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  • VIDEO: The Empirics of Equity: Examining Tuna Management Decisions in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans

    The UCI’s Marine and Environmental Speaker Series welcomed Angela Abolhassani, postdoctoral fellow for the Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington, on Sept. 22 to deliver the virtual lecture, “The Empirics of Equity: Examining Tuna Management Decisions in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

    An open Q&A session was held following the presentation. The discussion was moderated by Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate, who also serves as director of the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding.

    Lecture Abstract: Equity issues are often foregrounded in intergovernmental negotiations that address transboundary environmental problems. However, while equity issues are a common feature of negotiations and the subject of a large literature on international environmental law and governance, equity itself has been subject to little empirical study. Limited research has been conducted investigating how states negotiate equity and what forms of equity are ultimately reflected in negotiation outcomes.

    This presentation will discuss an empirical study of equity in transboundary tuna management. Tuna stocks are currently managed by a collection of five intergovernmental organizations called “tuna regional fisheries management organizations” (TRFMOs). These organizations assemble states at the regional scale to cooperate for the conservation and management of tuna stocks that cross national and international boundaries under international law. TRFMOs derive their management authority from treaty law agreed to by member states and annually adopt regulatory measures on tuna fishing activities in their regions. Equity issues within TRFMOs often emanate from tensions that arise between the conflicting interests of developing coastal states, which possess resource rights to tuna stocks, and industrialized fishing states, which flag vessels that track and harvest tuna stocks.

    This study examined the law and practice of two TRFMOs—the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission—to determine how these organizations respond to equity issues arising from their work. Ultimately, both organizations performed poorly in applying legal commitments to equity to specific management decisions. This finding corroborates the small but robust empirical literature on equity, which indicates that states struggle to apply broad, equitable principles to specific decisions. Perhaps most interestingly, this presentation will discuss the principal finding of the study, which was that legal commitments to equity provided negotiators with a discursive flexibility to reach compromises and produce management decisions.

    About the Speaker: Dr. Angela Abolhassani is a postdoctoral fellow for the Ocean Nexus Center at the University of Washington. She has studied transboundary tuna management from an interdisciplinary perspective for nearly a decade. Her work is primarily concerned with improving the equity outcomes of tuna management for developing coastal states. In 2020, she completed her Ph.D. with the University of Tasmania, which was a joint project between the Faculty of Law and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. Prior to her Ph.D., she completed an honors thesis at Arizona State University which applied common pool resource theory to management of the South Pacific albacore tuna fishery. Dr. Abolhassani has also worked in the intergovernmental settings she studies, including with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

  • WATCH: Port Access Route Studies Update & Map Data Webinar

    UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba moderated and presented on a Sept. 14 edition of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal’s “How Tuesday” webinar series that provided updates on a series of U.S. Coast Guard Port Access Route Studies (PARS) focused on major East Coast ports. The session was hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean in partnership with the Coast Guard and Northeast Regional Ocean Council.

    Coast Guard personnel presented information on findings, public comment opportunities and next steps for studies concentrated on the Northern New York Bight and New Jersey Coast/Delaware Bay areas and participated in a Q&A session with attendees. In addition, demonstrations were provided for Coast Guard GIS web tools and map data on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast ocean data portals that can be used to explore the studies and their recommendations in further depth.

  • Watch: Summer Research Students Present Projects

    2021 summer research symposiumThe Monmouth University School of Science Summer Research Program Symposium returned to its traditional home at Erlanger Gardens on Aug. 12 with in-person poster presentations by over 40 students. The annual event is the culmination of 10 weeks of collaborative research in biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer software and engineering topics by students and faculty mentors.

