Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



Oyster reefs have recently been identified as one of the most endangered coastal ecosystems, fueling efforts to restore and enhance these systems. Oyster reefs located in the northern Gulf of Mexico have been identified as some of the healthiest of reefs globally, and current efforts focus on devising an approach to Gulf-wide restoration of these reefs. As with all natural resource management and restoration, success is dependent on more than simply understanding the biological requirements of the resource; rather, they are equally dependent on understanding and working within the social and political context in which these management and restoration activities must occur. This project has developed a framework for setting Gulf-wide oyster reef restoration goals by identifying the geo-political, socio-economic, and spatial context in which restoration will occur. Specifically, this project assesses key political and socio-economic factors affecting oyster reef restoration in the Gulf by 1) exhibiting differences and similarities in state requirements for oyster reef restoration, and view points among oyster reef restoration project leaders in each state 2) determining stakeholder and various user groups perception of oyster reef restoration and 3) providing a spatial tool to aid decision making regarding oyster reef restoration in the Gulf. Results show that there are currently differences among the states in their oyster reef restoration policies and requirements, and differences in project leader goals that may make it difficult to create a region wide oyster reef restoration plan. There is also variation in how various stakeholder groups prefer for oyster reef restoration to occur, though there is unanimous stakeholder support for oyster reef restoration. Important biological and socio-economic spatial information identifies areas that are suitable for oyster reef restoration, allowing decision makers to more fully understand the potential success or effects of restored reefs. These studies show that there are socio-economic, geo-political and biological differences across the northern Gulf of Mexico that can ultimately create constraints as well as opportunities for a regional oyster reef restoration plan. This knowledge can help inform oyster reef restoration planners by guiding their restoration actions more efficiently and effectively, enabling them to achieve their desired outcomes.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Reams, Margaret Anne