Human Dimensions Research

Human dimensions research looks at how humans value, use, and depend on their natural environment. The ODFW Marine Reserves Program oversees the human dimensions research of the reserves and works closely with a number of research partners. Here you can explore more about the research being conducted. We also welcome you to check out our 2017 Human Dimensions Monitoring Plan.

What Do We Study?

In natural resource management, human dimensions research looks at how humans value, use, and depend on the natural environment. Our research is focused on understanding the different ways that people and communities are affected by the marine reserve sites over time, including what the effects of the reserves are at different scales — from how regions are affected down to how individuals are affected.

  • How are communities affected.  We look at communities of place — like Depoe Bay; of occupation — such as the fishing industry; and of interest — like wildlife viewers.
  • Ways in which ocean users are affected.  We consider both extractive and non-extractive uses and users.
  • How are regional economies 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 upon multiple social science fields — including economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, and psychology. Some of our studies provide quantitative information, while others provide qualitative or descriptive information.

Our Research Questions

  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 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 attitudes and perceptions held by community members 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 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 work in close collaboration with a number research partners. 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.


Update on Spring Field Season

We wanted to share with you that the ODFW Marine Reserves Program has made the decision to postpone our spring field season. Keeping our volunteers, contractors, and staff safe is our top priority right now. Our current plan is to postpone the field season through May 31st. Read More