    Each year the Urban Coast Institute provides Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars grants for several summer research projects that support its mission. Scroll below to watch some of the student researchers discuss their work. A book of abstracts from the symposium can be found here.

    eDNA As a Tool for Monitoring Turtle Species In Coastal Lakes

    Delaney Mestey-Jones

    Exploring Salt Tolerances of Lichens in New Jersey Coastal Ecosystems

    Emily Vasquez

    Evaluation of Coastal Lakes as Turtle Habitat in Monmouth County, New Jersey

    Megan Malaty


    Female Labor Force Participation Rates vs. Childcare Availability in New Jersey

    James Allan


    Geospatial Representation of Lower Hudson-Raritan Estuary Water Quality

    Nicholas Box

  • Marine and Environmental Internships and Research Opportunities Page Available to Monmouth Students

    The UCI has created a new web page for Monmouth University students listing paid and unpaid internship and research opportunities in marine and environmental fields. The page contains recent openings shared with the UCI and Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy (MEBP) program faculty, links to job/internship pages and websites maintained by our partner organizations, and a list of staff mentors who may be contacted for additional help and information.

    The page can be found in the “Offices & Services” dropdown menu in the MyMU Portal (Monmouth University sign-in credentials required). For questions about the page or inquiries about listing a position, please email

  • ‘Paradoxical Paradise’ Shares Asbury Park’s African American History through Multimedia, Archival Documents

    Photo shows nighttime aerial view of Asbury Park, NJ

    To a tourist visiting the Asbury Park beachfront, it really could seem like a paradise. The boutique hotels and luxury high-rises blended among century-old Beaux Arts buildings and legendary music halls. The energy of diverse crowds splashing in the waves and mingling along the restaurant-lined boardwalk.

    And therein lies the paradox. With the passing of each day and ribbon-cutting for every redevelopment project, Asbury Park’s history with racial discrimination and civil unrest fades further from collective memory and becomes harder to believe for the unacquainted.

    A team of Monmouth University researchers is working to preserve that history through the “Paradoxical Paradise” project, led by Associate Professor of African American History Hettie V. Williams of the Department of History and Anthropology. The group has assembled a growing online library of archival documents and photos, newly compiled GIS maps, oral histories, podcasts and other multimedia, all of which are publicly accessible at

    Photo of downtown storefront in Asbury Park, NJ
    Photo by Hettie V. Williams

    Williams said New Jersey is “the Georgia of the North” in terms of the depth of its history with civil rights issues and observed that Asbury Park offers a unique case study within the state due to past segregation at its beaches and tourist businesses. Although some attention has been given to racial issues through the lens of Asbury Park’s music culture, Williams said little research has sought a broader understanding of the community.

    “It hasn’t been studied by a lot of scholars,” Williams said. “The riots haven’t even been studied a great deal, and they were one of the largest in the state, if not the country.”

    The website contains several news articles and photos from the time of the city’s 1970 riots, but some of the most unique insights come from the personal records of Joseph F. Mattice, the mayor of that era. With the support of a UCI grant, Williams was able to access archival documents, letters, photos and other resources related to the riots from Mattice’s collection and has been working with students to add excerpts online. The original materials are housed at Duke University.

    “They bought them on eBay for about $450,” Williams recalled. “When I learned that I said to myself, those archives should be at Monmouth.”

    Williams encourages any community members with historic documents that can add to the project to contact the team. Materials can be stored on campus or scanned and returned to their owners.

    COVID-19 Impacts

    The chief focus of the work funded by the UCI grant was the pandemic’s impacts on the city’s African American community. Elements of that work include:

    • Specialist Professor of Public History Melissa Ziobro led students Gillian Demetriou, Kelly Dender, and Vincent Sauchelli in conducting nine interviews with residents, business owners, nonprofit representatives and others to record their perspectives on the pandemic. Transcripts of these oral histories will be added to the website in the fall.
    • Image of current COVID cases in Monmouth and surrounding countiesGIS Program Director Geoffrey Fouad and student Lissette Peña produced interactive maps depicting percentages of Black and white residents by Census tract in Monmouth County who are uninsured and below the poverty level. Both factors could contribute to disparities in infection rates or treatments.
    • Williams conducted three episodes of the Black and African Diaspora Forum United (BADFU) “This Week in Black History, Society and Culture” podcast series with guests who shared their stories on COVID-19’s impacts in the Black community. The podcasts were produced by student Max Adolph.

    Among the standout moments from the podcasts, Williams said, was a discussion with longtime resident and community activist Felicia Simmons on the gaps the pandemic created in educational quality for low-income families who struggled to adjust to virtual schooling.

    “The school’s first response was to create ditto packets to give to parents. When they finally got tablets for them, there were no instructions for how to work the technology,” Williams said. “We assume everyone has a cellphone, everyone has a tablet, but that’s not the case if you can’t afford it.”

    The team plans to seek additional grants to continue building the website. Among the content currently planned or underway are interactive story maps that show stops in Asbury Park that appeared in “The Green Book” and journal articles based on the information gathered through the project.

    The UCI grant also funded the work of Michelle Lippman and Justin Montana, both students in the graduate program in history at Monmouth. Montana worked with Williams to sort through the more than 200 files from the Duke collection add excerpts to the website and authored a blog post on the Asbury Park riots. Lippman assisted with research and authored a blog post on the history of Asbury Park.

    For more information on Paradoxical Paradise, email Twitter users can also follow @ParadoxicalPar2 for project updates.

  • Student Q&A: Johanna Vonderhorst on Strengthening Protections for High Seas

    Monmouth University student Johanna Vonderhorst recently completed a paper titled “Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: A Need to Improve Governing Frameworks and Enhance a Global Commitment to Conservation” as part of her work as a spring intern at the Global Ocean Forum (GOF). In it, Vonderhorst contends that the high seas “are home to a wealth of ocean resources that are taken for granted” and deserve greater legal protections.

    The internship gave Vonderhorst, a NOAA Hollings Scholar and former UCI research assistant, the opportunity to earn university credits while conducting external research on ocean policy. The senior majoring in chemistry and political science plans to continue her internship with the GOF in the fall. Read below to learn more about the issues explored in her paper.

    Q: Your paper focuses on the need for greater protections for Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) – typically deep-sea zones that fall outside of the governance of any national entities. Why are these areas so important and what are some of the threats they face?

    ABNJ are extremely important not only because they house major fisheries that feed millions worldwide, but also because they provide shipping and transportation routes, seabed for laying telephone cables, and resources used in medicine and scientific research. They also provide vital ecosystem services, acting as carbon sinks to regulate climate change impacts and generating over half of the world’s oxygen. Some of the biggest threats to ABNJ are overfishing, resource overexploitation, plastic and oil pollution, and climate change, which exacerbates all other threats to the health of ABNJ.

    Q: You highlight some of the international frameworks that have been initiated to guide human activities in ABNJ, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which calls for nations to cooperate on issues such as the exploitation of marine resources and the management of fisheries. Why do you believe UNCLOS and other existing initiatives are inadequate?

    UNCLOS and other regulatory frameworks are inadequate primarily because they provide no mechanism for global enforcement and create no international entity to punish violators of their terms. UNCLOS is also anthropocentric, advocating for preservation of marine resources in ABNJ only to the extent that it benefits humans and not for the sake of the environment in its own right. Additionally, under UNCLOS, each member state is responsible for gathering its own scientific information regarding the condition of fisheries and other ABNJ resources and for creating and implementing policies in line with its findings and the terms of UNCLOS, resulting in fragmented governance.

    Q: What steps do you think should be taken for the international community to better address the challenges for ABNJ?

    A new framework under UNCLOS is currently being negotiated to improve cross-sectoral and transnational communication and build equivalent scientific capacity and information-sharing networks among party states, and this is a great place to start. The creation of an international enforcement body under this new framework would also be an important step forward. Increased support and funding for initiatives like the Deep Seas Project and the Common Oceans ABNJ Project, as well as regional projects such as the Global Ocean Forum’s efforts to enhance capacity-building and cross-sectoral communication, would also be beneficial.

  • Monmouth University Awarded Grant to Monitor Health of County’s Coastal Lakes through 2023

    The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has received a $150,000 grant from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation to extend and expand a program that partners scientists and students with community volunteers to monitor the health of coastal lakes.

