Interview with Dr Tavis Potts

Interview with Dr Tavis Potts

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  1. What are your main fields of interest in marine and coastal geography?

My interests lie in the intersection of human and environmental geography, specifically the social and political dimensions of coastal and marine governance. Topics that I find fascinating include the international comparative analysis of marine spatial planning and ICZM; investigating alternative approaches to policy delivery through partnerships, private sustainability standards and co-management; assessing cultural ecosystem services and incorporating them into policy; and the development of the low carbon ‘blue economy’ and its ramifications for coastal industries and communities. A common thread in my research is understanding social change and the role of policy, law and politics as a facilitator or inhibitor of this change.

2. What key research projects are you involved in?

I am currently winding up an interesting project called Marine Spatial Planning for Local Economic Development (MSP-LED). This project centred around the development of digital touch tables to support local data collection and conflict resolution in Scottish coastal regions. Touch tables are touch sensitive flat screens, similar to a small ipad / tablet, but are the size of a coffee table (and rather heavy at 45kg!). We developed software that was able to load GIS maps and layers with which stakeholders could annotate and draw and which would be captured in a geodatabase for analysis. Using this technique we prepared a map of sea kayaking and wild life tourism in Argyll and facilitated an emerging conflict between small scale fishing and oil rigs in the Moray Firth. We have found the devices very good at transmitting spatial information at different scales and providing a support tool for negotiations over marine planning and spatial issues.

3. Are there any other initiatives which you would like to highlight to the group?

I was recently appointed as a non-executive member of the UK Marine Science Coordination Committee (MSCC) ( which aims to coordinate marine science at the UK level. I will be representing social science and geography with the aim of improving integration between the natural and social sciences –an important step change for UK marine science. There is increasing recognition of the value of collaboration between natural and social scientists in addressing the key issues that face the oceans. It is a very exciting time but we have a lot of work to do in building our national capacity. The MSCC is taking this seriously and we hope to deliver a national platform for marine social science.

4. What one question would you like to be asked?  What is the answer to that question?

That’s a good question. How important is engagement and fieldwork in coastal and marine geography? It’s critical and fundamental. Get out and talk to people who live, work and visit the coasts. Collect stories. Understand perspectives and values. Explore the complexity of how maritime sectors are managed ‘on the water’ and how they inter-relate. Speak to communities and facilitate change. Only with a solid grounding in the local and regional context can you hope to drive change at higher scales. Put your feet in the water!