Welcome to the Social-Ecological Sustainability Lab of Assistant Professor Steven Scyphers

We study coastal development, fisheries management, and climate adaptation. From a social-ecological systems perspective, our interdisciplinary research is problem-and-solution focused and strives to develop strategies for sustaining both coastal ecosystems and societies.



New  Project on Gulf of Mexico Mangroves funded by National Academies of Sciences!  Through a new grant from the NAS Gulf Research Program, we are collaborating with the Hughes Lab, the Nature Conservancy, and USGS to study the mangroves as a coupled natural-human system in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Steven joins National Academies of Sciences Committee on Recreational Fisheries.  With a task of reviewing "Data and Management Strategies for Recreational Fisheries with Annual Catch Limits", Steven was recently appointed to a National Academies of Sciences consensus commitee. You can read more about the committee's upcoming work here.

Welcome to Savannah Swinea! Savannah joined the lab this fall as PhD student interested in fisheries social-ecological systems. Prior to NU, Savannah was a research technician and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Kiera and Kelsi are PhD Candidates! Congrats to Kiera O'Donnell and Kelsi Furman on successfully defending their dissertation proposals! 

Kiera's dissertation will focus on: "Assessing the landscape and social context of natural and nature-based features (NNBF) in hurricane impacts and recovery"
Kelsi's dissertation will be: "Integrating social equity and ecological variation for coastal and fisheries management"

Kelsi is headed to NOAA Fisheries! Through  an award from NSF's Graduate Research Intership Program (GRIP), Kelsi is headed to Miami this winter to intern with Dr. Shannon Cass-Calay and Dr. Skyler Sagarese at NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science Center's Sustainable Fisheries Group.

New  Hurricane Michael Project! With  funding from The Nature Conservancy and in collaboration with Dr. Chris Shepard  (TNC),  Dr. Tori Tomiczek at US Naval Academy, and Dr. Jenn Helgeson at NIST, we will study the social, ecological, and infrastructure impacts of Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle.  PhD Candidate Kiera O'Donnell will be leading much of this work as a comparative study for her ongoing work in the Florida Keys following Hurricane Irma.


New  Human Dimensions of Fisheries Project! With  funding from MS-AL Sea Grant, we're collaborating with Dr. Marcus Drymon at Mississippi State University to conduct recreational angler surveys as part of the "The Great Red Snapper Count".

Paper Accepted! Our latest paper "Rapid Damage Assessments of Shorelines and Structures in the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma" was just accepted at Natural Hazards Review. Led by our Keys project collaborator Dr. Tori Tomiczek, this is a first peer-reviewed journal article for PhD students Kelsi and Kiera!


What We Study

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Collaborative Science

The complex dynamics and sustainability challenges of coastal SES cannot be fully understood or solved without effectively integrating communities and key stakeholders. Our research has focused on understanding the costs, benefits, and effectiveness of public participation in science and management. We are particularly interested in participatory modeling and conservation.


Along coastlines, coastal societies and marine ecosystems represent highly dynamic and critically important social-ecological systems (SES). Our research focuses on understanding the context and consequences of coastal management decisions, with an emphasis on natural, built, and hybrid shorelines.

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Marine and coastal fisheries, another highly dynamic and important SES, support diverse livelihoods, recreational opportunities, and food security. Our research focuses on the human dimensions of fisheries, and we are particularly focused on understanding influences on fishing behavior and the social impacts of fisheries management actions.


On the front lines of diverse natural and technological hazards, coastal communities are uniquely prone to disasters. Our research has focused on understanding how social-ecological dynamics influence vulnerability, resilience, and recovery. These studies have included the BP Oil Spill, Northeast U.S. groundfish fishery failure, Apalachicola Bay ecosystem collapse, and the impacts of hurricanes on coastal communities. Our most recent work focuses on the impacts of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys and St. Maarten.

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