    The funding will allow the Coastal Lakes Observing Network (CLONet) project to continue through the summer of 2023 and facilitate the purchase of handheld probes that enable volunteers to measure harmful algal bloom (HAB) levels in their community lakes. The grant has also made it possible for the UCI to establish a citizen science coordinator position to oversee the day-to-day management of CLONet, including the analysis and monitoring of sampling data, organizing coastal lake summits on campus, and guiding multiple CLONet lake groups and individual samplers.

    Through CLONet, university scientists and students have trained and equipped community members to sample Monmouth County’s beach-adjacent lakes for properties such as temperature, salinity, clarity and dissolved oxygen levels, then file their readings into an online database. Since the summer of 2019, citizen scientists have been sampling Deal Lake, Fletcher Lake, Lake Como, Lake Takanassee, Sunset Lake, Sylvan Lake and Wesley Lake. Monmouth students and scientists have supplemented the data by regularly sampling the same bodies, along with Silver Lake, Spring Lake, Sylvan Lake and Wreck Pond.

    With two years of data now on file, CLONet has determined a baseline of normal conditions for each lake that can be used to discern how recent developments such as weather events, waterfront construction projects or the implementation of new stormwater filtration measures are impacting the waters. The detection of sudden shifts in lake conditions can be used to predict, and perhaps thwart, the onset of HABs, according to Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science and CLONet coordinator Jason Adolf.

    The new probes being provided to samplers will enable them for the first time to collect data on HAB biomass that can be contributed to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) online HAB Interactive Map Reporting and Communication System. Prior, only Monmouth’s scientists and students had access to the equipment, limiting the collection of information.

    “The HABs issue has received increasing attention in New Jersey in the last several years, particularly following the closures of Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake in 2019 that caused major losses in tourism revenue,” said Adolf, who co-leads a HAB Expert Team formed by Gov. Phil Murphy to provide input to the NJDEP. “Unfortunately, we expect climate change will make HABS all the more common in urbanized areas like the Jersey Shore by overheating our lakes and allowing more intense coastal storms that overload the waters with nutrients. The data collected by CLONet’s citizen scientists can help us get ahead of HAB events by spotting the warning signs instead of repeatedly reacting to them after they occur.”

    The roughly 650 samples collected by the volunteers as of July have already provided insights into the conditions of the lakes, among them:

    • Poor Quality: On a four-tier scale ranging from oligotrophic (best) to hypereutrophic (worst) conditions, the lakes overall fell in the latter category. Typical characteristics of hypereutrophic water bodies include an abundance of nutrients that fuel HABs, low dissolved oxygen levels, occasional fish kill events, and the presence of thick scum and dense weeds.
    • Ideal HAB Conditions: Data shows the lakes are most susceptible to HABs from June through September. Links between rainfall and HAB occurrence are suspected and are being investigated using CLONet data.
    • Diversity of Lakes: Although they’re similar sized and only miles apart, the lakes vary significantly. Overall water quality (Takanassee consistently rated highest of the group), water properties and even water colors were distinct from body to body.
    • Warming Waters: Historic data on the lakes’ conditions is scarce, but measures taken in a study of Deal Lake in the 1970s indicate that its temperature is significantly higher today.

    Those interested in joining a CLONet lake sampling team are encouraged to email Citizen Science Coordinator Erin Conlon at Volunteers will be provided free sampling kits and training and can conduct the work as their schedules permit.

    “No one knows more about the lakes than the people who live in their neighborhoods, and that local knowledge has been an important asset for CLONet,” Conlon said. “It’s been a pleasure watching the project strengthen our volunteers’ bonds with the lakes and I believe that will go a long way toward protecting these waters in the future.”

  • UCI to Support Studies of N.J. Sea Level Rise Real Estate Impacts, Youth Climate Activism, Ecotherapy

    The UCI has awarded three Faculty Enrichment Grants for projects that will research whether sea level rise has impacted Jersey Shore home values, how engagement in climate activism influences young people’s social views and identities, and the psychological benefits of experiencing nature.

    The UCI offers these grants on a competitive basis to Monmouth University faculty to support individual or collaborative projects for the enhancement of existing curriculum, new curriculum development, research and scholarship and team-teaching opportunities. Funding is available through the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program for faculty and student researchers of all disciplines whose work advances core elements of Monmouth’s Strategic Plan and supports the UCI’s mission. The following projects were approved for the summer round.

