Social Adaptive Capacity in Reef-Proximate Communities: Coupled Natural-Human System Dynamics in Cartagena, Colombia

Human activities are driving coral reef socio-ecological system change worldwide. Although the local impacts of global climate change have received a lot of attention from the academic community, an integrative analysis of other local ecosystem change resulting such as pollution and coastal development on these coupled natural and human reef systems is lacking. The proposed study aims to fill that gap. It is innovative in that it brings together the complementary expertise of junior and senior faculty from three Colleges at Penn State and thus provide outstanding interdisciplinary and mentoring opportunities. The field site encompasses the reefs and associated human settlements along a perturbation gradient that starts in the heavily affected Cartagena Bay. This seed grant will get research underway that is designed to determine how coral reefs and associated communities across the region react to both chronic and acute anthropogenic environmental disturbance historically, in the present, and in the coming years. The following question will be addressed: How have Colombian development policies influenced the ecological resilience and environmental conditions of the coral reef system, and in turn how have those processes influenced the social adaptive capacity of local residents and communities?

Resulting Publications

  • Shantz, A.A., Lopez, T., Gomez-Campo, K., Iglesias-Prieto, R., Medina, M. (Submitted). The declining role of hervibory in structuring a heavily impacted urban coral reef.
  • Lopez, T., Galindo-Martinez, C.T., Gomez-Campo, K., Gonzalez-Guerrero, L.A., Roitman, S., Pollock, F.J., Pizarro, V., Lopez-Victoria, M., Medina, M., Iglesias-Prieto, R. (Accepted). Degradation of the underwater light environment: physiological and ecological consequences for reef corals. Communications Biology (Nature Publishing). 
  • Hunt, C.A. (2021). Narcotourism: A Conceptual Framework and Research Agenda. Tourism Geographies. DOI:

Resulting Presentations

  • Hunt, C.A. 2017. Urchin Ecologies: The Political Ecology of Reef Degradation in Cartagena, Colombia. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropology Association, Washington, DC. 
  • Hunt, C. 2017. Social Adaptive Capacity & Marine Biodiversity Conservation in Cartagena, Colombia. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), Santa Fe, NM. 
  • Hunt, C., & Gorenflo, L.J. 2018. Development and Conservation in Cartagena Bay, Colombia: A PostInfrastructural Political Ecology. Presentation at the Annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference, Lexington, KY. 
  • Hunt, C.A. (2019). The Environmental Anthropology of Narco-Tourism. Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Portland, OR.


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