Tracy Van Holt
Assistant Professor
Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Geography
East Carolina University

I’m interested in natural resource use and adaptation to environmental change as it relates to geospatial patterns, successful enterprises, and conflict. With formal training in social science, ecology, geography, and biochemistry, I embrace methods from multiple disciplines. My research is fieldwork intensive and has focused in developing regions (internationally and within the US) in tropical and temperate systems as well as wetland and coastal environments. Paramount toward an understanding how people respond to environmental change, however, is collecting social data at multiple spatial and temporal scales—even in places where it is inconvenient or unsafe to be and this has lead me to work on mining available datasets online.


Fisher Adaptation to Land-Sea Dynamics

Fishers have always had to switch strategies in response to their fluctuating environment. Increasingly, however, adaption to the environment in coastal systems is shifting in scope and nature. Examples of these changes include climate-induced sea level rise and increasing intensity of storms, increasing population densities and/or pressure on marine resources, and effects of land use/cover change on nearshore resources. In Chile, the quality and marketability of benthic resources has decreased in areas with extensive tree plantations in nearby watersheds, resulting in a greater flow of nutrients into the nearshore. I show how changes associated with plantations, combined with recent fishery regulations and management intended to conserve resources, have limited the opportunities for fishers to adapt in the fisheries. However, these limitations have helped motivate them to seek out new sustainable seafood markets and make the most of their catches. My research uses terrestrial and marine satellite image analysis, interviews and ecological surveys to create interdisciplinary models of human-environment interactions.  I link individuals’ perceptions and behavior to larger scale, spatially explicit data to show how terrestrial activities have contributed to transform fisher behavior.