    Counseling with Nature: A Qualitative Study of the Experiences of Ecotherapy Clients

    Faculty researcher: Megan Delaney, associate professor, Department of Professional Counseling

    Student researcher: Molly Malkinski

    This research will continue work begun through a previous UCI grant exploring clients’ experience in ecotherapy (contact with the outdoors and nature as a method or element of therapy), including their connections with the natural world, connections to eco-grief and thoughts about climate change. Since many of the clients’ sessions will have been done in areas on and around the New Jersey coastline, the researchers will also explore if and how water affects their counseling experience.

    Experiences of Youth Climate Activists

    Faculty researchers: Alyson Pompeo-Fargnoli, assistant professor, Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership; Melissa Alvaré, lecturer, Department of Political Science and Sociology

    The team will explore how engagement in climate activism impacts the development of youth and their broader understanding of social justice issues. The research questions guiding this study are: What is the developmental journey like for youth activists? What are their catalysts, supports, and impediments? Are these environmental youth activists making connections to other areas of social justice activism?

    Sea Level Rise – Flood Risk, Property Values and Income Effects on New Jersey’s Coastal Communities

    Faculty researcher: Gina McKeever, instructor, Department of Finance, Economics and Real Estate

    Student researcher: Valentine Pane

    To study the impacts of sea level rise on residential real estate values, an analysis will be conducted of 20 years of sales data for properties located within and outside of FEMA flood zones in coastal communities in Monmouth, Ocean and Cape May counties. The project will also seek to determine how income in these areas has changed and whether homeowners of low to moderate income are being priced out of their homes by rising flood insurance premiums and replaced with higher income buyers.

    About the Program

    The Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program is funded through the generosity of many corporate and private donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please click here. For more information, contact UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington at



  • Watch: ‘How Tuesday’ Intro to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal

    UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba provided an introductory tutorial on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal’s interactive maps and tools on June 29. To learn more about the Portal, visit or email

  • UCI Launches Faculty Advisory Council

    The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has formed a Faculty Advisory Council to provide it with guidance and new perspectives for enhancing academic and student engagement at Monmouth University. The inaugural council includes 13 members representing a broad spectrum of academic disciplines and departments across campus.

    Among its roles and responsibilities, the council will assist in integrating the UCI more fully into Monmouth’s academic programs to initiate high-impact opportunities for teaching, scholarship, research and service, and to aid in student recruitment. The council will also serve as a liaison with Monmouth schools, departments, faculty and programs to increase understanding and support of the UCI mission.

    It is anticipated that council members will help the UCI identify opportunities to contribute to program and course development, support in the delivery of academic programming and assist in identifying support for student research, internship/externships, service learning, community service and employment opportunities. The council will work with UCI to create, host and promote symposia and events on campus.

    The faculty members below will join the council along with the UCI’s three current affiliated faculty members: Randall Abate, Rechnitz Family/UCI endowed chair in marine and environmental law and policy, Department of Political Science and Sociology; Jason Adolf, endowed associate professor of marine science, Department of Biology; and Eric Fesselmeyer, associate professor of economics, Department of Economics, Finance, and Real Estate.

    • Kimberly Callas, assistant professor, Department of Art and Design
    • John Comiskey, assistant professor, Department of Criminal Justice
    • Michael Cronin, associate professor, School of Social Work
    • Geoffrey Fouad, assistant professor, Department of History and Anthropology
    • Jeanne Koller, assistant professor, School of Social Work
    • Golam Mathbor, professor, School of Social Work
    • Tiffany Medley, lecturer, Department of Biology
    • Lindsay Mehrkam, assistant professor, Department of Psychology
    • Claude Taylor, director for academic transition and inclusion, Center for Student Success
    • Laura Turner, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics

    The council was formed through an open process that encouraged all interested faculty to submit letters of interest in the spring of 2021. For more information about the Faculty Advisory Council, contact UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington at