Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Heather Leslie

Second Committee Member

Joshua Stoll

Third Committee Member

Yong Chen

Additional Committee Members

Bridie McGreavy

Carla Guenther


All benefits provided by natural systems are embedded within coupled social-ecological systems (SESs). Fisheries are clear examples of SESs: through fishing, humans affect ecosystem structure and functioning, and in turn, receive benefits, including sustenance, employment, and cultural value. Resilience, the ability to maintain structure and function in the face of change, is key to sustaining the social and ecological components of fisheries-related SESs and their interactions. Many factors contribute to resilience, including heterogeneity. By identifying heterogeneity in these complex systems, we are better able to understand the capacity of fishery-related SESs to adapt to change, and contribute to management that protects valuable services. In this dissertation, I ask: 1) How are SESs associated with marine fisheries shaped by environmental, social, and institutional heterogeneity, and 2) what are the implications of this variation for resilience and adaptive capacity of fishers and the SES, in the face of changing environmental and socioeconomic conditions? To answer these questions, I employ an interdisciplinary approach focused on the chocolate clam (Megapitaria squalida) fishery in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. I conducted biological field studies, household surveys, interviews, ethnographic conversations, and developed fisheries models from my empirical work. Together, my results illustrate that management aligned with the biology of target populations and stakeholders’ goals is critical to sustainable fisheries. Heterogeneity among fishers affects their individual capacities to adapt to change. Maintaining a diversity of adaptive strategies is essential for individual adaptive capacity. Likewise, maintaining fishery heterogeneity, by ensuring all fishers are equipped to adapt, will strengthen community adaptive capacity. The chocolate clam provides diverse cultural and provisioning values to communities, and management that considers all benefits will be better equipped to account for the needs and knowledge of diverse stakeholders. Both formal and informal institutions shape fishing practices, and integrating them, via collaborative governance, would increase community participation in management and enhance fishery resilience. My interdisciplinary approach acknowledges the intricate web of human-resource interactions shaping fisheries and reveals how heterogeneity shapes SES resilience. Management that supports diversity in all forms will be better equipped to contribute to the resilience of these highly valuable and dynamic systems.