Dr Ruth Thurstan
Lecturer in Biosciences


Human induced changes to our coasts and oceans span much greater periods of time (decades to centuries) than even the longest established scientific monitoring programs. This means that, in addition to continuing and extending our monitoring efforts, we need to use alternative approaches and sources of information to better understand the scale and trajectory of changes that have occurred in our marine ecosystems.

Marine historical ecology is an interdisciplinary approach to research that draws upon (among others) the ecological, historical and social disciplines to understand what our marine and coastal ecosystems looked like and how they functioned in the past, how humans have interacted with these ecosystems over time, and the extent to which our interactions have affected and altered these systems. My work in the UK and Australia has made use of a variety of sources and techniques to better understand the scale and drivers of ecological change, and the consequences of such change for the users of these ecosystems, with a particular focus on finfish and shellfish fisheries. These include government statistical records, popular media, oral history interviews, maritime charts, and underwater coring and in-situ survey methods.

As well as understanding the scale of past changes, I am also interested in how we can best use this knowledge to inform contemporary management and policy, and have worked with non-governmental and governmental organizations to this effect.  

I also have ongoing projects exploring the social aspects of marine protected areas, reconstruction of marine and coastal ecosystem services, and the quantification of technological innovation and uptake in commercial and recreational fisheries.

Since 2015 I have co-chaired the International Council for Exploration of the Seas’ Working Group on the History of Fish and Fisheries (ICES WGHIST), which brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines to explore trends in social-ecological systems through time, and how we can apply these findings and perspectives to contemporary management.

Please visit my Google Scholar page to view my published research, or contact me directly if you require PDFs.


2012: PhD in Environmental Economics and Management, University of York

2008: MSc in Marine Environmental Management, University of York

2004: BSc in Marine Biology (Hons), University of Liverpool

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