Human Dimensions Research

The ODFW Marine Reserves Program is responsible for leading the human dimensions research for Oregon’s marine reserves. We are working in collaboration with a variety of research partners. Here you can learn more about the research being conducted, or check out our 2017 Human Dimensions Monitoring Plan.

What Do We Study?

In natural resource management, human dimensions research looks at the ways that humans value, use, and depend on the natural environment. For marine reserves, our research is looking to describe the different ways that people and communities are affected over time when we set these areas aside for conservation and cease fishing in them.

We look at these effects at a variety of scales — ranging from regions and communities, down to social groups and individuals. The effects we look at include:

  • How communities are affected.  We look at communities of place — like Depoe Bay; of occupation — such as the fishing industry; and of interest — like wildlife viewers.
  • Ways ocean users are affected.  We consider both extractive and non-extractive uses and users.
  • How regional economies are affected.  This includes looking at economic contributions, losses, and changes.
  • Interactions between the economy, marine environment, and communities.  How do people value and depend on the ocean? What desires and expectations do the public hold for the ocean and conservation areas managed by the state?

This research draws on multiple social science fields — including economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, and psychology. In some instances the information is quantitative, in others it is qualitative or descriptive.

Our Research Questions

Based on Oregon’s marine reserve goals and objectives, we developed six research questions that guide our human dimensions research:

  1. Who are the consumptive users?
    What are these uses? What is the level of use? How does this use change over time?
  2. What are the general social, cultural, and economic drivers and characteristics of the communities of place?
    How are these variables tied to the site? How do these change over time?
  3. What are the general attitudes and perceptions held by members of the various communities concerning site implementation?
    What are the motivating variables behind these attitudes and perceptions? How do these attitudes and perceptions change over time?
  4. What are the potential social, cultural and economic effects to consumptive users from displaced activities?
    How do these effects change over time?
  5. Who are the non-consumptive users?
    What are these uses? What is the level of non-consumptive use? How does this change over time?
  6. What are the non-market values connected to the site?
    What are the intrinsic or non-use values associated with the site and how do these values change over time?

Research Partners

We are working in collaboration with a variety of research partners to study the human dimensions of Oregon’s marine reserves. These partners provide advice, lend different expertise, and help us round out our monitoring program. Our Partners include social scientists from universities and the private sector.

Research Categories

Our Human Dimensions scientific research is focused in four general categories. We conduct a variety of different studies in each of these categories to help us understand the variety of effects marine reserve sites have on people and communities.

General Characterizations

We develop characterizations of the coastal communities most directly tied to each of the marine reserve sites. Characterizations include information such as historical records, demographics such as employment data, social structure, tribal or spiritual connections, cultural and social events, and economic drivers of the local economy. These characterizations set the “back story” and provide context to help us understand effects we might observe over time for these communities.

Direct Use of the Area

To understand “who” has or does use the marine reserve site, we first analyze data from commercial and recreational fisheries. This includes existing and new data obtained through logbooks, port sampling, observations, and interviews or surveys. This analysis allows us to identify physical areas of use, which fisheries were conducted in these areas, and which communities of place and interest may be affected from displacement or disruption of these activities. We also gather new and existing data on non-consumptive uses of the ocean and shore areas connected to these sites. This allows us to understand what uses presently exist, and to monitor changes which may occur with implementation of the marine reserve site. Social and economic data are also collected from these direct users of these area.

Attitudes and Perceptions of Implementation and Management

To assist in management of the marine reserves, we seek to understand the knowledge and attitudes of stakeholders and other Oregon residents pertaining to perceptions of marine reserve purposes, regulations, monitoring and research, management, and enforcement. Collecting this information will allow us to tailor our marine reserves outreach to better serve Oregonians and engage community members and stakeholders in the implementation of these areas.

Assessment of the Non-Market Values of the Reserves

To gain a more complete understanding of the potential economic and social effects of marine reserves, we are working to identify the non-market values connected to these sites. These data will be complementary to market (i.e., extractive) data, and will allow us to paint a broader picture of how Oregon residents value the ocean and marine reserves. This research will look at different cultural values associated with the natural resources and ecological characteristics of these areas across stakeholders, communities, and among the general public.

For Researchers

Are you interested in conducting research pertaining to Oregon’s marine reserves?

If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Our Staff if you have questions or would be interested in exploring possible collaborations.