Michael W. Beck, Lead Marine Scientist
Michael W. Beck Michael W. Beck, Lead Marine Scientist © Michael W. Beck

Our People

Michael W. Beck

Lead Marine Scientist

Santa Cruz, California


Dr. Michael W. Beck is the lead marine scientist for The Nature Conservancy and an adjunct Professor in Ocean Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he is based.

Mike works on coastal marine conservation on five continents across science, business and policy to bring clear tools and results to decision-makers. Mike focuses on building coastal resilience in the interface between adaptation and conservation, where he works to reduce risks to people, property and nature.

Mike has authored more than sixty peer-reviewed science articles. His work covers topics from the role of coral reefs in reducing risks from storms to the effects of people on extinctions of Pleistocene mammals.

He has also published numerous popular articles including Op-eds in the Miami Herald, NY Times, Huffington Post and Caribbean Journal.

He was a Fulbright Fellow and an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney. He has served on advisory boards and panels for NOAA, EPA and the National Academy of Sciences. And in 2012, Mike was selected as a Pew Marine Conservation Fellow.

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.

You can find more on his work at www.coastalresilience.org and www.maps.coastalresilience.org

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Coral Reefs Save Billions of Dollars Worldwide by Preventing Floods

USA Today covers Mike's work showing that the world's coral reefs are worth $4 billion (U.S.) in flood protection every year. 

Generating Savings from our Most Cost-Effective Coastal Defenses

Every $1 spent on restoring marshes and oyster reefs on the American Gulf Coast reduces storm damages by $7. Mike writes for The Hill.

As Communities Rebuild After Hurricanes, Study Shows Wetlands Can Significantly Reduce Property Damage

Mike and Siddharth Narayan write in The Conversation about new evidence that protecting natural ecosystems is a cost-effective way to reduce risks from coastal storms and flooding.

The Staggering Threat of Plastic to Coral Reefs

Atlas Obscura

Coastal Wetlands and Flood Damage Reduction: Can Insurance Save Wetlands?

Mike Beck and Jean-Bernard Crozet explain new research that quantifies the benefits of wetlands in reducing disaster risk, increasing fishery production, recreation, and carbon storage in Triple Pundit.

Mighty Mangroves of the Philippines: Valuing Wetland Benefits for Risk Reduction and Conservation

Mangroves create forested barriers between the wrath of the seas and our coastal communities providing benefits in coastal defense and fisheries. A World Bank blog by Mike.

Visit Michael’s Google Scholar Profile for a full list of publications.


Beck, M.W., Losada, I., Menendez, P., Reguero, B.G., Diaz-Simal, P. & Fernandez, F. (2018). The global flood protection savings provided by coral reefs. Nature Communications.

Beck, M.W., Narayan, S., Trespalacios, D., Pfliegner, K., Losada, Í.J.L., Menéndez, P., Espejo, A., Torres, S., Simal, P.D., Abad, S., Mucke, P. & Kirch, L. (2018). The Global Value of Mangroves for Risk Reduction. Summary Report.

Losada, Í.J., Menéndez, P., Espejo, A., Torres, S., Simal, P.D., Abad, S., Beck, M.W., Narayan, S., Trespalacios, D., Pfliegner, K., Mucke, P. & Kirch, L. (2018). The Global Value of Mangroves for Risk Reduction. Technical Report.

Quiros, T.E.A.L., Beck, M.W., Araw, A., Croll, D.A. & Tershy, B. (2018). Small-scale seagrass fisheries can reduce social vulnerability: a comparative case study. Ocean & Coastal Management, 157, 56–67.

Reguero, B.G., Beck, M.W., Agostini, V.N., Kramer, P. & Hancock, B. (2018). Coral reefs for coastal protection: A new methodological approach and engineering case study in Grenada. Journal of Environmental Management, 210, 146–161.

Reguero, B.G., Beck, M.W., Bresch, D.N., Calil, J. & Meliane, I. (2018). Comparing the cost effectiveness of nature-based and coastal adaptation: A case study from the Gulf Coast of the United States. PLOS ONE, 13, e0192132.


