Marine Ecosystems and Society

Letter from the Chair

Welcome to the Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society (MES) at the University of Miami!

The ecological, economic and cultural sustainability of marine species and ecosystems is a key conservation concern as demand for access and use of marine resources (i.e., fish, shellfish, sharks, turtles, mammals, energy, etc.) continues to increase with rapidly growing regional human populations.  Overfishing, habitat degradation, water mismanagement, pollution, natural hazards and climate change are the principal threats to sustainability of marine ecosystems and the societies that depend on them.

MES takes a systems science approach to improve understanding dynamical interactions of humans and marine ecosystems.  The goal of MES faculty is to conserve and sustain ecologically- and economically-important natural resources, particularly tropical coral reef ecosystems.  We strive to provide comprehensive solutions to society’s growing environmental challenges.  The unique science and education programs of MES integrate – through research, teaching and innovative technologies - the biological, physical, mathematical, economic, and social sciences required to develop these solutions. 

MES programs deal head-on with what have been referred to as “wicked problems”, that is, complex interdependent nonlinear systems that involve human-environmental feedbacks, debatable moral positions, nontrivial or unclear tipping points, and limited possibilities for controlled experimentation (adaptive management).  Inter-connectivity and vulnerability of coastal marine ecosystems from human uses, fisheries ecosystem management, mariculture, resource economics, water resources and ecological “restoration”, climate changes, and policy sciences are just a few of the topics we address in MES from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

Better scientific information alone, without full understanding of the biological, cultural, socioeconomic, political and psychological influences on the use of this information can limit its impact, and in some cases lead to unintended or unexpected consequences.

We invite you to join us in this exploration - in the classroom, field, and laboratory from above and beneath the sea – where unique opportunities exist to contribute to better understanding of our blue planet, and the emerging role we can play in shaping a sustainable present and future for marine ecosystems.


Jerald S. Ault, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor