Most environmental problems as we understand them today are not inherent in the environment but are the result of interactions with human social, political, and economic processes. To design management systems that cooperate with nature rather than degrade it requires understanding the ecological system, the social system, and how they interact to produce a particular environmental outcome. The department carries out a variety of research activities that seek to understand management issues and propose new ways to approach them. Departmental researchers are active on issues ranging from the impact of divers on coral reef degradation in the Florida Keys to investigating the socioeconomic factors driving the destruction of riparian forests and the misuse of aquatic resources in the Amazon.
Our economic system is heavily dependent on the ecosystem in many ways. A harmony between the two is essential for the sustained existence and growth of both these systems. However, environmental interests are too often compromised by economic interests that would result in unsustainable economic growth, overexploitation of natural resources, and increasing environmental pollution. Researchers in the Department study how effectively government policies work in achieving intended environmental goals in the context of international environment and trade agreements, U.S. and International conservation policies, US and international agricultural and forestry programs, as well as on local environmental programs such as the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and Everglades restoration. Our researchers are also interested in the relationship between science, technology and society and the application of ethical principles in the context of environmental protection.