Our Scientists

Michael W. Beck

Michael W. Beck

Lead Scientist, Global Marine Team

Michael W. Beck is the lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy. He is also a research associate at the Institute for Marine Science and has an adjunct appointment in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Beck works on the interface between marine science and policy on marine spatial planning, habitat restoration, and coral reef conservation in temperate and tropical regions. His work increasingly focuses on developing decision support approaches to build coastal resilience and on the links between disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation, and environmental restoration.

Beck serves on an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences (Marine Hydrokinetic Energy) and on NOAA’s Science Advisory Board (Ecosystem Science and Management work group). He was a Fulbright Fellow and an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney. He was awarded a 2012 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to promote green infrastructure as a strategy for adapting to climate change and to support ecosystem recovery to help make communities less vulnerable to current coastal hazards. 

His main areas of work include:

  1. coastal hazards mitigation and climate adaptation in the U.S., Caribbean and Micronesia;
  2. habitat restoration and oyster reefs at risk; and
  3. marine spatial planning in the U.S. and internationally;
  4. restoration investments following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill;
  5. continued work on the nursery role of near-shore habitats such as kelp forests and on marine conservation agreements, including the lease and ownership of submerged lands.

Mike has published numerous scientific papers and books. (See the publications tab for a list of his latest papers.) Read some of his recent popular writing here:


Fellowships and Advisory Commissions

Advisory Committees
  • 2010-2012 National Research Council Committee. Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Assessment
  • 2009-2014 NOAA Science Advisory Committee- Ecosystem Science and Management Working Group
  • 2004 Marine Reserves & Fisheries Management: Scientific Consensus Panel Member



Coastal Resilience, Hazards and Climate Adaptation

World Risk Report 2012
Beck, M. W., C. Shepard. 2012. Coastal habitats and risk reduction. In Mucke, P. World Risk Report 2012. Alliance Development Works, Berlin.

Welle, T., M. W. Beck, P. Mucke. 2012. Environmental degradation as a risk factor and environmental destruction caused by disasters. In Mucke, P. World Risk Report 2012. Alliance Development Works, Berlin.

Ferdaña, Z., S. Newkirk, A.W. Whelchel, B. Gilmer, M.W. Beck. Building Interactive Decision Support to Meet Management Objectives for Coastal Conservation and Hazard Mitigation on Long Island, New York, USA, in Andrade Pérez, A., Herrera Fernandez, B. and Cazzolla Gatti, R. (eds.) (2010). Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based adaptation and lessons from the field. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. 72-87.

Spalding, M. D., S. Ruffo, C. Lacambra, I. Meliane, L. Z. Hale, C. C. Shepard, M. W. Beck. In press. The role of ecosystems in coastal protection: adapting to climate change and coastal hazards. Ocean & Coastal Management.

Shepard, C., V. N. Agostini, B. Gilmer, T. Allen, J. Stone, W. Brooks, M. W. Beck. 2011. Assessing future risk: quantifying the effects of sea level rise on storm surge risk for the southern shores of Long Island, New York. Natural Hazards. DOI: 10.1007/s11069-011-0046-8.

M. W. Beck, B. Gilmer, A. W. Whelchel, Z. Ferdaña, J. Stone, G. Raber, C. Shepard and I. Meliane. In press 2012. Using interactive decision support to integrate coastal hazard mitigation and ecosystem services in Long Island Sound, New York and Connecticut USA. In Renaud, F. (Ed). Linkages between Ecosystems, Livelihoods and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNU Press, Bonn.

Spalding, M. D., S. Ruffo, C. Lacambra, I. Meliane, L. Z. Hale, C. C. Shepard, M. W. Beck. In press. The role of ecosystems in coastal protection: adapting to climate change and coastal hazards. Ocean & Coastal Management.

Hale, L. Z., S Newkirk, M. Beck. 2011. Helping coastal communities adapt to climate change. Solutions 1:84-85.

Shepard, C., Crain, C., Beck, M.W. 2011. The protective role of coastal marshes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS ONE 6(11): e27374.

Hale, L. Z., Meliane, I., Davidson, S., Sandwith, T., Beck, M. W., Hoekstra, J., Spalding, M., Murawski, S., Cyr, N., Osgood, K., Hatziolos, M., Van Eijk, P., Davidson, N., Eichbaum, W., Dreus, C., Obura, D., Tamelander, J., Herr, D., McClennen, C., Marshall, P. 2009. Ecosystem-based adaptation in marine and coastal ecosystems. Renewable Resources Journal 25:21-28.

Airoldi L., Abbiati M., Beck M. W., Hawkins S.J., Jonsson P.R., Martin D., Moschella P. S., Sundelöf A., Thompson R. C., Åberg P. 2005. An ecological perspective on the deployment and design of low- crested and other hard coastal defence structures. Coastal Engineering 52: 1073– 1087.

Habitat Restoration and Conservation

Beck, M. W., R. D. Brumbaugh, L. Airoldi, L. D. Coen, C. Crawford, O. Defeo, G. J. Edgar, B. Hancock, M. Kay, H. Lenihan, M. W. Luckenbach, C. L. Toropova, G. Zhang, X. Guo. 2011. Oyster reefs at risk and recommendations for conservation, restoration and management. Bioscience 61(2):107-116.

Jacobsen, R. and M. Beck. 2010. Where oysters grew on trees. New York Times (July 24):WK10.

Airoldi, L., Connell, S. D., and Beck, M. W. 2009. The loss of natural habitats and the addition of artificial substrata pp. 269-280 in M. Wahl (ed.), Marine Hard Bottom Communities. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Carranza, A., Defeo, O., Beck, M. W. 2009. Diversity, conservation status and threats for native oysters (Ostreidae) in the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts of South America. Aquatic Conservation 19:344-353.

Carranza, A., Defeo, O., Beck, M. W., Castilla, J. C. 2009. Linking fisheries management and conservation in bioengineering species: the case of South American mussels (Mytilidae). Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 19: 349-366.

Guidetti, P., M.W. Beck, S. Bussotti, A. Ciccolella, P. D’Ambrosio, G. Lembo, M.T. Spedicato, F. Boero. 2009. Nursery habitats for Mediterranean coastal fishes: the need for a quantitative approach. Biol. Mar. Mediterr. 16: 197-200.

Airoldi, L., Balata, D., Beck, M. W. 2008. The Gray Zone: relationships between habitat loss and marine diversity and their applications in conservation. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 366: 8-15.

Airoldi, L, Beck, M. W. 2007. Loss, status, and trends for coastal marine habitats of Europe. Annual Review of Marine Biology and Oceanography 45:347-407.

Beck, M. W., T. D. Marsh, S. E. Reisewitz, M. Bortman. 2004. New tools for marine conservation: the leasing and ownership of submerged lands. Conservation Biology 18:1214–1223.

Beck, M. W., Heck, K. L. Jr. , Able, K. W., Childers, D. L., Eggleston, D. B., Gillanders, B. M., Halpern, B., Hays, C. G., Hoshino, K., Minello, T. J., Orth, R. J. Sheridan, P. F., Weinstein, M. P. 2001. The identification, conservation and management of estuarine and marine nurseries for fish and invertebrates. Bioscience 51:633-641.

Marine Spatial Planning

Kim, C-K, J. Toft, M. Papenfus, G. Verutes, A. Guerry, M. Ruckelshaus, K. Arkema, G. Guannel, S. Wood, J. Bernhardt, H. Tallis, M. Plummer, B. Halpern; M. Pinsky, M. W. Beck, F. Chan, K. Chan, P. Levin, S. Polasky.In press. Catching the right wave: evaluating wave energy resources and potential compatibility with existing marine and coastal uses. PLoS ONE 7(11): e47598. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047598.

Grantham, H. S., V. N. Agostini, J. Wilson, S. Mangubhai, N. Hidayat, A. Muljadi, Muhajir, C. Rotinsulu, M. Mongdong, M. W. Beck, H. P. Possingham. In press. A comparison of zoning analyses to inform the planning of a marine protected area network in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Marine Policy.

