Marine-Human Relations

Marine Social and Cultural Sciences


The sea is being used more and more intensively by mankind and is thus becoming more and more significant. Whether in terms of traditional uses, such as food production, shipping routes and coastal development, or in terms of new uses, e.g. as a sink for carbon dioxide, through diving tourism, aquarium trade or deep-sea mining. Thus, humans also have an ever greater influence on the marine ecosystem and anthropogenic pressure on coasts and seas is steadily increasing. The increase in importance is also reflected in the increase in political attempts at regulation and negotiation processes at national, regional and international level. The recently published EU communication 'International Ocean Governance: An Agenda for the Future of our Oceans' illustrates this once again.

In this respect, the need to scientifically survey and analytically reflect on governance mechanisms, social forms of organisation and visions of the future related to the sea and its resources is also steadily increasing. This is also expressed in the increasing demand for corresponding social and cultural science expertise - especially on the part of policy-making, science management and international non-governmental organisations. The members of this strategy group contribute with their expertise to the processing of current questions.

The following four thematic areas are the focus of our interest:

A story map of selected research topics & projects of the Strategy Group

(c) Leneisja Jungsberg, Nunataryuk (2018) 


Dr. habil. Tanja Bogusz (Speaker)

University of Hamburg, Center for Sustainable Society Research (CSS)

Research interests:

  • Marine Social Sciences
  • Science Studies
  • Cultures of knowledge
  • Social and societal theories
  • Collaborative research methods
Tanja Bogusz (Dr. habil.) is a sociologist and researcher at the Center for Sustainable Society Research (CSS) at the University of Hamburg, as well as a founding and board member of the professional society Science and Technology Studies in Germany (STSinG). In her current DFG project "Experiencing Nature and Society. A multi-sited investigation of marine biological and ethnographic field science", she compares marine scientific research practices (expeditions and stations) with social and cultural scientific analytical procedures. She connects these with an experimentalist sociology of the knowledge society that aims to produce collaborative research formats for marine-related natural and social sciences.

Dr Annegret Kuhn (Speaker)

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel | Department of Political Science

Research interests:

  • Multi-level ocean governance and sustainable development
  • International climate and maritime policy organisations
  • Political knowledge integration
  • Public participation
Annegret Kuhn is a political scientist at CAU Kiel and a member of Kiel Marine Science. Her research interests focus on the influence of international institutions and norms of climate and marine policy on socio-economic and environmental challenges of a globally increasing use of natural resources. In particular, her current research examines the ways in which the political participation of different groups of actors in international organisations and regimes can promote sustainable governance of marine resources and ecosystems. The regional focus of her empirical research is the Baltic Sea region and the Arctic region.

Prof. Dr Achim Schlüter (Speaker)

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen

Research interests:

  • Institutions (rules) for the sustainable use of tropical marine coastal ecosystems and their transformation
  • Emergence and promotion of cooperation in the shared use of the coast and the sea
  • Behaviour of people as central actors in the socio-ecological system of coast and sea
Head of the Institutional and Behavioural Economics Group at the Centre for Tropical Marine Research. He is mainly interested in institutions in the sense of rules that enable the coast and the sea to be managed in an economically, socially and ecologically sustainable way. To this end, it is central to understand the behaviour of people within these institutions. These aspects are considered in the working group in various areas, such as aquaculture, marine pollution, sea level rise, tourism or fisheries. Methodologically, essentially qualitative or experimental research approaches are pursued.

Fanny Barz

Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries, Future Structures of Coastal Fisheries

Research interests: 

  • Fishermen and fishing behaviour
  • Biographical research
  • Structural change in fisheries
  • Fisheries Discourses
  • Stakeholder engagement

Dr Anna Lena Bercht

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Institute of Geography

Research interests:

  • Psychological barriers to climate change adaptation
  • Environmental and climate justice
  • Climate communication
  • Coastal fisheries
  • Arctic, Northern Germany
Anna Lena Bercht is a human geographer and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geography at Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel and an associate researcher at the Disaster Research Centre (KFS) at Freie Universität Berlin. Her research is at the interface between human geography and psychology. Currently, her research focuses on environmental justice and psychological barriers to climate change adaptation using the example of coastal fisheries in the Norwegian Arctic. Qualitative social research methods form the empirical foundation of her work. From 2015 to 2017, Anna Lena was a visiting researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) at Stockholm University on a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

Dr. Phil. Bergmann, Sven

German Maritime Museum

Research interests:

  • Marine and Environmental Anthropology
  • Science and technology research
  • Political economies and ecologies of waste, pollution and toxicity
  • Infrastructures, urban and regional change
  • Kinship, Reproduction and the Body
Sven Bergmann is a cultural anthropologist and research assistant at the German Maritime Museum in Bremen. His post-doctoral project focuses on the problematisation of plastic in the sea and its entanglements with emerging cultures of nature such as the plastisphere. The research explores how microplastics have been raised as a scientific and social problem. The research is a contribution to an anthropology of the speculative and of uncertain futures, temporalities and ecologies. In it, plastic is conceived as an ongoing experiment with an as yet unknown afterlife.

