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Professor Shankar Aswani

Contact Details

Tel: +27 (0) 46 603 8231


BS Anthropology and Marine Affairs/Science (University of Miami, Florida, USA)
MA Anthropology, PhD Anthropology (University of Hawaii)


Professor Aswani (Ph.D. 1997, U of Hawaii) comes to Rhodes University from the Department of Anthropology and the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Sciences at the University of California in Santa Barbara, USA. His expertise is in the human dimensions of tropical coastal and marine resource use sustainability, conservation, development, and policy, with particular attention to the intersection between human ecology, marine science, and conservation biology.

Fields of specialisation include coastal management and sustainability, vulnerability and resilience analysis to climate and environmental change, GIS and marine spatial planning, indigenous knowledge systems-ethnobiology, human behavioral ecology, economic anthropology, political and historical ecology, ethnohistory, eco-tourism, development social science, and qualitative and
quantitative research methods in general.

Aswani has conducted research in the Western Solomons Islands since 1992 particularly in the Roviana and Vonavona region, and more recently in the Vella Lavella, Rendova, and Marovo areas. His projects have focused on a diversity of subjects including property rights and common property resources, marine indigenous environmental knowledge, and vulnerability and resilience of coastal communities among other subjects. He also has developed a network of locally managed Marine Protected Areas (30 MPAs) and small-scale rural development projects in the Roviana, Vonavona, and Marovo Lagoons with funds provided by the MacArthur and Packard Foundations, CI, NSF, and Pew, among others.

He heads a program named the Western Solomons Conservation Program (WSCP), which is still growing and expanding across the region. As a result of this effort, a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation was awarded to Aswani in 2005, the first time in its 15-year history that the world’s premier award in marine conservation has been given to an anthropologist. He is also involved in archaeological/historical ecology projects in the Solomon Islands and more recently in a project sponsored by the National Geographic Society in the Marquesas, French Polynesia. Also, he developed a field school program on ecological anthropology and marine science in the Western Solomons.

His publications include articles in the journals Ambio, American Anthropologist, Aquatic Conservation, Asian Perspectives, Biological Conservation, Conservation Biology, Current Anthropology, Coastal Management, Coral Reefs, Environmental Conservation, Human Ecology,
Human Organization, Global Environmental Change, Ocean and Coastal Management, and Science among others.

In recent years Aswani and his research team have studied the effects of the 2007 Western Solomons Tsunami on coastal communities as well as ongoing ecological and social changes caused by global climate change. Working with other colleagues at DIFS, Professor Aswani is now developing similar projects in South Africa as well as in other coastal communities in East and West Africa.

Research Projects (selected)

Building Socio-Ecological Resilience to Climate Change in the Western
Solomon Islands (2011-2013)

Understanding Socio-ecological Impacts and Responses to Large Scale
Environmental Disturbance in the Western Solomon Islands (2008-2011)

Rural Development and Community-Based Resource Management in the
Solomon Islands (1999-present)

Integrating Social and Natural Science for Designing and Implementing
a Marine Protected Area Network in the Western Solomon Islands (2003-present)



Vaccaro, I, Smith E.A., and Aswani S. (Eds.). 2010. Society and
Environment: Methods and Research Design. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Aswani, S. 2000. Headhunting in the Western Solomon Islands. Guest
editor, Shankar Aswani. Journal of the Polynesian Society 109 (1).

