James A. Wilson

Cooperating Professor, Resource Economics & Policy

Research Interests

  • Fisheries Management
  • Coupled Natural and Human Systems
  • Computational Modeling of Complex Systems

Research Project

Towards Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management in Eastern Maine: Understanding the Linkages Between Social-Ecological Setting and Institution Formation and Function

SMS 552: Coupled Natural and Human Systems in the Ocean


  • University of Wisconsin, Ph.D. (Economics)
  • Lake Forest College, B.A. (English Literature)


James Wilson is a member of the SSI research team, as well as a Professor of Marine Sciences and Economics at the University of Maine. Wilson’s work focuses strongly on interdisciplinary approaches to managing ocean resources. He seeks to understand how to build a social environment where ocean resources can be sustained. He is particularly interested in how this understanding applies to fisheries. Wilson’s work is by nature interdisciplinary, and incorporates the fields of resource economics, fisheries ecology, anthropology, computational modeling, and political science.

In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Wilson is the co-chair of the Downeast Groundfish Initiative (a community, industry, and science initiative for the reform of groundfish management). He is on the board of the Penobscot East Resource Center (community based fishing). Funding for Wilson’s work has come in part from the Kendall Foundation, Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, the Maine Seacoast Mission, Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation. His work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals including Ecology and Society, Science, Marine Policy, Economic Behavior and Organization and Ecological Economics.

Selected Publications

Wilson, J., Hill, J., Kersula, M., Wilson, C.L., Whitsel, L., Yan, L., Acheson, J., Chen, Y., Cleaver, C., Congdon, C., Hayden, A., Hayes, P., Johnson, T., Morehead, G., Steneck, R.S., Turner, R., Vadas, R., & Wilson, C.J.. 2013. Costly information and the evolution of self-organization in a small, complex economy. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 9: S76-S93. doi:10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.019.

Wilson, J.; Acheson, J.; Johnson, T. 2013. The cost of useful knowledge and collective action in three fisheries. Ecological Economics 96: 165-172. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.09.012.

Wilson, J.; Hayden, A.; Kersula, M. 2012. The governance of diverse, multi-scale fisheries in which there is a lot to learn. Fisheries Research 141: 24-30.

Steneck, R.;Wilson, J. 2010. A fisheries play in the ecosystem theatre: challenges of managing ecological and social drivers of marine fisheries at nested spatial scales. Bulletin of Marine Science 86: 387-411.

Wilson, James and Liying Yan, 2009. Self-organizing economic activity with costly information. Proceedings Genetics and Evolutionary Computation. Montreal.

Wilson, James, Liying Yan, and Carl Wilson. 2007. The precursors of governance in the Maine lobster fishery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104:15212-15217.

Wilson, J. A. 2006. Matching social and ecological systems in complex ocean fisheries. Ecology and Society 11(1): 9. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org /vol11/iss1/art9/

Berkes, F., T. P. Hughes, R. S. Steneck, J. A. Wilson, D. R. Bellwood, B. Crona, C. Folke, L. H. Gunderson, H. M. Leslie, J. Norberg, M. Nyström, P. Olsson, H. Österblom, M. Scheffer, B. Worm. 2006. Globalization, Roving Bandits, and Marine Resources. Science. 311:1557-8.

Crowder, L. B., G. Osherenko, O. R. Young, S. Airamé, E. A. Norse, N. Baron, J. C. Day, F. Douvere, C. N. Ehler, B. S. Halpern, S. J. Langdon, K. L. McLeod, J. C. Ogden, R. E. Peach, A. A. Rosenberg, J. A. Wilson. 2006. Resolving Mismatches in U.S. Ocean Governance. Science, 313: 1557-8.

Hughes, T., D. Bellwood, C. Folke, R. Steneck and J. Wilson. 2005. New paradigms for supporting the resilience of marine ecosystems. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20:7.

Wilson, James. 2002. Scientific Uncertainty, Complex Systems and the Design of Common Pool Institutions, in the Drama of the Commons. Eds. Paul Stern, Elinor Ostrom, Thomas Dietz, and Nives Dolsak. National Research Council, Committee on Human Dimensions of Global Climate Change.

Low, Bobbi, E. Ostrom, C. Simon and J. Wilson. 2002. Redundancy in Social and Ecological Systems. In Navigating Nature’s Dynamics: Building Resilience for Adaptive Capacity in Social-Ecological Systems. Berkes, F., Colding, J. and Folke, C. (editors), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Wilson, J.A., E. Ostrom, B. Low, and R. Costanza, 2000. Scale misperceptions: and the spatial dynamics of a social-ecological system, Ecological Economics, Vol. 31, pp.243-57.

Costanza, R., B. Low. E. Ostrom and J. Wilson. 2001. Institutions, Ecology and Sustainability, CRC Press. Boca Raton/London.

Wilson, J.A., P. Kleban, J. Acheson and M. Metcalfe, 1994. Chaos, Complexity and Community Management of Fisheries, Marine Policy, Vol.18 (4), pp. 291-305