Dr Annette Breckwoldt

Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Department of Social Sciences

Research interests:

  • Science-Stakeholder Interactions
  • Integrated coastal management
  • Small-scale fisheries systems
  • Local realities in the use and management of marine resources
  • Environmental and development aspects of island states
  • Environmental perceptions
  • Inter- and transdisciplinarity: interfaces ecology / social sciences / human geography / environmental psychology
Annette Breckwoldt is an interdisciplinary marine scientist and project leader of the German side of the bi-national French-German (ANR/DFG) research project SOCPacific ('A Sea of Connections: contextualising fisheries in the South Pacific region', with anthropologist Dr Elodie Fache on the French side). She is also a visiting scientist for 'science-stakeholder interaction processes' at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. Annette's PhD (2007) focused on interdisciplinary aspects of community-based fisheries management in traditional Fijian fishing grounds. Annette is a member of the Steering Committee of the IGU 'Commission on Islands', Co-Chair of the Human Dimension Working Group of IMBeR (Integrated Marine Biosphere Research;, and Associate Editor for the journal Frontiers in Marine Science (section 'Marine Conservation and Sustainability').

Dr Kira Gee

Helmholtz Centre Hereon

Research interests:

  • Socio-cultural dimensions of maritime spatial planning
  • Sustainable marine development
  • Transnational Maritime Policy
  • Perception of the sea as space and place
  • Maritime values and value systems
Kira Gee has been working at Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht since June 2015. She has many years of experience in maritime spatial planning (MSP) and has worked in various international MSP projects in the Baltic Sea and the European Atlantic, most recently in the BONUS BALTSPACE and GIZ MARISMA projects. Her current research focuses on socio-cultural and international dimensions of maritime spatial governance, as well as marine space as such, including perceptions of the sea by different actors, the sea as space and place, and individual values. Kira Gee is a member of the ICES Working Group on Marine Planning and Coastal Zone Management (WGMPCZM) and the BSH Scientific Advisory Group on the update of the ROP EEZ.

Dr Friederike Gesing

University of Bremen, artec Research Centre for Sustainability

Research interests:

  • Political ecologies of the coast
  • Co-production of nature and society
  • Nitrogen management
  • Science and Technology Studies (STS)
  • Qualitative methods / praxeography
Research associate at the artec Research Centre for Sustainability at the University of Bremen and head of the research project "Nitrogen management in the making - Material practices and policies". She is co-founder of the Bremen NatureCulture Lab ( and author of the book "Working with Nature in Aotearoa New Zealand-An Ethnography of Coastal Protection" (Bielefeld: transcript 2016). She works at the intersection of cultural anthropology, human geography and STS. In 2015, she completed her PhD in the international DFG Research Training Group INTERCOAST (University of Bremen and University of Waikato) with a qualitative analysis of soft coastal protection practices. In 2012/2013 she was a Visiting Fellow at the Science, Technology and Society (STS) Program at Harvard University.

Dr Christoph Humrich

University of Groningen, Centre for International Relations Research (CIRR)

Research interests:

  • Regional security in the Arctic
  • International environmental policy in the Arctic
  • Interaction of global and regional ocean governance arrangements
  • Adaptation of Coast Guards and Navies to Marine and Maritime Change (in the Arctic Ocean)
Christoph Humrich has worked as an Assistant Professor of International Relations and Security Policy at the University of Groningen since 2012 and is an Associate Researcher at the Arctic Centre there. His research interests focus on the empirical interaction of law and politics, their normative justification and critique. Against this background, he conducts research on issues of international politics and security of the seas and polar regions, with a current focus on regional maritime politics and security in the Arctic and projects on multi-level dynamics of the Arctic governance architecture as well as strategies of actors of marine and maritime security in the Arctic Ocean.

Prof. Dr Silja Klepp

Kiel Marine Science, Centre for Interdisciplinary Marine Sciences at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Research interests:

  • Environmental and climate justice
  • Social impacts of climate change
  • political ecology
  • Human geography, social anthropology
  • Italy, Mediterranean, Kiribati, Oceania and Northern Germany
Silja Klepp is Professor of Human Geography at Kiel University. Her research group "Social Dynamics in Coastal and Marine Areas" focuses on human-environment relations in the Anthropocene. In her current research on climate governance, she is particularly interested in equity issues, how social and cultural diversity can be integrated into climate change adaptation measures and policies, and how the self-determination of affected communities can be ensured. Silja has conducted field research in Kiribati, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Italy, Libya, Malta and Zambia. She has won several awards for her doctoral thesis on refugees and border spaces in the Mediterranean. Together with colleagues, Silja Klepp founded the transdisciplinary network for environmental justice EnJust ( To work inclusively and creatively, she also uses transdisciplinary approaches and experiments with artistic research.

