Vera was in art school on the slopes of Mt. Makiling, when she fell in love with the sea and coral reefs. She has a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of the Philippines (UP). An Erasmus Mundus Studentship made it possible for her to earn a joint M.Sc. degree in Water and Coastal Management from Universidad de Cadiz, Spain and University of Plymouth, UK. As a research assistant for various NGOs and the UP Marine Science Institute (MSI), she was able to see how rich her country is in terms of natural resources and how much it is also exploited because of high resource dependence. Vera is supervised by Prof. Bob Pressey, Dr. Simon Foale and Dr. Porfirio Alino of the MSI. Her research aims to examine governance systems and processes that contribute to effective local government coordination and collaboration when scaling up to form MPA networks in the Philippines.
Establishing marine protected area networks based on systematic conservation planning is assumed to be more effective and have higher benefits than collections of ad hoc local marine protected areas (MPAs). However, these assumptions are notional, because there is little empirical evidence that shows the relative benefits of both approaches. It is widely believed that locally implemented MPAs can be scaled up to increase effectiveness and gain more benefits. Using the Philippines as a case study, this project aims to address the following research gaps: 1) ways of scaling up local MPAs; 2) measuring the benefits of scaling up local MPAs to form networks; and, 3) assessing the effectiveness of inter-institutional collaborations in facilitating scaling up of management and forming MPA networks. Addressing these research gaps is not only relevant to the Philippines, but also to other countries with decentralized governments and ad hoc implementation of MPAs. The outcomes of this research will be important for researchers, conservation planners, natural resource managers and policy makers working on scaling up management and establishing networks of MPAs