Recent Articles (peer-reviewed)

Aswani, S. In press. Customary management as TURFs: social challenges and opportunities. Bulletin of Marine Science

Albert, S., Aswani, S., Fisher, P. L., Albert, J. 2015. Keeping food on the table: Human responses and changing coastal fisheries in Solomon Islands. PLoSONE DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0130800

Aswani, S., I. Vaccaro, K. Abernethy, S. Albert and J. Fernandez.
2015. Can local perceptions of environmental and climate change in island communities assist in adaptation planning. Environmental Management.  DOI 10.1007/s00267-015-0572-3

Aswani, S, Mumby, P. J., Baker, A. C., Christie, P., McCook, L. J., Steneck, R. S., and Richmond, R. H. 2015. Scientific frontiers for the management of coral reefs. Frontiers in Marine Science 2:50. DOI:

Aswani, S, Diedrich, A. and Currier, K. 2015. Planning for the future:
Mapping anticipated environmental and social impacts in a nascent tourism destination. Society and Natural Resources. DOI:

Aswani, S, C. Flores, and B. Broitman. 2015. Human harvesting impacts on managed areas: Ecological effects of socially-compatible shellfish reserves. Review of Fish Biology and Fisheries 25: 217–230. DOI:

Aswani, S and Lauer, M. 2014. Indigenous people’s detection of rapid
ecological change. Conservation Biology 28: 820–828.

Olds, A., Connolly, R.M. Pitti, K. A, Maxwell, P.S., Aswani, S. and
Albert, S. 2014 Incorporating seascape species and connectivity to
improve marine conservation outcomes. Conservation Biology DOI:

Albert, S., Abernethy, K.E., Gibbes, B., Grinham, A., Tooler, N. and
Aswani, S. 2013. Cost-effective methods for accurate determination of
sea level rise vulnerability: A Solomon Islands example. Weather,
Climate and Society 5:285–292.

Aswani, S. Gurney, G.G., Mulville, S., Matera, J., and Gurven, M.
2013. Insights from experimental economics on local cooperation in
small-scale fisheries management. Global Environmental Change

Mills, M., Presseya, R. Ban, N. C., Foale, S., Knight, A. T., Aswani,
S. 2013. First steps to planning with opportunity: Defining
conservation opportunity in a common pool marine resource governance
system. Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/conl.12025

Halpern, B. S, Selkoe, K. A., White, C., Albert, S., Aswani, S., and
Lauer, M. 2013. Marine protected areas and resilience to land-based stressors in the
Solomon Islands. Coral Reefs 32:61–69.

Lauer, M., Albert, S., Aswani, S, Halpern, B. S., Campanella, L, and
La Rose, D. 2013. Pacific islands and the paradox of resilience:
Large-scale processes and local practices enhance and reduce
resilience to ecological disturbances. Global Environmental Change

Aswani, S., and Ruddle, K. 2013. The design of realistic hybrid marine resource management programs in Oceania. Pacific Science 67:461–476.

Articles/Book Chapters/Other (non-peer or editor reviewed)

Aswani, S. In press. Coral Reef Ethnobiology and Artisanal Fishing in
the Western Solomon Islands. In Ethnobiology of Coral. N. M. Narchi
and L.L. Price (eds). Springer Ethnobiology Series

Kittinger, J. N., J. E. Cinner, S. Aswani, and A. T. White. In press.
Back to the past? Integrating Customary Practices and Institutions
into Co-Management of Small-Scale Fisheries. In Applying Marine
Historical Ecology to Conservation and Management. J. N. Kittinger, L.
E. McClenachan, K. B. Gedan, and L. K. Blight (eds). Berkeley: UC Press

Furusawa, T, and S. Aswani. 2011. Well-nourished Women in a Solomon
Islands Society with a Biased Sex Ratio. Pacific Health Dialog 17:

Aswani, S. 2008. Forms of Leadership and Violence in Malaita and in
the New Georgia Group, Solomon Islands. In Exchange and Sacrifice.
Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern, Eds., pp 171_193, Carolina
Academic Press: Durham, North Carolina.

Weiant, P. and S. Aswani. 2006. Early Effects of a Community-based
Marine Protected Areas on Participating Households’ Food Security
Traditional Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Information
Bulletin 19: 16_31.

Aswani, S., and R. Hamilton. 2004. The Value of Many Small vs. Few
Large Marine Protected Areas in the Western Solomons. Traditional
Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Information Bulletin 16: 3_14.

