Anthony (Tony) Charles


Senior Research Fellow in Environment and Sustainability

Professor, School of the Environment & School of Business

Director, Community Conservation Research Network

Saint Mary's University

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H3C3 Canada



tonyI began as a mathematician, but broadened during my doctorate into an interdisciplinary program, before there was such a thing. My PhD combined biological dynamics with economic (investment) issues, within a mathematical modelling framework. I kept with that kind of modelling work for some time, but gradually realized that the hard problems in natural resources revolved around how humans made decisions about resource use and conservation. So I moved more into studying the ‘human dimensions’, which included international development work and policy studies. Then, in the early 1990s, things went crazy with the collapse of the Atlantic Canada cod stocks and fishery, right in my own neighbourhood. I was appointed to a government panel to investigate and to make recommendations to the fishery minister. It was the most intense time professionally that I can imagine. I drew many lessons from that experience, including the importance of listening to what resource-dependent communities have to say about the resource status. Those lessons, combined with the ‘human dimensions’ focus, got me on a track to where I focus now – on researching and supporting the role of local communities in conservation and resource management. 


As the above indicates, I’ve become a dedicated ‘transdisciplinary’ researcher. I like to think that my individual work transcends disciplines, and I am more and more working in interdisciplinary teams. I am also dedicated to a ‘systems perspective’ – reflected in a book I wrote 16 years ago, “Sustainable Fishery Systems” (a new edition of which I am working on even while in Oxford), and in the common terminology today of “social-ecological systems”. Within that framework, I find myself working on a range of topics, including sustainability policy, ecosystem-based management, community-based management, bio-socio-economic modelling of protected areas, small-scale fisheries policy, and the fundamental links of conservation with livelihood sustainability and security.


1.       How local communities link together conservation and livelihoods – as Director of the Community Conservation Research Network 

2.       How local communities worldwide deal with hazards and disasters (covering the full range of these, e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, oil spills) and applications to coastal Canada.

3.       How Canada’s coastal communities are visioning and planning for the future – through both large-scale surveys and individual community-based participatory research.

4.       How the human dimensions of ecosystem-based management and of marine protected areas can be suitably incorporated into fishery and marine policy.

5.       How the interacting governance streams of fisheries and of biodiversity conservation are (and can be) co-evolving.


Is there a specific project you will be working on while you are with ICCS? 


1.       Community Conservation Research Network (as above)

2.       New edition of Sustainable Fishery Systems (as above)

3.       Possible development of a research project or paper with ICCS.