holly niner

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Environmental governance, particularly relating to how norms and knowledge influence policy and practice. Transdisciplinary research practice.

AFFILIATION: University of Plymouth (UK)

My research focusses on how knowledge and social norms influence ocean policy and its implementation and vice versa, and what is needed to achieve sustainable and equitable governance. I am particularly interested in the integration of unquantified and highly uncertain knowledge into environmental decision-making.


The biggest impact from our work was the integration of a need for SEA within decision-making processes made under the BBNJ. This builds on our research focussing on the integration of ecosystem services into the governance of regions beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) and the need to ensure that governance considers the full suite of impacts or human pressures on biodiversity (and ecosystem services) at appropriate temporal and spatial scales.

I would anticipate that my research undertaken as part of the One Ocean Hub will continue to support the integration of equity considerations (e.g. unquantified descriptions of human-ocean connection) into governance and decision-making.

Making waves

I led the first Climate Classroom dedicated to the Ocean at Climate COP28. This well-attended session included an introduction to how the ocean, particularly ocean health, is related to climate change, the critical relationship between people and the ocean (and climate) and current progress/future priorities for ocean governance. 

I was invited to participate in a panel event discussing the human rights implications of an emerging deep seabed mining industry. The event was held on the 28 March 2024, and convened by the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Morocco, Panama, Samoa and Switzerland, organised with the Dona Bertarelli Philanthropy foundation, IUCN, the OHCHR, and the One Ocean Hub to be held on the side-lines of the Human Rights Council meeting at the Palais des Nations, Geneva – find out more >>

I led and contributed to several online events:

Webinar (Led)

  • June ’21 World Ocean Week, Inclusive ocean conservation: innovations in Marine Spatial Planning for a blue economy – watch video here >>
  • June ’20 World Ocean Week, Blue Economy: Global trends, local challenges and international investment – Transdisciplinary to the rescue – watch video here >>
  • April ’21 UN Nippon Fellow network – Challenges in data collection, access and use (expert moderator)

Webinar (contributed)

  • June ’20 – UN Nippon Fellows network – Unpacking social sciences
  • Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
  • June ’20- May ’21 – University of Seychelles and Commonwealth of Learning – Blue Economy (Learning facilitator and content provider)
Recent publicationS

Niner, H. J., Wilson, D., Hoareau, K., Strand, M., Whittingham, J., McGarry, D., Erinosho, B., Ibrahim, S., Tshiningayamwe, S., Febrica, S., Lancaster, A. M. S. N., & Prokic, M. (2024). Reflections on the past, present, and potential futures of knowledge hierarchies in ocean biodiversity governance research [Policy and Practice Reviews]. Frontiers in Marine Science, 11read here >>

Niner, H. J., Rees, S. E., La Bianca, G., McQuaid, K. A., & Howell, K. L. (2024). A risk assessment for the remote ocean: the case of the South East Atlantic. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10read here >>

holly on leadership

The One Ocean Hub has supported my leadership through the opportunities to lead research collaborations with others across various disciplines and career levels (from early career to established academic rock stars). These collaborations have been extremely influential on my thinking and the way that I now approach my research. Other opportunities to lead, develop, coordinate, and facilitate online events such as those for World Oceans Week, have pushed me outside of my comfort zone in terms of the questions addressed and putting me and my ideas into the ether.

holly’s advice to fellow Early-career researCheRs

My advice for fellow early-career researchers on a global development project would be to critically appraise a project, its positionality, objectives, and methods, and to challenge these if needed to ensure that the beneficiaries of the research (both practice and outcomes) are fair (and available) to all those affected. To this end, I would take the same approach to my own work and actively consider how you may most usefully and meaningfully assist the development aims of partners and the project. 

Read Holly’s Spotlight interview here >>

Artwork: Margherita Brunori