Marine ecosystems are some of the most productive and diverse environments on Earth, maintaining a wide variety of organisms and providing essential food and services to the global population. Unfortunately, they are also under increasing stress from perturbations such as oil spills, climate change and over-fishing. James Watson's research aims to improve governance of marine systems and mitigate the impact of these disturbances. His work focuses on understanding crucial feedbacks between physical, ecological and social processes.
James is working on a number of topics:
Global social-ecological processes. In this area James is working on a global marine food-system model. This includes using Earth System Model output to force a size-based ecosystem model, which is then fed into a game-theoretic model of fish market dynamics.
Local social-ecological processes. James is working to understand how people's social-norms are shaped by the environment they work in (i.e. the fish they might harvest, the technology they use to do so and the society they live in). In particular he is trying to infer levels of cooperation amongst fishermen from their vessel tracks. This is ongoing work together with with collaborators at Princeton University and NOAA in the US.
Nearshore connectivity. James is interested in how ocean currents move nearshore marine species' larvae around, and in particular the complex patterns of habitat connectivity that are created as a result. For example, he has employed metapopulation and network theory to identify key nearshore regions that make great marine protected areas. He is currently working on theory to understand the impact of stochasticity in connectivity on population dynamics.
Marine food web dynamics. James is developing food web models that, instead of having species as a basis, have size as a basis for dynamics. These models will be used to explore how climate change might alter marine communities, and also potentially how evolution might shape communities.
Movement. James is interested in why, where and how animals move. His tool of choice for this work is agent-based modeling. His focus to date has been to develop agent-based models of whale migration. These models are embedded in an Earth System Model, and the hope is to understand how long-distance migration in the sea may change under future climate scenarios.
Research news | 2017-01-23
Creating strong cooperatives might be more important than fishing at the most sustainable level, new study suggests
Research news | 2016-10-24
When is it useful to share information about the location of a prey and when is it not?
Research news | 2016-04-21
New study in Nature Communications models global connectivity of the entire planet’s ocean surface
Research news | 2014-03-12
Centre researcher James Watson explains
2017 - Journal / article
Natural resources are vulnerable to overexploitation in the absence of effective management. However, norms, enforced by social ostracism, can promote cooperation and increase stock biomass in common-pool resource systems. Unfortunately, the long-term sustainable use of a resource is not assured even if cooperation, maintained by ostracism and aimed at optimizing resource use, exists. Here, using the example of fisheries, we s...
2016 - Journal / article
Predators of all kinds, be they lions hunting in the Serengeti or fishermen searching for their catch, display various collective strategies. A common strategy is to share information about the location of prey. However, depending on the spatial characteristics and mobility of predators and prey, information sharing can either improve or hinder individual success. Here, our goal is to investigate the interacting effects of spa...
2016 - Journal / article
Planktonic communities are shaped through a balance of local evolutionary adaptation and ecological succession driven in large part by migration. The timescales over which these processes operate are still largely unresolved. Here we use Lagrangian particle tracking and network theory to quantify the timescale over which surface currents connect different regions of the global ocean. We find that the fastest path between two p...