With the creation of the National Ocean Policy in 2010, ocean policy and management in the United States has begun to move beyond strictly sector-specific initiatives (e.g., fisheries, energy, navigation) towards a more comprehensive or integrative approach—ocean planning.

Past research and experience on sector-specific oceans management has shown the important, complicated, and sometimes surprising roles that different human actors and environmental components can play in shaping the successes—or failures—of policy and management. However, little research has been conducted on the process and implications of ocean planning in the US or elsewhere. In particular, regional ocean planning involves near-unprecedented levels of stakeholder engagement, geographic data synthesis and use, and government and public coordination for ocean governance. This presents unique opportunities for social science research on the oceans.

We are a group of researchers from Rutgers University, Duke University, and Eckerd College that are studying the emergence and ongoing processes of regional ocean planning (ROP) in the US, focusing on efforts in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We are broadly interested in better understanding two questions:

  • How are communities and the environment being represented and engaged in ocean planning processes?
  • And conversely, how are communities and the environment shaping the future of ocean planning itself?

More specifically, we are exploring how different stakeholders, planning, and government groups interact with one another,  how they work together toward a regional ocean plan, how new (and existing) data projects, products, and portals influence or guide ROP, and what beneficial outcomes for both the ocean environment and human communities could emerge.

The research project is currently supported by the National Science Foundation’s Geography and Spatial Sciences Program, award nos. 1359943 and 1359805.


Cases, Questions, and Research Themes (click to expand)


We are exploring a variety of related themes and cases in our work, ranging from a broad interest in how regional ocean planning has emerged and evolved over time, to more specific explorations of issues such as data production and community involvement for ocean planning. For some themes, you can find more information on the linked pages below, as well as more information on ocean planning itself.

Research themes and cases

What is regional ocean planning?


Project Team


For full team bios, click here.

  • Dr. Lisa Campbell (Duke University; PI)
  • Dr. Kevin St. Martin (Rutgers University; PI)
  • Dr. Noëlle Boucquey (Eckerd College)
  • Dr. Sarah Wise (Rutgers University)
  • Dr. Luke Fairbanks (Duke University; contact)




We have published and presented our work in multiple forums, including conferences and in the classroom. Our publications are listed briefly below; for more information on all of our outputs, including working drafts, see our Research Products page.

Project Fact Sheet (pdf)

Journal Publications

For pdfs, please email Luke.

  • L Fairbanks, LM Campbell, N Boucquey, K St. Martin. 2017. Assembling Enclosure: Reading Marine Spatial Planning for Alternatives. The Annals of the American Association of Geographers. In press.
  • Boucquey, N, L Fairbanks, K St. Martin, LM Campbell, and BJ McCay. 2016. The Ontological Politics of Marine Spatial Planning: Assembling the Ocean and Shaping the Capacities of ‘Community’ and ‘Environment’. Geoforum 75: 1-11.
  • Fairbanks, L. 2016. Moving mussels offshore? Perceptions of offshore aquaculture policy and expansion in New England. Ocean and Coastal Management 130: 1-12.




This research is supported by the National Science Foundation.

  • Collaborative Research: The Emergence of Stakeholders and Ecosystems as Powerful Actors in Marine Spatial Planning. 2014-present. NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences, Award Nos. 1359943 and 1359805. PIs: LM Campbell and K St. Martin. [Full abstracts online at Duke and Rutgers]
  • Collaborative Research: Marine Spatial Planning and the Role of Community and Environmental Actors. 2012-2014. NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences, Award Nos. 1155484 and 1155299. PIs: LM Campbell, K St. Martin, and BJ McCay. [Full abstracts online at Duke and Rutgers]