Beck, M.W., Losada, I., Trespalacios, D., Menéndez, P. & Narayan, S. (2017). Valuing the Protection Services of Mangroves in the Philippines. World Bank, Washington, DC.

Colgan, C.S., Beck, M.W. & Narayan, S. (2017). Financing Natural Infrastructure for Coastal Flood Damage Reduction. Lloyd’s Tercentenary Research Foundation.

Mumby, P.J., Sanchirico, J.N., Broad, K., Beck, M.W., Tyedmers, P., Morikawa, M., Okey, T.A., Crowder, L.B., Fulton, E.A., Kelso, D., Kleypas, J.A., Munch, S.B., Glynn, P., Matthews, K. & Lubchenco, J. (2017). Avoiding a crisis of motivation for ocean management under global environmental change. Glob Change Biol.

Losada, I.J., Beck, M., Menendez, P., Espejo, A., Torres, S., Diaz-Simal, P., Fernandez, F., Abad, S., Ripoll, N., Garcia, J., Narayan, S., Trespalacios, D. & Quiroz, A. (2017). Valuing Protective Services of Mangroves in the Philippines. World Bank, Washington, DC.


Narayan, S., M.W. Beck, P. Wilson, C. Thomas, A. Guerrero, C. Shepard, B. G. Reguero, G. Franco, C. J. Ingram, D. Trespalacios. 2017. The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Flood Damage Reduction in the Northeastern USA. Scientific Reports 7:9463.

Reguero, B.G., Beck, M.W., Losada, I.J. & Narayan, S. (2017). Uniendo ingeniería y ecología: la protección costera basada en ecosistemas. Ribagua, 0, 1–18.

Storlazzi, C., Reguero, B., Lowe, E., Shope, J., Gibbs, A., Beck, M. & Nickel, B. (2017). Rigorously valuing the role of coral reefs in coastal protection: An example from Maui, Hawaii, USA. In: Coastal Dynamics 2017. pp. 665–674. 


Abelson, A., Halpern, B.S., Reed, D.C., Orth, R.J., Kendrick, G.A., Beck, M.W., Belmaker, J., Krause, G., Edgar, G.J., Airoldi, L., Brokovich, E., France, R., Shashar, N., Blaeij, A. de, Stambler, N., Salameh, P., Shechter, M. & Nelson, P.A. (2016). Upgrading marine ecosystem restoration using ecological‐social concepts. BioScience, 66, 156–163.

Abelson, A., Nelson, P. A., Edgar, G. J., Shashar, N., Reed, D. C., Belmaker, J., Krause, G., Beck, M. W., Brokovich, E., France, R. & Gaines, S.D. (2016). Expanding marine protected areas to include degraded coral reefs. Conservation Biology, doi:10.1111/cobi.12722

Beck, M.W. & Lange, G.-M. (2016). Managing coasts with natural solutions: guidelines for measuring and valuing the coastal protection services of mangroves and coral reefs(Technical Report). WAVES, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Beck, M.W., Losada, I., Reguero, B., Menendez, P. & Burke, L. (2016). Breaking waves. In: Atlas of ocean wealth (eds. Spalding, M., Brumbaugh, R. & Landis, E.). The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.

Kroeker, K.J., Reguero, B.G., Rittelmeyer, P. & Beck, M.W. (2016). Ecosystem Service and Coastal Engineering Tools for Coastal Protection and Risk Reduction. In: Managing Coasts with Natural Solutions. p. 75.

McCreless, E. & Beck, M. (2016). Rethinking Our Global Coastal Investment Portfolio. Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics, 3.


Narayan, S., Beck, M.W., Reguero, B.G., Losada, I.J., Wesenbeeck, B. van, Pontee, N., Sanchirico, J.N., Ingram, J.C., Lange, G.-M. & Burks-Copes, K.A. (2016). The effectiveness, costs and coastal protection benefits of natural and nature-based defences. PLoS ONE, 11, e0154735.

Narayan, S., Beck, M.W., Wilson, P., Thomas, C., Guerrero, A., Shepard, C., Reguero, B. G., Franco, G., Ingram, C. J. & Trespalacios, D. (2016). Coastal wetlands and flood damage reduction: using risk industry-based models to assess natural defenses in the northeastern USA. Lloyd’s Tercentenary Research Foundation, London. doi: 10.7291/v93x84kh
Watch the accompanying video.

Narayan, S., Pontee, N., Beck, M.W. & Hosking, A.H. (2016). Nature Based Solutions: Lessons from Across the World. In: Coastal Management, Conference Proceedings. ICE Publishing, pp. 651–661.


Pendleton, L., Comte, A., Langdon, C., Ekstrom, J.A., Cooley, S.R., Suatoni, L., Beck, M.W., Brander, L.M., Burke, L., Cinner, J.E., Doherty, C., Edwards, P.E.T., Gledhill, D., Jiang, L.-Q., Hooidonk, R.J. van, Teh, L., Waldbusser, G.G. & Ritter, J. (2016). Coral reefs and people in a high-CO 2 world: where can science make a difference to people? PLOS ONE, 11, e0164699.

Pontee, N., Narayan, S., Beck, M.W. & Hosking, A.H. (2016). Nature-based solutions: lessons from around the world. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Maritime Engineering, 169, 29–36.

Whelchel, A.W. & Beck, M.W. (2016). Decision tools and approaches to advance ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and climate change aaptation in the twenty-first century. In: Ecosystem-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation in Practice, Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research (eds. Renaud, F.G., Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Estrella, M. & Nehren, U.). Springer International Publishing, pp. 133–160.


Calil, J., Beck, M.W., Gleason, M., Merrifield, M., Klausmeyer, K. & Newkirk, S. (2015). Aligning natural resource conservation and flood hazard mitigation in California. PLoS ONE, 10, e0132651.


Ekstrom, J.A., Suatoni, L., Cooley, S.R., Pendleton, L.H., Waldbusser, G.G., Cinner, J.E., Ritter, J., Langdon, C., van Hooidonk, R., Gledhill, D., Wellman, K., Beck, M.W., Brander, L.M., Rittschof, D., Doherty, C., Edwards, P.E.T. & Portela, R. (2015). Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 5, 207–214.

Reguero, B.G., Losada, I.J., Díaz-Simal, P., Méndez, F.J. & Beck, M.W. (2015). Effects of climate change on exposure to coastal flooding in Latin America and the Caribbean. PLoS ONE, 10, e0133409.

Scyphers, S.B., Gouhier, T.C., Grabowski, J.H., Beck, M.W., Mareska, J. & Powers, S.P. (2015). Natural shorelines promote the stability of fish communities in an urbanized coastal system. PLoS ONE, 10, e0118580.


Beck, M.W. (ed.). (2014). Coasts at risk: an assessment of coastal risks and the role of environmental solutions. University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI.


Ferrario, F., Beck, M.W., Storlazzi, C.D., Micheli, F., Shepard, C.C. & Airoldi, L. (2014). The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation. Nature Communications, 5, 3794.

Reguero, B.G., Bresch, D.N., Beck, M., Calil, J. & Meliane, I. (2014). Coastal risks, nature-based defenses and the economics of adaptation: an application in the Gulf of Mexico, USA. Coastal Engineering Proceedings, 1, 25.

Spalding, M.D., McIvor, A.L., Beck, M.W., Koch, E.W., Möller, I., Reed, D.J., Rubinoff, P., Spencer, T., Tolhurst, T.J., Wamsley, T.V., van Wesenbeeck, B.K., Wolanski, E. & Woodroffe, C.D. (2014). Coastal ecosystems: a critical element of risk reduction. Conservation Letters, 7, 293–301.

Spalding, M.D., Ruffo, S., Lacambra, C., Meliane, I., Hale, L.Z., Shepard, C.C. & Beck, M.W. (2014). The role of ecosystems in coastal protection: adapting to climate change and coastal hazards. Ocean & Coastal Management, 90, 50–57.


Beck, M.W., et al. (2013). Using interactive decision support to integrate coastal hazard mitigation and ecosystem services in Long Island Sound, New York and Connecticut USA. In: The role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction(eds. Renaud, F.G., Sudmeier-Rieux, K. & Estrella, M.). United Nations University Press, Bonn.