Guerry, A. M. + 28 others including M. W. Beck. 2012. Modelling benefits from nature: using ecosystem services to inform coastal and marine spatial planning. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management.

Beck, M. W, (contributing author). 2011. Strategic advice on designing and implementing coastal and marine spatial plans: A report from the NOAA Science Advisory Board. A global review of MSP efforts with official findings and recommendations for NOAA.

Merrifield, M., Hines, E., Liu, X., Beck, M. W. 2011. Building regional threat-based networks for estuaries in the western United States. PLoS ONE 6: e17407.

Foley, M. M., B. Halpern, F. Micheli, M. Armsby, M. Caldwell, C. Crain, E. Prahler, D. Sivas, N. Rohr, M. W. Beck, M. Carr, L. Crowder, J. E. Duffy, S. Hacker, K. McLeod, C. Peterson, H. Regan, M. Ruckelshaus, P. Sandifer, R. Steneck. 2010. Guiding ecological principles for marine spatial planning. Marine Policy 34:955-966.

Crain, C., Halpern, B. S., Beck, M. W., Kappel, C. V. 2009. Understanding and managing human threats to the coastal marine environment. The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Annals of the NY Academy of Science 1162: 39–62.

Palumbi, S. R., P. A. Sandifer, J.D. Allan, Beck, M. W., D. G. Fautin, M. Fogarty, B. S. Halpern, L. S. Incze, J. Leong, E. Norse, J. Stachowicz, D. Wall. 2009. Managing for ocean biodiversity: creating a national biodiversity conservation agenda to sustain marine ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology 7:204–211.

Geselbracht, L. R. Torres, G. S. Cumming, D. Dorfman, Beck, M., D. Shaw. 2009. Identification of a spatially efficient portfolio of priority conservation sites in marine and estuarine areas of Florida. Aquatic Conservation 19:408-420.

Publications in Other Areas

Beck, M. W. 1998. A comparison of the measurement and effects of habitat structure on gastropods in rocky intertidal and mangrove habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 169:165-178.

Beck, M. W. 1997. A test of the generality of the effects of shelter bottlenecks in four stone crab populations. Ecology 78:2487-2503.

Beck, M. W. 1997. Inference and generality in ecology: current problems and an experimental solution. Oikos 78:265-273.

Beck, M. W. 1996. On discerning the cause of the late Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions. Paleobiology 22:91-103.

Mopper, S., M. W. Beck, D. Simberloff, P. Stiling. 1995. Local adaptation and agents of selection in a mobile insect. Evolution 49:810-815.

Beck, M. W. and E. F. Connor. 1992. Factors affecting the reproductive success of the crab spider, Misumenoides formosipes: the covariance between juvenile and adult traits. Oecologia 92: 287-295.

Websites and Web Based Tools
Coastal Resilience 2011. Coastal Resilience. Adapting natural and human communities to sea level rise and coastal hazards. An interactive decision support system and mapper. Developed by Z. Ferdaña, S. Newkirk, M. W. Beck, B. Gilmer, V. Agostini, C. Shepard, D. Major, W. Brooks, J. Stone, G. Raber.

Gulf of Mexico Coastal Resilience 2011. Informing Restoration Investments in the Gulf of Mexico. Developed by Z. Ferdaña, M. W. Beck, L. Geselbracht, G. Raber, B. Gilmer, C. Shepard.

Long Island Coastal Resilience 2009. Coastal Resilience- Long Island Sound. Adapting natural and human communities to sea level rise and coastal hazards. An interactive decision support system and mapper. Developed by Z. Ferdaña, S. Newkirk, M. W. Beck, B. Gilmer, V. Agostini, C. Shepard, D. Major, W. Brooks, J. Stone, G. Raber.

Marine Spatial Planning 2010. Practical approaches to coastal and marine decision making. Developed by Z. Ferdaña, M. W. Beck, B. Gilmer, V. Agostini, P. Taylor.

Michael W. Beck

Lead Scientist, Global Marine Team

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