Ocean Evidence Gap Map and Synthesis (2019-2020)


Evidence gap maps and evidence synthesis are emerging as important conservation tools that review existing scientific research in a creative way. Gap maps identify studies that suggest linkages between particular interventions and outcomes, while evidence synthesis explores the extent and nature of such linkages.

In the rapidly developing field of ocean science and conservation, evidence gap maps and synthesis can provide informed and data-guided direction for scientific, philanthropic, government and nongovernment organizations as they decide how to invest limited resources.

Project Description

In 2018-2019, a Bass Connections project team completed a gap map – a matrix showing the intersection of conservation interventions with ecological and social outcomes, and the amount of papers that explore these intersections empirically. While this gap map provides an indication of well-studied and under-studied linkages, it does not describe the nature of the linkages (e.g., whether outcomes associated with an intervention are positive or negative or both), nor does it reveal anything about the strength of the evidence.

Building on this ocean evidence gap map, the 2019-2020 project team will synthesize and assess the strength and nature of evidence-related conservation interventions for coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses.

To generate a more complete picture of the literature, the team will identify a number of “boxes” in the gap map’s intervention/outcome matrix on which to focus evidence synthesis efforts. Team members will then evaluate what natural and social science research reveals about the association between conservation efforts (e.g., habitat restoration), natural outcomes (e.g., fish abundance, ecosystem health and resilience) and social outcomes (e.g., income, well-being, degree of cooperative interactions). The goal will be to acquire a better understanding of both the positive and negative outcomes which interventions impact on people and the environment.

Anticipated Outputs

Manuscripts for publication; a web-based interactive platform of evidence synthesis linked to Ocean Evidence Gap; policy briefs; subprojects that may serve as the focus of undergraduate honors theses or the foundation for master’s theses and/or doctoral dissertations; preliminary data for targeted research grants; foundation for further work on more systematic reviews

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will be comprised of 6 undergraduate and 6 graduate students.

We expect to attract a combination of undergraduates majoring in Environmental Sciences and Policy, master’s students in the Coastal Environmental Management (CEM) stream of the Master of Environmental Management program and Ph.D. students in Marine Science and Conservation. However, any students interested in conservation who are able to read and evaluate the academic literature are welcome to apply.

One CEM student will be assigned to serve as a project manager, potentially beginning in Summer 2019.

Through this project, students will develop skills in literature synthesis, scientific writing, real-world conservation science application and conducting collaborative multi-institutional, interdisciplinary research. Focal points of this research may be the basis of undergraduate honors theses and master’s projects or integrated into doctoral dissertation research.

At the project onset, the team will be divided into smaller groups based on individual and group interests as well as concentration of evidence (or lack thereof) or other patterns in the gap map matrix. These matrix work groups will allow for more intensive interaction among faculty, staff and students across undergraduate and graduate groups. This Bass Connections project will continue to work closely with collaborators at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and further strengthen this partnership.

Travel opportunities are to be determined.


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Fall 2019: Begin weekly meetings (alternating between full team and matrix working groups meetings); begin evidence synthesis; prepare and present progress reports
  • Spring 2020: Continue weekly meetings; complete evidence synthesis; integrate results into an interactive online platform; develop manuscripts for publication


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available

See earlier related team, Ocean Evidence Gap Map (2018-2019).


Image: Second Longest Coral Reef in the World, by Eustaquio Santimano, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Second Longest Coral Reef in the World.

/faculty/staff Team Members

  • Lisa Campbell, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation*
  • David Gill, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation
  • Brian Silliman, Nicholas School of the Environment-Marine Science and Conservation*

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Gabby Ahmadia, World Wildlife Fund-US*
  • Samantha Cheng, Arizona State University