Alison Rieser



Ocean and Coastal Law

When I taught at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, Maine, my goal was to establish ocean and coastal law as a distinct field of environmental law that could be taught at coastal and inland U.S. law schools alike. With the support of early grants from the University of Maine Sea Grant Program, I developed a set of law courses that would span the issues of coastal land use and property rights to offshore oil and gas drilling and international fisheries.

Similar courses are now taught at many law schools around the country. Some survey the entire field of ocean and coastal law; others are seminars in the law of the coastal zone, marine resources management, and international ocean law.

Since 1994, I have collaborated with four other professors on a textbook called Cases and Materials in Coastal and Ocean Law. It is published by Thomson/West, the leading law textbook publisher, in its American Casebook Series. I am currently taking the lead on the fourth edition, which will focus on the changes in marine law and policy made necessary by climate change.

International Law of the Sea

In 2012, in honor of my friend and colleague Professor Jon M. Van Dyke, 1943-2011, I taught the course he designed for the Graduate Ocean Policy Certificate Program: International Ocean Law (LAW 593) (Download the syllabus here.)

Ocean and Coastal Policy

At the University of Hawaii I direct the Graduate Ocean Policy Certificate Program,( For this program I developed four interdisciplinary courses that take full advantage of the marine and coastal issues that abound in Hawaii and in the Pacific island nations of the Central and South Pacific. Focused on both the theory and practice of ocean and coastal management, these courses are designed for law and graduate students in both the physical and social sciences who wish to work in these fields or conduct research applicable to the conservation of coastal and marine socio-ecological systems and to international and U.S. policies for the oceans.

These courses are described in their syllabi available here:

For graduate students who need background in coastal and ocean policy before taking my research courses I offer two upper division undergraduate courses:

I supervise the research of a number of graduate students in the ocean policy certificate program and in the masters and doctoral programs in the Department of Geography. Together with my own research and scholarship, I call this program the Ocean Policy Lab. Recent and current students in my lab are described on the current Research page.

At-Sea Teaching

In 2010, I developed and taught an expeditionary and experiential field course in ocean conservation in partnership with the Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The cruise track took us to French Frigate Shoals, inside Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), the largest U.S. marine conservation area, and to marine protected areas near Maui and the island of Hawaii. With marine scientist David Hyrenbach and graduate teaching fellows Rebecca Prescott and Matt Iacchei, undergraduate students from several departments at UH and a visiting student from Canada designed and carried out marine-science and social-science research projects in the field, the results of which are described in this Powerpoint presentation. The syllabus for this field course is available here.

I am developing a similar at-sea course for UH and other students along the coast of Maine, focusing on human uses and governance of the marine environment.

Coastal Law Textbook Cover