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Jones Elis | Fellow Postdoctoral
2024-05-01 - 2025-04-30 | Research area: Philosophy of Biology
Theorising the Blue Economy: Connecting Economic, Ecological and Epistemic Value in Coral Reef Research

Coral reefs sit at the intersection of ecological, economic, social and scientific systems: they therefore provide a perfect system for a rigorous conceptual analysis of the ‘blue acceleration’ and ‘blue economy’, terms respectively denoting the rapid expansion of economic and scientific interest in the sea, and the aim to develop more sustainable marine economic systems in the process. Reefs support a vast range of organisms, impact substantially on human wellbeing, are of considerable scientific importance, so are at the forefront of expanding scientific and economic marine interests. Yet economic values often dominate decision making. This postdoctoral project connects the scientific and ecological value of reef systems within the emerging framework of ‘blue economics’ to provide tools for understanding and articulating the diverse values of living systems beyond solely economic considerations, something  particularly important given growing economic and ecological pressures on marine systems (the ‘blue acceleration’).

This project builds on my PhD work (which focused on the roles of various forms of value in coral reef science), through analysis of previously unused empirical data already gathered from interviews with coral scientists. Throughout these, scientists expressed the value of reef ecosystems in nuanced ways, providing a rich resource for understanding the value of reefs and other marine systems more comprehensively. I am interested particularly in the different ways the value of reefs are intertwined. Reefs are scientifically very valuable, for example providing records of past climates (similar to tree rings), or sites for ‘natural experiments’.  But reefs are also often characterised as ecologically very valuable, something often related to their complex structure, biodiversity, and roles in larger ecological processes. Using these cases, as well as concepts from the marine sciences (such as ecological functions and ecological metabolism) I hope to contribute to better understanding of how a variety of forms of value are important in sustainable human-ocean interactions.