Dr Vera Köpsel

University of Hamburg | Institute for Marine Ecosystem and Fishery Sciences

Research interests:

  • Human-environment relations
  • Social dynamics of climate change adaptation
  • Stakeholder engagement in EU projects
  • The role of narratives in environmental management processes
  • Science communication
Vera Köpsel completed her PhD in geography at the end of 2017 and is now a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Marine Ecosystem and Fisheries Sciences (IMF) at the University of Hamburg. There she is involved in the PANDORA project for sustainable fisheries management (EU Horizon2020) and coordinates its project communication and stakeholder engagement activities. She is also conducting a research project on regional differences in stakeholder engagement in the fisheries sector. Her case studies are the PANDORA study areas: the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Bay of Biscay, the Strait of Sicily, the Aegean Sea and the Western Mediterranean Sea.

Dr Jana Koerth

Christian Albrechts University of Kiel, Institute of Geography

Research interests:

  • Climate adaptation
  • Climate services
  • Motivators of climate adaptation decisions
  • Sea level rise and storm surges
Geographer and research assistant at the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel. As part of her habilitation project, she is working on climate services and the extent to which they can be used in decision-making processes for climate adaptation. Central to her scientific work is the proactive, human approach to climate change with a thematic focus on sea-level rise and its consequences for coastal areas. In recent years, Jana Koerth has focused on the integration of different climate adaptation strategies in coastal areas.

Dr Tobias Lasner

Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries, Future Structures of Coastal Fisheries

Research interests:

  • Maritime sociology
  • Fisheries sociology
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Coastal fisheries
  • Empirical social research
Economic sociologist in the research area "Future Structures of Coastal Fisheries" at the Thünen Institute of Sea and Baltic Sea Fisheries. Tobias Lasner's work encompasses actor-centred and action-theoretical research of coastal communities. That is, he places the actions and options for action of the affected and responsible people at the centre of his research interest. The focus of his work here is on coastal fishing in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The focus is on the fishermen and fisherwomen themselves, and in broader circles on the living environment of the coastal communities surrounding them, the competing uses, the legal framework from politics and administration, and last but not least, the science researching marine resources and fisheries itself. In doing so, he uses different qualitative and quantitative methods of empirical social research.

Dr Michael P. Link

Climate Change and Security Research Group, Institute of Geography, Centre for Earth System Research and Sustainability

Research interests:

  • Link between water availability and conflicts
  • Acceptance of renewable energy production in coastal regions and in the sea
  • Long-term effects of sea-level rise on river deltas
  • Link between climate change and conflicts
Research associate at the Climate Change and Security Research Group (CLISEC) at the Centre for Earth System Research and Sustainability at the University of Hamburg. Also, since 2012, spokesperson for the working group "Geography of the Seas and Coasts" (AMK) of the German Geographical Society. His research interests focus on the societal impacts of climate change. Here, one focus is on the connection between water availability and conflicts; another focus is the social acceptance of renewable energies in coastal regions. He uses agent-based models and geographic information systems to investigate conflict risks and cooperation opportunities in different development paths.

Dr Grit Martinez

MARUM Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen

Research interests:

  • Social-ecological transformations in coastal regions
  • Culture and transformation
  • Narration theory, cultural sociology and climate change discourse
  • Bridging concepts for interdisciplinary cooperation between the humanities and natural sciences
Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute, Institute Faculty Member at Duke University's Berlin Program, and Associate Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland. Studies in history, literature and economics led to research interests in social processes of climate change adaptation and resilience in coastal areas worldwide, captured as transformational processes within institutional, cultural, social, economic and political contexts. Grit Martinez is also concerned with the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration between the social sciences and humanities and the natural, engineering and life sciences. She is active in numerous projects for the European Commission and German Research Foundation.

Prof. Dr Aletta Mondré

Christian Albrechts University of Kiel, Institute for Social Sciences

Research interests:

  • Ocean Governance Architecture
  • Deep sea mining
  • Conflicts over marine areas
Political scientist at CAU Kiel, member of the Cluster of Excellence Future Ocean and Kiel Marine Science. Her field of work is the diverse regulatory issues that arise from the different claims to use and ideas of protection of the oceans. For example, she investigates the negotiation processes of regulating deep-sea mining. She did her doctorate at the University of Bremen on strategies for settling maritime boundary disputes.

