Elizabeth Mendenhall, Ph.D.


University of Rhode Island

Address: 215 Coastal Institute, 1 Greenhouse Road, University of Rhode Island

City: Kingston, Rhode Island - 02881

Country: United States

About Me:

I am a politcal scientist specializing in international ocean governance, especially the relationship between science, technology, and international law. My research encompasses various topics, including marine plastic debris, sea level rise, maritime boundaries, over-fishing, maritime arms control, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
As a former national championship debater, I find that face-to-face disagreement provides an unparalleled opportunity for productive exchange. I enjoy and excel at public speaking, and writing for broad audiences on topics of contemporary concern.

Research Interests

Environmental Policy

Energy And Climate Policy

International Law & Organization

Ocean Governance

International Law

Sea Level Rise

Marine Protected Areas


International Fishing

Countries of Interest

United States


My Research:

My research focuses on the conditions under which international law can effectively manage shared problems in the ocean. Recently my work has explored emerging problems in ocean governance, including artificial island construction, sea level rise, marine plastic debris, and impacts on deep sea ecosystems.


Journal Articles:

(2018) Teaching Critical Understandings of Realism through Historical War Simulations, PS: Political Science and Politics

This article presents a simple modular simulation for teaching the advantages and limitations of Realist theory in an introductory international relations course. The advantages of this simulation include low preparation time, minimal resource requirements, and ease of integration with existing curricula. The game design is built around Kenneth Waltz’s “three-image” framework for analyzing international politics, in a way that increases scenario complexity but not game difficulty. The article describes the full simulation process, from game design and implementation through debriefing and assessment. Two historical simulations were conducted: the first helped students to understand Realism and the second helped them to see its limitations. The article concludes with a discussion of the results of a voluntary, anonymous postgame survey that is intended to assess achievement of our learning objective.

(2018) Oceans of Plastic: A Research Agenda to Propel Policy Development, Marine Policy

Although the phenomenon of marine plastic debris is now widely recognized as a problem for the international community, significant gaps in understanding still inhibit the creation and implementation of effective policy responses. This paper reviews the state of scientific knowledge about the causes and consequences of marine plastic debris, including its sources, pathways, composition, location, and impacts on ecosystems and human activities. Much remains unknown about the large scale impacts of plastic debris on ecosystem functions and human health, among other information gaps. Additional scientific research about the nature, extent, and harms of marine plastic debris could increase the political salience of the problem, and produce urgent and focused attention on the formulation of solutions. Although many policy responses have been proposed, and even pursued, additional research could assist in the prioritization of the most cost-effective strategies. The research agenda outlined would support a more detailed and comprehensive assessment of the nature of the problem of marine plastic debris, and inform the creation and implementation of effective solutions.

(2016) Seamounts as Sites for Governance in the ‘Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction', SAIS Review of International Affairs

This paper considers the relevance of seamounts, hydrothermal vents, and cold-water seeps for governance of the ocean in the “Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction” (ABNJ). These topographical features concentrate economically significant biotic and mineral resources, and are the site of unsustainable fishing practices. Three proposals for ABNJ governance are considered: a new legal instrument, an augmented existing regime, and national territorializing. Each is conditioned by the characteristics of seamounts and vents, whose features create governance incentives, challenges, and possibilities.

Book Chapters:

(2017) New Earths: Assessing Planetary Geographic Concepts, Routledge

This paper considers and evaluates a series of prominent analogies for the 'New Earth.' It is published in Assembling the Planet: The Politics of Globality After 1945, eds. Rens van Munster and Casper Sylvest, (with Daniel Deudney)

(2017) Green Earth: The Emergence of Planetary Civilization, MIT Press

Published in New Earth Politics, eds. Simon Nicholson and Sikina Jinnah, (with Daniel Deudney)

(2017) The Social Construction of the New Arctic, World Scientific Publishing

Published in The Social Ecology of the Anthropocene: Continuity and Change in Global Environmental Politics, eds. Richard Matthew, Kristen Goodrich, Connor Harron, Bemmy Maharramov, Evgenia Nizkorodov

Book Reviews:

(2017) Review of Consensus and Global Environmental Governance by Walter F. Baber and Robert V. Bartlett, Global Environmental Politics

This articles reviews the book Consensus and Global Environmental Governance by Walter F. Baber and Robert V. Bartlett