Aswani, S., and P. Weiant. 2003. Shellfish Monitoring and Women’s
Participatory Management in Roviana, Solomon Islands. SPC Women in
Fisheries Information Bulletin 12: 3_11.

Sheppard, P., S. Aswani, R. Walter, and T. Nagaoka. 2002. Cultural
Sediment: The Nature of a Cultural Landscape in Roviana Lagoon. In:
Pacific Landscapes: Archaeological Approaches in Oceania. T. Ladefoged
and M. Graves (eds.), pp. 37_61. Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation.

Aswani, S. 1998. The Use of Optimal Foraging Theory to Assess the
Fishing Strategies of Pacific Island Artisanal Fishers: A
Methodological Review. Traditional Marine Resource Management and
Knowledge Information Bulletin 9: 21_26.

Aswani, S. 1997. Troubled Waters in South-western New Georgia, Solomon
Islands. Is Codification of the Commons a Viable Avenue for Resource
Use Regularisation? Traditional Marine Resource Management and
Knowledge Information Bulletin. South Pacific Commission. Nouméa, New
Caledonia 8: 2_16.

Aswani, S. 1997. Customary Sea Tenure and Artisanal Fishing in the
Roviana and Vonavona Lagoons: Solomon Islands. The Evolutionary
Ecology of Marine Resource Utilization. Unpublished University of
Hawaii Ph.D. dissertation.

Short Articles/Reviews/Comments (peer and non-peer reviewed)

Aswani, S. 2011. Traditional Communities More Resilient to
Environmental Catastrophe than Urbanized Ones. NSF Highlight

Aswani, S. 2010. Review of “How does the accuracy of fisher knowledge
affect seahorse conservation status?' by K.P. O'Donnell et al. Animal
Conservation: doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.

Aswani, S. 2010.  Review of “Modern Crises and Traditional Strategies:
Local Ecological knowledge in Island Southeast Asia” (R. Ellen, ed.).
Anthropos 105 (2):

Aswani, S. 2009. Integrating Customary Tenure Systems in Marine
Protected Areas: A Solomon  Islands Example. Biocultural Diversity
Conservation (A Community Practice)- Terralingua:

Barbier E. B., E W. Koch, B. R. Silliman, S. D. Hacker, E. Wolanski,
J. Primavera, E. Granek, S. Polasky, S. Aswani, L. A. Cramer, D.
Stoms, C. Kennedy, D. Bael, C. Kappel, G. M. E. Perillo and D. J.
Reed. 2008. Ecological Quality Changes Precede Changes in Quantity in
Mangrove Forests - Response. Science:

Aswani, S. 2003. Solomon Islands: The Roviana and Vonavona Marine
Resource Management Project. CBNRM Net Newsletter 23: 21_22.

Aswani, S. 2002. Commentary on the Vines of Complexity: Egalitarian
Structures and the Institutionalization of Inequality among the Enga,
by Polly Wiessner. Current Anthropology 43 (2): 252_253.

Aswani, S. 2002. The Roviana and Vonavona Projects. Anthropology News
43 (7): 40_41.

Aswani, S. 2000.  Book Review of Pacific Development Sustained: Policy
for Pacific Environments (C. Hunt), and Strategies for Sustainable
Development: Experiences from the Pacific. (J. Overtone and R.
Scheyvens, eds.). Journal of Polynesian Society 110: 427_30.

Video Production

Aswani, S and J. Haas. 2005. The Christian Fellowship Church One
Hundredth Year Commemorative Celebration of the Arrival of Methodism
to the Western Solomon Islands, June 2004. Santa Barbara, CA: UCSB and
Ethnovideo Productions.

Haas, J and S. Aswani. 2006. The Roviana Conservation Day, Nusa Hope
July 13th 2005.Santa Barbara, CA: UCSB and Ethnovideo Productions.


Last Modified: Mon, 02 Oct 2017 22:06:40 SAST