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). mcginnis_ebook_nz_ocean_governance_victoria_university_wellington_press_2012
The Race for Marine Space: Science, Values and Aquaculture Planning in New Zealand,
Coastal Management 41, 5 (2013): 401-419. mcginnis_and_collins_coastal_management_2013_offprint

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. policyquarterly_feb_2012final

A Bioregional Primer for Santa Barbara County, Funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation, December, 2012. (72 pages). regional_conservation_principles_final_mcginnis_nov201

Mindfulness of the Oceanic Commons, Pacific Ecologist 20 (Winter 2011): 55-60. mcginnis_pacific_ecologist_issue_201

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). ag_report_ucsb

Protecting Climate Refugia Areas: The case of the Gaviota coast in southern California, Endangered Species Update 25, 4 (June 2008): 103-109. esu_vol_25_4

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). 

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

IEPG 8503 - Resrch Strategies for Env Pol      

Environmental policy-making requires high quality research at every stage of the process. This course introduces students to the design and implementation of research, with an emphasis on applied research into contemporary environmental policy problems.

Fall 2014 - MIIS

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IEPG 8506 - Public Policy & the Environmnt      

This two-unit course provides a foundation in the paradigms, principles, and tools that shape public policy in the service of environmental protection and sustainable development. We will first explore the sources and dynamics of public policymaking and the fundamental principles of environmental policy, including sustainability, precaution and cost internalization. We will then examine three policy paradigms: 1) regulatory (command and control); 2) collaborative (stakeholder based); and 3) market-based. For each paradigm, we will consider case studies of global and national policy options for particular environmental problems, including forest degradation and carbon emissions. Examples of policy options include substantive and process standards; taxes; eco-system service payments; public investment; etc. Students will work in a team to produce a policy analysis of a major environmental problem.

Fall 2013 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

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IEPG 8522 - Environmental Ethics      

This course introduces the major themes of environmental ethics. In the face of a generalized claim of environmental crisis, numerous authors and schools of thought have suggested a variety of ethical and political responses. The central focus will be on the various ethical theories that have evolved regarding the relationships between humans and the rest of the natural world, and how technology, a sense of place and community, the science of ecology, diverse natural values, and political institutions have shaped the past and present treatment of the natural world. We will also explore and discuss how these diverse ethical theories and beliefs are articulated in politics today, and will characterize the ecological and social movements that are emerging that reflect these ethical and value orientations.

Spring 2014 - MIIS

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IEPG 8611 - Sustainable Coastal Management      

The coast is the most dynamic landscape on earth. It changes every time a wave breaks, a tide changes, or streams flow. About seventy percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast. This course provides a foundation in the core scientific principles, governance frameworks, and economic challenges and opportunities related to the quest for sustainable coastal management and adaptation. A central theme of the course is the need to assess and respond to coastal climate vulnerability, including via adaptive policy and planning at diverse scales of coastal governance. The case studies in the course encompass both developed and less developed countries, and an emphasis on management of large coastal cities, coastal ecosystems, and other coastal land-uses.

Spring 2014 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

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IEPG 8615 - Intl Watershed Management        

The study of watershed planning is a subject that combines the biophysical and social sciences. It requires that we explore the relationships and linkages between coastal, marine and aquatic habitats and the human activities, such as water use, water pollution, and habitat loss that impact watershed ecosystems. As a consequence, this course will focus on a characterization of the ecology of aquatic ecosystems, and the impacts of human beings and climate change on these ecosystems across diverse cultural contexts. It will include a review of government and non-governmental watershed-based programs and plans that exist in less developed and industrialized countries.

The Course Outline describes the major themes of the course and associated reading assignments (including recommended readings and useful web links), and lecture topics, including case study materials. The goals of this course are: (1) to introduce the ecological factors that influence disturbance of watershed ecosystems; (2) to describe integrative watershed management principles; (3) to review state, federal and international policies and programs that support watershed-based ecosystem management and integrative planning; and, (4) to provide an overview of the major policy initiatives and planning tools that support watershed-based ecosystem management in diverse contexts.

Fall 2013 - MIIS, Spring 2015 - MIIS

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IEPG 8634 - NavigatingWickedMarineProblems      


Commercial shipping is essential to international trade and consumer goods. Container ships use vessel traffic schemes (VTS) that often overlap with important marine areas, creating unintended pressures and associated impacts to marine ecosystems, including whales. In particular, ship strikes are a threat to endangered blue, right, humpback, and fin whales, and ship noise can affect important mating and feeding behavior of whales as well as other marine life. This course will use this case study to help students identify the threats, pressures, and policy responses of a complex, or “wicked,” ocean-based problem. In projects teams, students will complete a Pressure State Response analysis of the problem, with the goal of developing practical and professional skills necessary to participate in complex marine planning and decision-making in their post-graduate careers. Students will also gain exposure to and an opportunity to network with experts in the field through many invited speaker presentations and panel discussions. To enhance collaborative interdisciplinary problem-solving opportunities, this course will take place at a variety of locations in the Monterey Bay region, and include interdisciplinary students from multiple campuses.

Spring 2015 - MIIS

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IEPG 8635 - Intl Marine Science & Policy      

The study of marine science and policy is a subject that combines the biophysical and social sciences with a comprehensive overview of marine policies, laws, and planning tools. It requires that we explore the relationships and nexus between science, policy and planning across diverse maritime cultures. The course will first provide a general overview of marine science, with a particular focus on the role of marine science in identifying pressures, threats and stressors to marine systems. The emphasis will be on the various factors that contribute to marine ecosystem disturbance and the role of marine science in policymaking and planning. The introduction to marine science will be followed by a general overview of state and federal marine policy and management. The US marine policy framework will be compared to international examples of ocean governance, including small island countries, New Zealand, England, the European Union, China, and less developed countries.

Fall 2013 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

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