Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marine Policy


Aaron Strong

Second Committee Member

Cassandra Brooks

Third Committee Member

Yong Chen

Additional Committee Members

Joshua Stoll


With growing attention to and use of marine protected areas [MPAs], there are an increasing number of policy goals ascribed to these area-based management tools [ABMT]. One expectation is that an MPA can increase system “resilience”, yet oftentimes resilience – including whether we are considering social, economic or ecological resilience – stays unspecified. In recent years, there has also been a specific focus on MPAs as tools to promote climate change resilient ocean systems. Through a meta-analysis of the scientific literature and an analysis of over one thousand three hundred voluntary commitments made at the United Nation Ocean Conference, this work presents a typology of how the concept of resilience is beyond deployed in MPA science and policy-making. Further analysis, supplemented by semi- structure interviews and surveys highlights the diversity of ways in which practitioners define MPA success. These analyses reveal that – in contemporary international ocean governance – different stakeholders are connecting MPAs to different forms of resilience. This work also highlights a disconnect between expressed goals of MPAs, such as cultural effectiveness, and what is deemed important in practice (ecological factors).