Dr. Rachel Zuercher is an interdisciplinary scientist interested in the social-ecological dynamics and governance of coastal and marine ecosystems. She uses quantitative and qualitative data synthesis, social-ecological modeling, and observational approaches to address pressing challenges facing our ocean and the people who rely on it, with a particular emphasis on nearshore fisheries. While a postdoc at SESYNC, her work focused on evaluating the effectiveness of multi-objective marine spatial planning initiatives. In partnership with the Coastal Communities and the Marine Environment SESYNC research project, she developed a new framework for assessing social and institutional factors that enable or disable effective ocean management. She also examined case studies to better understand the outcomes of marine spatial planning for people, for communities, and for marine species and ecosystems. Prior to joining the research team at SESYNC, Rachel was a postdoctoral researcher at Florida International University where she analyzed biophysical and socioeconomic data using geographic information systems and statistical models to generate high-resolution maps of nearshore fishing impacts and fish biomass for the Florida Reef Tract and coral reefs in the Lesser Antilles. Rachel is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Center. She is applying her background on fisheries and ocean governance to research focused on distant water fishing fleets and their impacts on food security in the places where they fish.
Rachel earned her doctorate at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she explored how social and ecological connectivity shapes kelp forest ecosystems and the nearshore groundfish fishery that operates within them. She is passionate about research that furthers our ability to manage the ocean in a socially just and environmentally sustainable way.