Collie, J.S., (Vic) Adamowicz, W.L., Beck, M.W., Craig, B., Essington, T.E., Fluharty, D., Rice, J. & Sanchirico, J.N. (2013). Marine spatial planning in practice. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 117, 1–11.

Grantham, H.S., Agostini, V.N., Wilson, J., Mangubhai, S., Hidayat, N., Muljadi, A., Muhajir, Rotinsulu, C., Mongdong, M., Beck, M.W. & Possingham, H.P. (2013). A comparison of zoning analyses to inform the planning of a marine protected area network in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Marine Policy, 38, 184–194.

National Academy of Science. (2013). An evaluation of the U.S. Department of Energy’s marine and hydrokinetic resource assessments. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.


Beck, M.W. & Shepard, C.C. (2012). Coastal habitats and risk reduction. In: World risk report 2012 (ed. Mucke, P.). Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, Berlin.

Guerry, A.D. + 28 others including Beck, M.W. (2012). Modeling benefits from nature: using ecosystem services to inform coastal and marine spatial planning. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, 8, 107–121.

Kim, C.-K., Toft, J.E., Papenfus, M., Verutes, G., Guerry, A.D., Ruckelshaus, M.H., Arkema, K.K., Guannel, G., Wood, S.A., Bernhardt, J.R., Tallis, H., Plummer, M.L., Halpern, B.S., Pinsky, M.L., Beck, M.W., Chan, F., Chan, K.M.A., Levin, P.S. & Polasky, S. (2012). Catching the right wave: evaluating wave energy resources and potential compatibility with existing marine and coastal uses. PLoS ONE, 7, e47598.

Welle, T., Beck, M.W., Shepard, C.C. & Mucke, P. (2012). Environmental degradation as a risk factor and environmental destruction caused by disasters. In: World risk report 2012 (ed. Mucke, P.). Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, Berlin.


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

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.

Hale, L.Z., Newkirk, S. & Beck, M. (2011). Helping coastal communities adapt to climate change. Solutions, 2, 84–85.

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

Shepard, C.C., Agostini, V.N., Gilmer, B., Allen, T., Stone, J., Brooks, W. & Beck, M.W. (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, 60, 727–745.

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


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

Jacobsen, R. & Beck, M. (2010). Where oysters grew on trees. The New York Times.


Airoldi, L., Connell, S.D. & Beck, M.W. (2009). The loss of natural habitats and the addition of artificial substrata. In: Marine hard bottom communities, ecological studies (ed. Wahl, M.). Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 269–280.

Carranza, A., Defeo, O. & Beck, M. (2009). Diversity, conservation status and threats to native oysters (Ostreidae) around the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts of South America. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 19, 344–353.

Carranza, A., Defeo, O., Beck, M. & 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.

Crain, C.M., Halpern, B.S., Beck, M.W. & Kappel, C.V. (2009). Understanding and managing human threats to the coastal marine environment. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1162, 39–62.

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

Guidetti, P., Beck, M.W., Bussotti, S., Ciccolella, A., D’Ambrosio, P., Lembo, G., Spedicato, M.T. & Boero, F. (2009). Nursery habitats for Mediterranean coastal fishes: the need for a quantitative approach. Biologia Marina Mediterranea, 16, 197–200.

Hale, L.Z., Meliane, I., Davidson, S., Sandwith, T., Beck, M., et al. (2009). Ecosystem-based adaptation in marine and coastal ecosystems. Renewable Resources Journal, 25, 21–28.

Palumbi, S.R., Sandifer, P.A., Allan, J.D., Beck, M.W., Fautin, D.G., Fogarty, M.J., Halpern, B.S., Incze, L.S., Leong, J.-A., Norse, E., Stachowicz, J.J. & Wall, D.H. (2009). Managing for ocean biodiversity to sustain marine ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7, 204–211.


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, Marine Ecology: A tribute to the life and work of John S. Gray, 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, Annual Review of Marine Biology and Oceanography, 345–405.


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, Low Crested Structures and the Environment, 52, 1073–1087.


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


Beck, M.W., Heck, K.L., 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.