Samuel Shephard, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

pow smallDr. Shephard is featured in The Pursuit of Wisdom, a series of short courses presented by the faculty of Ave Maria University.


Samuel Shephard, Ph.D.

Credit Luke McKennaGeneral Info

Recent News


Research Interests

I am interested in environmental stewardship, with a focus on sustainable fisheries social-ecological systems. One aspect is to characterize ecosystem state, even when there are few quantitative data. The overarching aim is to understand how people become deeply embedded in the natural places where they live, engaging in tasks that develop local knowledge and skills necessary to care for our Common Home. Specific objectives include:

  • Assessment of data-limited subsistence, commercial and recreational fisheries.
  • Weaving local knowledge into assessment of social-ecological systems.
  • Ecosystem impacts of fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Funded Research

Dr Shephard has contributed to numerous funded research programmes. Recent examples include:

Scientific Working Groups

I love to work with other scientists to consider sustainability questions in fisheries and other aspects of applied ecology. Examples include:

Selected Publications (‪Full List)


Dr Shephard enjoys writing about his encounters with the natural world and his consequent ponderings on environmental stewardship. His perspective reflects broad scientific experience and a strong catholic outlook. He is very excited by the call to care for the Earth as our Common Home and to develop a stronger Catholic presence in public conversation on the environment. Recent popular writing includes:

Dr Shephard is also an enthusiastic speaker. Recent discussions include:


Teaching Interests

  • Environmental Science
  • Ecology
  • Marine Biology

Teaching Perspective

Material creation is God’s ‘first book’; it is a bountiful, diverse, and extraordinary outpouring of His imagination. My teaching is built around helping students to encounter and to ‘read’ this book, using the tools of the scientific method. Natural history provides us with the primary vocabulary to explore wild plant and animal populations and habitats. Ecology then extends this understanding with mathematical and theoretical frameworks that permit progressively deeper insights into nature. Just as the experienced art lover is most able to realize the beauty of a painting, I hope that my students will grow in their ability to comprehend and to care for the Earth – to become stewards of our Common Home.


Dr Samuel Shephard is a fisheries ecologist with research interests in sustainable social-ecological systems and the overarching issue of environmental stewardship. Dr Shephard started his career as a commercial fisherman on the west coast of Ireland, and subsequently joined a state agency where he helped test environmentally sensitive fishing gears. He then conducted PhD research on the landscape ecology of exploited catfishes at Mississippi State University.

For the last 20 years, Dr Shephard has established a research programme that has generated more than 70 international peer-reviewed publications on diverse topics including river hydromorphology, ecological indicators and data-limited stock assessment, as well as interweaving local ecological knowledge. Recent work includes collaborations on artisanal systems in South America and South-east Asia. Dr Shephard is committed to Catholic environmental stewardship and the bold integration of faith and reason.

Sam has recently joined Ave Maria University, where he serves as an Associate Professor and teaches courses in Marine Biology, Ecology and Environmental Science. He is married to Anna, and they have seven children.


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