Tiffany Smythe

Tiffany Smythe is a Ph.D. Candidate in Marine Affairs, working with Dr. Robert Thompson. Smythe’s professional and academic expertise is in ocean and coastal planning and policy. Her research interests include coastal ecosystem-based management, marine spatial planning, offshore renewable energy development, sustainable coastal land use, and working waterfronts. Her dissertation is exploring the capacity of coastal management practitioners to develop and implement ecosystem-based management plans. The ecosystem-based management approach is widely recommended by scholars and theorists, yet relatively little research has been done to date to examine whether and how street-level bureaucrats and other practitioners apply this approach. This interdisciplinary dissertation draws upon methods commonly used in anthropology, sociology, and political and organizational science to study coastal management practitioners who have been involved in developing the Greenwich Bay Special Area Management Plan in Rhode Island and the Great South Bay Ecosystem-Based Management Plan in Long Island, New York. A mental models approach is used to assess coastal managers’ ways of thinking about coastal ecosystems and coastal ecosystem-based management, and social network analysis is used to determine whether and how practitioners collaborate across disciplines and jurisdictions to develop and implement coastal ecosystem-based management plans. This study will conclude with observations about how practitioners think about and apply this management approach, as well as recommendations to improve practitioners’ capacity to effectively develop and implement coastal ecosystem-based management plans.

While working on her Ph.D., Smythe has also worked as a coastal manager with the URI Coastal Resources Center and RI Sea Grant. As a member of the CRC/Sea Grant team, she co-authored the RI Ocean Special Area Management Plan, one of the nation’s first ecosystem-based marine spatial plans to guide the siting of offshore renewable energy, and co-led the teams who managed the stakeholder process and developed the fisheries, marine transportation, and recreation and tourism components of the plan. Prior to URI, Smythe worked for 10 years as a professional teacher, trainer, and mariner aboard sail training ships, during which time she earned a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license and New York State teacher certification. Smythe has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University as well as a master’s degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. As a doctoral student at URI, Smythe has been the recipient of a Coastal Institute Graduate Fellowship, a National Science Foundation-funded Coastal Institute IGERT Project Fellowship, and graduate student awards from organizations including the Rhode Island chapter of the American Planning Association, the Propeller Club of Narragansett Bay, and the Women’s Transportation Seminar.