The Harte Model is based upon the unique structure and mission of the Harte Institute. The institute is built around the synergy created by the focus of the six endowed chairs: coastal and marine geospatial sciences; ecosystems and modeling; biodiversity and conservation; ocean health; marine policy and law; and, socio-economics. It is the interdisciplinary collaboration between the chairs to address ecosystem scale problems and the understanding that people and the environment are inexorably linked in their solution, which makes HRI unique in the community of marine science institutes.
If, as Ed Harte has admonished, we are to “make a difference”, we at HRI have to focus on science that makes a difference. Yes, all science can make a difference, and what is often referred to as basic science – inquiry driven by curiosity – is foundational but that does not limit the focus of HRI. Our objective is to think deeper and build on that basic foundation to address the pressing conservation issues of today. It requires us at HRI to think broadly and pursue partnerships with other like minded organizations, both private and public, where we can most effectively focus our expertise and resources to realize our vision. Our scientific research must, wherever possible, advance sustainability and conservation efforts on a gulf-wide scale and in support of the governance frameworks that build upon and apply sound science to decision-making.
The primary distinction between HRI and other marine institutions is that our focus is on what is done with the science, rather than just the science itself. Yes, HRI is a science based institution and staff carries out a wide range of studies. In that way HRI mirrors other marine institutions. The added value of HRI is to think deeper and take that science and integrate it with economic, legal and policy expertise to solve societal problems related to the environment and specifically the Gulf of Mexico. This objective is enhanced by the diversity of expertise co-located, along with our students under one roof at the HRI building. With offices and labs of the six disciplines intermingled, the opportunity to collaborate and build a team identity comes naturally.
An added value of the Harte Model is to allow the institute to play the role of an honest broker. As described by Roger Pielke, in his book, The Honest Broker, science and scientists are increasingly asked to play a role in decision-making. Science matters for how we make decisions and those decisions have real world outcomes. Bridging the gap between science and policy is what the Harte Model is all about.
The growing impact of human influences contributing to the expansion of dead zones, harmful algal blooms, overfishing, freshwater diversions, habitat loss and coastal erosion, coupled with the growing threat of climate change are examples of these problems. The need to address these issues effectively creates a sense of urgency. The resiliency of the Gulf of Mexico has always been a mitigating factor that perhaps has allowed for a false sense of security. Like a rubber band stretched over and over that eventually fails, we have to be concerned about the Gulf.
We are fortunate because resiliency remains. The Gulf of Mexico does continue to act as a large marine ecosystem and compensate for human abuses on top of natural variability. If we are to assure the health and productivity of the Gulf for the future, we cannot waste this interval. There will be no slacking of pressure as populations continue to increase. HRI must focus on research and action that sustains, and where possible, restores the natural resiliency upon which we depend.
The Harte Model is uniquely positioned to help solve these complex and immediate problems and assure the creation of frameworks within which to apply these solutions.