Postdoc or research scientist, Systems Modeling of Marine Protected Areas and Human Nutrition


Joint Conservation International – Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health fellowship


Friday, November 15, 2019

Start Date

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Search: We are looking to hire a researcher with a strong quantitative, (bio)statistical, bioeconomic, and/or social- ecological modeling background to integrate several databases for complex systems analysis.

Background: The world population is becoming larger and wealthier, expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. This growing global middle class increases the demand for animal-source foods and one of the most environmentally sustainable source for animal protein is seafood. A major reduction in meat consumption is in the best interest of people and planet, yet as a viable alternative, yet, wild capture fisheries are in decline with more than 60% of global stocks being overexploited or fully exploited, and an additional 25% collapsed. Work has shown that reductions in fish stocks due to poor governance and climate change may increase malnutrition, particularly in developing countries dependent on wild fish (Golden et al. 2016).

Based on their shared objectives and complementary expertise, Conservation International, Duke University, and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health researchers have identified a promising area of collaboration to link human health and food security to marine conservation efforts. Further research is needed to adequately evaluate and implement a solution which could resolve one of the world’s greatest challenges: feeding a growing global population within the limits of its planetary boundaries.

Despite the critical implications of marine protected area (MPA) expansion for marine populations and human well- being, research has not yet examined the global implications of MPA expansion for human health and nutrition. The dramatic and growing consequences of climate change in marine systems, and the potential for MPAs to improve resilience when well-resourced (Kennedy et al. 2013; Roberts et al. 2017, Gill et al. 2017), further underscore the urgency and necessity of such analyses. Better understanding of the implications of MPA expansion for human health has the potential to lead to MPAs that are designed and managed to maximize returns both for conservation and human health objectives.

Project Description:

We propose to examine the impacts of MPAs for human nutrition globally. Following an initial convening of key partners, the team will analyze a series of unique global databases (i.e., MPA management and impacts, fish populations, and human nutrition) using an integrated modeling approach, to generate a series of studies that will rigorously, quantitatively, and globally document the current and potential future human health impacts of marine conservation through protected areas.

 Following our global analysis covering marine protected areas from nearly every tropical, coastal country on earth, we will determine target countries for case studies. We will adopt a team science approach, and will regularly convene virtually and in person. This list includes some of the key activities of our research plan:

1) Scope and evaluate available datasets and identify specific knowledge gaps. These datasets will include i.) a globally representative database of marine protected areas and impacts on fishing and fisheries resources; and ii.) a globally representative database of human diets and nutritional status

2) Collaboratively develop a theoretical framework describing interactions among conservation, resource condition, and human nutrition in the context of global environmental change

3) Develop and implement a research strategy to operationalize the theoretical framework with existing datasets, and estimate the associations among these key variables

4) Publish high-impact results from this analysis, and identify opportunities for high-level policy engagement at national and global scales


The position is a joint Conservation International – Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health fellowship. The researcher will be based at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and will be supervised by Prof. Chris Golden. The researcher will also spend significant time in Washington, D.C. at Conservation International’s Moore Center for Science (MCS) and be co-supervised by members of MCS (including Dr. Mike Mascia and Dr. Alex Zvoleff) and Duke University’s Prof. David Gill. The researcher will be responsible for modeling the human nutritional impacts of marine protected areas and liaising with our inter-institutional team. This research fellowship is guaranteed for 1 year and renewable for a second year. Salary will be $60,000 and include a comprehensive suite of benefits. At Harvard, we have a rich community of researchers investigating the interrelationship of ecosystems and human health and we believe the post-doc will find the community of scholars an inspiring one.

Skills/Background Experience:

  • Strong statistical and quantitative analysis background required. Strong preference for working in R
  • Preference for training in complex systems analysis, (bio)statistics, ecology, bioeconomic modelling, applied mathematics, systems biology, or related fields
  • Preference for experience working with large datasets and integrating multiple kinds of data in an analytic framework.
  • Preference for experience in spatial analysis

To apply:

Please submit a CV and brief cover letter detailing relevant experience and reason for interest in the project to Dr. Chris Golden ( Please also send the names of three references in your cover letter. Review of applications will begin on October 15th and continue until the position is filled. Interviewing and hiring will take place throughout the Fall on a rolling basis. Position will start in January 2020 at the latest.

Contact Name

Dr. Chris Golden

Contact Email