Dr Barbara Neumann

Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research IASS , Department of Ocean Governance

Research interests:

  • Socio-ecological systems and interactions in coastal and marine areas
  • Sustainable development and governance of coasts and seas
  • Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14
  • Sustainability research, transdisciplinary research
Dr Barbara Neumann has been a senior researcher in the field of ocean governance at the Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research (IASS) in Potsdam since June 2017. Previously, she was, among other things, a postdoc at the Institute of Geography at Kiel University and a member of the Cluster of Excellence 'The Future Ocean' in Kiel, where she conducted research on the impacts of sea-level rise, sustainable development and governance of coastal spaces. Her research interests include the analysis and governance of socio-ecological systems and interactions in coastal and marine areas in the context of sustainable development, change processes and transformation. She received her PhD in Geography from Saarland University in 2002.

Prof. Dr Beate Ratter

Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, currently International Seabed Authority

Research interests:

  • Societal coastal and island research
  • Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems
  • Risk management
  • Climate change and social adaptation
  • Complexity theory
Beate Ratter researches the perception of nature, natural events and risks in different regional cultures and their consideration as well as the participation of the affected population in the development of adapted sustainable management concepts. Research foci include integrated coastal zone management and the socio-economic aspects of climate change as well as adaptation strategies and risk perception in coastal areas and on small islands. Regional research foci are the Caribbean, SIDS and the European Wadden Sea region. The coastal zone is a space of interaction between land, coast and sea in which particular pressures on societies become effective against the background of ongoing global climate change and economic and cultural globalisation.

Dr Sybille Reinke de Buitrago

University of Hamburg | Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy

Research interests:

  • Maritime Security, Cooperation and Conflict
  • Identity
  • Room constructions
  • Perception
  • Discourse and power
Political scientist specialising in international relations, foreign and security policy and peace and conflict research at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH). She completed her doctorate at the University of Hamburg. She received her BA and MA from the American University in Washington, DC. Her research focuses on questions of identity, perception, spatial constructions, discourse and power, and how these affect developments in maritime security. For several years, she has been studying developments in the Arctic with reference to conflict and cooperation between littoral states and Arctic-interested states.

Dr Sebastian Unger

Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research IASS, Governance of the Oceans

Research interests:

  • Socio-ecological systems and interactions in coastal and marine areas
  • Sustainable development and governance of coasts and seas
  • Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14
  • Sustainability research, transdisciplinary research
Sebastian Unger heads the Governance of the Oceans research group at the IASS in Potsdam. His work focuses on global governance processes for the sustainable use and protection of the oceans, including the development of a new treaty for the protection of the high seas, the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the governance of deep-sea mining. Sebastian Unger joined the Institute back in 2011 as Scientific Coordinator to IASS Founding Director Professor Klaus Töpfer. In 2007, he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the North-East Atlantic in London. Previously, Sebastian Unger coordinated international and European maritime affairs at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin.

Dr Cormac Walsh

Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Institute of Ecology

Research interests:

  • Land-sea interactions
  • Maritime spatial planning
  • Integrated coastal management
  • Nature of conservation
  • Governance spaces and premises
Cormac Walsh is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Geography, University of Hamburg. He is currently working on the spatial aspects of coastal management and nature conservation of the Wadden Sea in a comparative perspective (DFG 2016-2019). He is interested in the governance of land-sea interactions at the interface of marine and terrestrial spatial planning. He has worked in research projects on regional development and spatial planning in Ireland and Germany. He wrote his PhD on the topic of strategic spatial planning at University College Dublin in 2010. Together with Friederike Gesing and Rapti Siriwardana de-Zoysa, he publishes a scientific blog:

Dr Christian Wirth

GIGA Leibniz Institute of Global and Area Studies

Research interests:

  • The importance of maritime space for the rediscovery of geopolitical ideas of (international) order(s)
  • The interrelationship between contemporary geopolitics and the international law of the sea (UNCLOS) in the Indian and Pacific Oceans
  • The consequences of changing norms and boundaries for the governance of the seas in the Western Pacific and the Eastern Indian Ocean
  • Socio-political transformations and the 'Blue Economy'
Dr Christian Wirth is a Research Fellow at the GIGA Leibniz Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Institute of Asian Studies at Griffith University in Brisbane. After graduating in law from the University of St. Gallen and several years in the civil service of the Swiss Federal Administration, he studied Chinese in Beijing and completed his doctorate on the topic of Sino-Japanese relations in the context of East Asia's region-building at Waseda University in Tokyo. Subsequent research stays at Waseda, Griffith, Korea and Tohoku Universities enabled him to delve deeper into the topic of maritime politics in East Asia.