Using System Maps to Analyze Complex Social-Environmental Issues: A Case Study of Geoduck Aquaculture in the Puget Sound


SESYNC has selected this case study as an exemplary S-E synthesis case study.

This case provides a framework and tools for analyzing and understanding complex socio-environmental systems, using geoduck aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest as an example system. After completing this case, students will be able to use the socio-environmental system framework and apply it to other environmental issues. Geoduck (giant clam, Panopea generosa) aquaculture is a complex issue in the Puget Sound. Specific concerns have centered on aspects of aquaculture that may disturb ecological communities, habitats, and ecosystem processes. The issue is complicated by a complex permitting process, limited scientific information to guide decision making, and vocal public opposition to certain aspects of geoduck farming. As geoduck aquaculture is local to the Pacific Northwest and parts of the western coast of California, a more localized example may be more appropriate for courses in other parts of the country, but many of the activities would be appropriate across most contexts.

Kate K. Mulvaney
Clare M. Ryan
Yen-Chu Weng