United Nations
Biogeography, Conservation and Modeling Laboratory
by Arizona State University (Academic institution)
The research of my lab involves using modeling and remote sensing in support of living marine resource management. Specifically, we develop spatially explicit, agent-based models, which couple the human and natural components of fishery systems. We use these modeling tools to determine optimal fishery policies that balance sustainable human use of fisheries resources and other marine ecosystem services, with economic and nutritional needs. In addition, we use tools such as remote sensing, geographic information systems, and mapping to characterize the spatial distributions of living marine resources (fish and coral reefs), and understand how these resources are distributed in space and time.

Current projects include the development of an agent-based model of the Gulf of Mexico in the United States to understand the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the fishing industry, fishing communities, and fish population dynamics. The model will also evaluate the effectiveness of the response to the spill and will explore whether alternative approaches could have been more efficient and effective. Additionally, this model has been used to determine and quantify how human behavior interacts with fish population dynamics, and the ways that human behavior may bias the assessment of fish populations.

We are also developing another spatially explicit, generic agent-based model tool which will be used by managers to test the effectiveness of different fisheries policies, or policy combinations, on achieving sustainable harvest levels. Oftentimes, managers are not sure how both fishers and fish populations will respond to regulatory measures they propose or implement; this is typically due to the complex nonlinearities in coupled human-natural fisheries systems.

This tool, analogous to a flight simulator, will allow managers to test the response of both fish populations and fishers to different proposed management measures, to determine the most effective strategy to employ, and avoid unexpected outcomes. This work is currently being deployed across different fishery archetypes, with the model being used in the Indonesia small-scale reef fish fishery, U.S. Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery, and U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery. Work has also been done in the Kingdom of Tonga to collect data on fisher decision-making, in order to implement the model in this fishery.

Additional work conducted by my lab involves mapping coral reef resources, and their associated fish species, to provide Small Island Developing States with maps of their submerged resources they can use for marine spatial planning at no cost. This work was conducted in conjunction with the Khalid bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation as part of Global Reef Expedition a global field campaign which measured coral reef resilience in various locations around the globe.

Thus, the work that my lab does directly supports Sustainable Development Goal targets 14.4, to regulate harvesting and end overfishing by implementing science-based management plans, and 14.7, to increase economic benefits to Small Island developing States through interdisciplinary research and outreach to foster community empowerment for fisheries management. My research also supports Sustainable Development goals one and two, to end poverty and achieve food security.
Progress reports
September 2018
Release of version 1.0, POSEIDON agent-based fisheries model for policy simulation
September 2018
Application of agent-based modeling to small-scale Indonesia snapper-grouper fishery
September 2019
Release of Gulf of Mexico agent-based fisheries model
September 2020
Application of agent-based model to Kingdom of Tonga reef fish fishery
Financing (in USD)
967,226 USD
Basic information
Time-frame: May 2017 - December 2020
Arizona State University (academic)
Ocean Basins
  • North Atlantic
  • South Pacific
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Contact information
Steven Saul, Dr., steven.saul@asu.edu, 786-423-7625
Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Other SDGs
United Nations