Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Michael Vincent McGinnis

Associate Professor

I am passionate about forging a more sustainable future that includes the protection of diverse maritime cultures and the ecosystems that we are irrevocably connected to and dependent on.

What excites me about being a professor at MIIS is teaching graduate level students who have diverse interests and backgrounds, and who are committed to addressing the major challenges that human society faces today. I look forward to the opportunity to learn from students, and to collaborate with faculty at MIIS.


Marine Policy, Climate Change, and Water/Watershed Planning

Research and Publications

Mike is interested in the interface between science and policymaking.  He has fifteen years of professional and academic experience in the area of large-scale environmental policymaking and planning in diverse cultural and socio-economic settings.

He has published over 100 journal articles, essays, books, government reports and technical documents on the subject of large-scale ecosystem-based planning and biodiversity conservation, with a focus on oceans, rivers, creeks, and islands. His edited compendium Bioregionalism (Routledge, 1999) is the primary text in the field.  He has also contributed to federal and state policymaking and planning activities for marine sanctuary management plans and watershed-based plans across coastal California.

From 1993-2000 his research, funded by three awards from the USA National Science Foundation, focused on the role of worldviews, values, beliefs and science in the development of ecosystem-based planning. From 1999-2008 he was an advisor to federal agencies in the development of marine ecosystem-based planning in California. During this time, he assisted the National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) Program in all of the planning aspects associated with the designation of marine reserves within the Channel Islands NMS. In 2008 he was a Fulbright Scholar in south-eastern Europe, and conducted a comparative study of marine governance supported by the European Union. In April 2012, he completed a two-year study on New Zealand's marine governance framework funded by the ministries of that country. McGinnis is currently completing two books on the subject of the role of ecology and politics in large-scale ecosystem-based planning and decision-making.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Mike was one of the first Fulbright Scholars to the Republic of Montenegro in southeastern Europe in 2008.
  • As a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Wellington New Zealand he has completed a comprehensive study of New Zealand’s marine governance framework in 2011; a study supported by the ministries of the country that offers a range of recommendations to improve New Zealand’s marine governance system.  This study will be revised as a major book on the subject of New Zealand’s environmental governance system.

Previous Work

Mike was Director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center at the University of California Santa Barbara from 1995-2010. In 2008, he was a Fulbright Scholar to the Republic of Montenegro. From 2010-2012 he was a Senior Fellow and Professor at the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). He has published over 100 journal articles, essays, books, government reports and technical documents on the subject of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem-based planning.

Non-academic Interests

Mike has surfed since he was seven years old, and is enjoys hiking, sailing, and other ocean-going and backcountry wilderness activities. He also in a painter and has been writing a series of vignettes and poems on the landscapes and seascapes of coastal California.


Dr Michael Vincent McGinnis received a PhD in Political Science in 1993 from UC Santa Barbara. His undergraduate degree was from UC Los Angeles.


Book, Marine Governance: The New Zealand Dimension. Victoria University Wellington Press. 2012 (December). (150 pages).

The Race for Marine Space: Science, Values and Aquaculture Planning in New Zealand,
Coastal Management 41, 5 (2013): 401-419.

Adapting to Climate Impacts in California: The Importance of Civic Science in Local Coastal Planning, Coastal Management 39: 3 (April 2011): 225-241 (with C.E. McGinnis).

Living up to the Brand: Greening New Zealand’s Ocean Policy, Policy Quarterly 8, 1 (February 2012): 17-28.

A Bioregional Primer for Santa Barbara County, Funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation, December, 2012. (72 pages).

Mindfulness of the Oceanic Commons, Pacific Ecologist 20 (Winter 2011): 55-60.

Land Use, Agriculture, and the Environment, The 2010 Central Coast Survey, UC Santa Barbara, Published by Social Science Survey Center/Benton Survey Research Lab. 2010 (with Cleveland, David, Paolo Gardinali, Garrett Glasgow, John Mohr,
Eric Smith, Megan Carney, and Lauren Copeland).

Protecting Climate Refugia Areas: The case of the Gaviota coast in southern California, Endangered Species Update 25, 4 (June 2008): 103-109.

Negotiating Ecology: Marine Bioregions and the destruction of the Southern California Bight, Futures 38;3 (May 2006): 382-405.

The California Watershed Movement: Science and the Politics of Place. Natural Resources Journal 42, 1 (Winter 2002): 133-183 (with Woolley).

Bioregional Conflict Resolution: Rebuilding Community in Watershed-based Planning and Organizing, Environmental Management 24, 1 (1999): 1-12 (with Woolley and J.K. Gamman).

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