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Women in Marine Governance: Maaike Knol-Kauffman

#WIMG is a PERMAGOV campaign designed to celebrate the role of women in marine governance. Case studies take the form of short interviews where participants share their background, interests, ideas and recommendations for improving the way in which ocean affairs are managed. Each story is unique. By spotlighting our WIMG stars, we hope that readers from all walks of life will be inspired to make their contribution in support of a sustainable ocean. Featured in this case study is Maaike Knol-Kauffman, Researcher at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Women in marine governance | Maaike Knol-Kauffman | PERMAGOV

Current Job

I work at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway, which is the world’s northernmost university. More specifically, I am employed as a researcher at the Norwegian College of Fishery Science, an interdisciplinary department at UiT which develops relevant and innovative knowledge for the development of marine sectors. I collaborate in diverse teams on externally funded research projects, one of which is PERMAGOV. Although my typical working day starts with a conversation at the coffee machine and a large part of my work hours are spent in my office, the diversity of tasks, themes, and people that I meet through my work mean that I can hardly describe a typical working day.

Study and career path

Straight after high school, I enrolled in the International Development Studies program at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. During the weekends I traveled back to the north of the country to guide people over the Wadden Sea with my dad. I was intrigued by this system of intertidal sand and mudflats. The seemingly empty, though always changing landscape with its diversity of users and interests triggered my academic interests. At the same time, I was fascinated about anything North: the north shore of the Netherlands, the north of Norway, northern Canada, Iceland, Alaska…. I wanted to know how people in these areas lived with their natural resources in often challenging environments.

My supervisor in Wageningen encouraged me to follow this passion, so I ended up spending large parts of my Master studies in Tromsø and even further north. I traveled for months along the coast of Finnmark and stayed in coastal communities with local people, writing my thesis about regional development, fisheries and an emerging oil and gas sector.

After graduation I embarked on a PhD project at UiT with a focus on how scientific knowledge is translated into policy instruments that regulate oil and gas activities in the northernmost part of Norway’s ocean areas. Afterwards, I followed a rather straight career path in the sense that I have been employed at the same department since finishing my PhD in 2011. However, the projects I am involved in are highly diverse, which demands me to continuously shift focus from, for example, conflicts around the introduction of offshore wind parks, to understanding operational hazards in the context of Arctic shipping.

Participation in PERMAGOV

The interesting thing about PERMAGOV is that we’re all in involved in nearly every task, at least to some degree. Although this is complex, this structure helps to build connections between all the various elements of the project. The case studies run through all these tasks. I lead the Norwegian case on offshore wind energy development, in which we collaborate with Arctic Energy Partners to explore pathways for sustainability transitions. I have also been involved in the design and implementation of a literature review about institutional barriers in marine governance; a task which UiT has led. This was a great opportunity to acquire new skills and to update myself on the literature in this rapidly growing field. Other than that, the project has given me the opportunity to become more familiar with European energy policies, and I’m excited to start exploring marine e-governance as a concept and in practice.

Marine governance

The oceans are extremely important to life on Earth, as they provide food, oxygen, energy, and other ecosystem services. They are threatened, but also provide large opportunities. Marine governance is about navigating these tensions between threats and opportunities. It is about finding ways to regulate the human uses of the oceans sustainably. This is often done through interactions and processes of negotiation between different public and private actors. Marine governance is always evolving; there are continuously new risks to be managed, conflicts to be transformed, or targets to be reached, which makes this an extremely interesting field of study.


The increasing attention for the oceans provides countless possibilities for students. The questions that need to be addressed are many and diverse, which makes this an exciting career field. The students that I have supervised in recent years are all ambitious and highly motivated young women. I have seen them grow in their fields, explore new areas, and become passionate about, and successful in their studies and careers. My advice is to explore the topics as well as the geographical places you are truly interested in, and to make sure you spend time in the field. During my studies and afterwards, I met a lot of generosity amongst the people who were willing to share their insights and experiences on board of vessels, in coastal villages, in companies and in scientific and public agencies. All these interactions have been of central importance for me to grow as an academic and to understand the themes that I work with from different perspectives. This is a quality that is needed in marine governance, and today, I still draw on my early experiences as a student.

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PERMAGOV has received funding from the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme HORIZON-CL6-2022-GOVERNANCE-01-03 under grant agreement No 101086297, and by UK Research and Innovation under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee grant numbers 10045993, 10062097, 101086297.

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