Dr. Michaela Thompson
Harvard University Center for the Environment
26 Oxford Street, Room 425C
Cambridge, MA 02138
Email: michaela_thompson@hks.harvard.edu
Group affiliation: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Michaela Thompson is a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Sustainability Science appointed through Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government. Her research focuses on long-term environmental histories of marine spaces, with the aim of promoting the sustainable management of marine resources. In particular, she studies the dynamics of fisheries management, focusing on the incorporation of fishing communities into research and policy decisions. Her research has spanned four continents and three oceans. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Carleton College, a Masters of Arts in World History from Northeastern University, and a PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016). Michaela’s doctoral thesis examined the intertwined influences of science, policy, technology, and culture on animal-human interactions and environmental risk, as manifested in responses to shark attacks in the United States and South Africa. Her host at Harvard is William Clark.

Longterm Histories of Sustainable Development
This project seeks to bridge the gap between environmental history and sustainability science. It is predicated on the belief that the better awareness of historical studies of human-environment interactions can have a positive impact on scholarship for sustainable development. To this end, the project will produce a series of in-depth historical case studies of environment and resource management over the long term.  The project will focus on what has come to be considered a classic “tragedy of the commons” case of natural capital degradation: fisheries management. Through ethnographic and archival research, the project will examine how fishing communities have struggled to maintain sustainable use of their marine spaces. Among the questions considered: what constitutes “successful” fisheries management? How does the inclusion or exclusion of various stakeholder groups impact the policy process? How can examining past failures (such as the collapse of the sardine and cod fisheries in North America) or successes (such as the recovery of the lobster and striped bass stocks in the Northern Atlantic) help shape future policy decisions? Examining these cases can allow for a deeper understanding of the factors that can effect sustainability efforts, and in turn lead to more successful sustainable development scholarship and action.