We are no longer simply observers and users of natural systems, but integrated components. Our science is constantly evolving in a world that is changing rapidly both in terms of climate impacts and human influences and drivers in the modern Anthropocene Ocean, and hence a fundamental shift is necessary in how we do our science. Ecology and the human dimension are increasingly intertwined, and the sustainable management of the future ocean will increasingly depend on how we manage these interactions. Complementing sustainable management of natural resources with sustainable self-management, is key to future sustainability. Effective management may mean relying on more levers than in traditional management, such as socio-cultural and governance considerations. Here we focus on examples of how to extend the current toolbox of ecosystem approaches to extend beyond the biology. We focus on “Models of Intermediate Complexity for Ecosystem assessments” (MICE), which limit complexity by restricting the focus to those components of the ecosystem needed to address the main effects of the management question under consideration. Socio-ecological MICE are being extended to represent dynamically the two-way feedbacks between ecological systems and linked socio-economic systems. Specifically, we incorporate a dynamic feedback between ecosystem characteristics and peoples’ sense of place, using a new Sense of Place Index (SOPI) to allow the quantitative integration of environmental psychology into socio-ecological models. We also outline current uses of socialised MICE models to inform on climate-smart-adaptation strategies in southern hemisphere hotspot regions.