Aaron Macneil

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Tier II CRC Chair in Fisheries Ecology
BSc: Dalhousie University (2001)
MSc: University of Georgia, USA (2004)
PhD: Newcastle University, UK (2007)
NRC (USA) Postdoctoral Fellow, NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Panama City Beach FL

  • Teaching & Research
  • Students' Research Topics
  • Publications
  • Teaching & Research

    Fisheries, Conservaton, Statistics, Social-ecological systems


    Background: Widespread overfishing has depleted fish stocks globally, in part due to a lag between technological change and stock assessments, and ignorance of the wider social-ecological system within which fisheries occur. These twin problems are no more pronounced than in Atlantic Canada, where the collapse of the historic cod fishery in the early 1990’s led to profound impacts on coastal communities throughout the region. Given this cautionary tale of resource mis-management, the goal of my research program is to help resolve fisheries management and conservation problems through the use of statistical models, often embedded within social-ecological systems.

    Goals: The objectives of my research are to (1) improve fisheries management through better understanding of baselines, disturbance effects, and recovery of fish populations and communities; (2) quantify socio-cultural, ecological, and economic dimensions of fisheries sustainability; and (3) develop conservation solutions relevant to problems facing small-scale fishery stakeholders.

    Techniques: The vast majority of my research uses Bayesian statistical models to examine assumptions about how the world works, typically through analysis of observational data. This approach allows me to consider multiple processes and how they might impact a given fishery, at varying scales of space and time, and provides an explicit and coherent representation of a given problem under study. The great advantage of Bayesian methods is that they are practical and flexible, able to address a wide-range of conservation and management problems that are important for decision making. I also utilize techniques from the field of structured decision making to help frame research questions, stakeholder objectives, and management alternatives, all in an effort to make the best fisheries management decisions for fish and the people that catch them.

    Examples of Student Research Topics
    • Studying the potential for sustainable tropical shark fisheries around the world
    • Valuing the socio-cultural and economic contributions of Great Lakes recreational fisheries
    • Understanding determinants of livelihood success in small-scale fisheries
    • Examining governance history effects on ecological outcomes


    Selected Publications

    MacNeil, M.A., Chong-Seng, K.M., Pratchett, D.J., Thompson, C., Messmer, V., Pratchett, M.S.
    2017. Age and growth of an outbreaking Acanthaster cf. solaris population on the Great Barrier
    Reef. Diversity 9.1: 18.

    MacNeil, M.A., Mellin, C., Pratchett, M., Hoey, J., et al.. 2016. Joint estimation of crown of
    thorns (Acanthaster plancii) densities on the Great Barrier Reef. PeerJ 4:e2310; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2310.
    Cinner, J.E., Hutchery, C., MacNeil, M.A., Graham, N.A.J., McClanahan, T.R. et al. 2016.
    Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs. Nature, 535(7612), 416-419.

    Mellin C., MacNeil, M.A., Cheal A.J., Emslie, M.J., Caley, M.J. 2016. Marine protected areas
    increase resilience among coral reef communities. Ecology Letters 19(6): 629-637.

    MacNeil, M.A., Graham, N.A.J., Cinner, J.E., Wilson, S.K., Williams, I.D., Maina, J., Newman,
    S., Friedlander, A.M., Jupiter, S., Polunin, N.V.C., McClanahan, T.R. 2015. Recovery potential of
    the world’s coral reef fishes. Nature 520:341-344.

    Graham, N.A.J., Jennings, S., MacNeil, M.A., Mouillot, D., Wilson, S.K. 2015. Predicting
    climate driven regime shifts versus rebound potential in coral reefs. Nature 518:94-97.