’s coexisting with jaguars, to rewilding landscapes, and protecting wild birds. Monica’s doctoral research within OFI Module I-3 centred around examining coastal communities’ relationship with the ocean in Newfoundland from an environmental psychology perspective.