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

Nov 23, 2014
Kate K. Mulvaney, Simone Pulver, Clare M. Ryan, Yen-Chu Weng

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.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
Estimated time frame: 
Multi-week or entire course
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
  • Consider the importance of scale and context in addressing socio-environmental problems
  • Co-develop research questions and conceptual models in inter- or trans-disciplinary teams
  • Find, analyze, and synthesize existing data, concepts, or methods
Share: Facebook Icon Twitter Icon Linked Icon