Nicholas Polunin, Emeritus Professor,

School of Natural & Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University 

The climate and biodiversity crises have made us more aware of our reliance on nature, and there is much discussion about ‘social-ecological systems’ (SESs) where nature and humans are closely coupled. I explore what the SES concept might and should mean in the context of global change. I then apply this to the coastal zone and in particular marine fisheries. I surmise that remote tropical islands should have promise in achieving SES status but conclude based on our own research that even here contemporary humans are increasingly decoupled from the nature that surrounds them.

Nick Polunin has frequently crossed the boundary between marine science and coastal environmental management. After a first degree in Zoology from Oxford and PhD from Cambridge University, Nick was the first marine parks warden in the Seychelles, worked as an advisor to the Indonesian government on marine conservation, and taught and managed a coastal research station in Papua New Guinea before being recruited by Newcastle University where he helped set up the pioneering MSc in tropical coastal management. Since 1990 he has worked on projects in Australia, the Seychelles, Fiji, Maldives and across the Caribbean, while turning his attention latterly towards studies in the North Sea and Atlantic high latitudes. His purely scientific work has focused on marine food web and community structure of fish communities, and impacts on these of activities such as fishing. He has now retired from teaching but remains an Emeritus Professor at Newcastle and edits the international interdisciplinary journal Environmental Conservation.