People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Georgina Gurney

Georgina Gurney

Environmental Social Science Research Fellow

PhD (2016), BSc with Honours (2009)

James Cook University

+61 (0)7 4781 6483

My research interests lie broadly in understanding the factors that influence opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool natural resources (CPRs), and the multiple socioeconomic and environmental outcomes of such initiatives. I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, and draw on theories and methods from a range of disciplines, including social psychology, behavioural economics, human geography and political science. I also collaborate widely with a range of natural and social scientists, policymakers and natural resource managers. To date, I’ve undertaken much of my research in the context of coral reef management in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Fiji. I received my PhD from James Cook University in 2016 (for more details on my time as a graduate student please see this article), and am currently an Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, Australia.

My current research program has two broad themes:

Opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool resources

This theme of my research is concerned with understanding the factors affecting opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool resources, including examining why people engage in collective action in regards to CPR management and how such cooperative activities are affected by the micro and macro social-ecological context. Recently-published research in this theme includes examining how multi-scale socioeconomic and institutional factors affect participation in community-based management and cooperative behavioural disposition (as indexed by a public goods game). My current research includes examining the role of socioeconomic and cultural heterogeneity in influencing the likelihood of collaborative management, including in relation to cooperative behavioural types (i.e. conditional cooperator, free rider etc), and how environmental policy and management practice can account for that heterogeneity when engaging civil society in stewardship and public participation. In regards to the latter, my recent research draws on place attachment theory to re-examine the notion of ‘community’ in environmental policy and management in the context of addressing contemporary sustainability challenges, which increasingly require transnational collaborative management and stewardship given globalisation (related conference talk can be found here).

Outcomes of collaborative management of common-pool resources

A core focus of my research in this theme is evaluating how people are impacted by and respond to community-based CPR management. Recent related projects have included evaluating the impacts of community-based CPR management on multidimensional poverty, including the equality of those impacts according to social subgroups, such as gender. Over the past two years I have been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a global social-ecological monitoring framework to be applied to coral reef sites; specifically, my role in the transdisciplinary process was to lead the development of the social indicators (more about this project can be found here). The framework has now been applied in 5 countries and we have a number of projects in the pipeline drawing on the resulting data; these include examining distributional and procedural equity in regards to co-management and identifying the trade-offs and co-benefits among the multiple social and ecological outcomes of co-management.

Awards, honours & funding

Science for Nature and People Partnership working group grant (2019)
Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship (2019)
Elected board member of the Society for Conservation Biology Social Science Working Group (2018)
Queensland Tall Poppy Science Award (2018)
Australian Academy of Sciences and Engineering Young Science Ambassador Award (2018)
James Cook University Dean’s Award for PhD Excellence (2016)
Virginia Chadwick Outstanding Publication Award (2015)
CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund Fellowship (2012)




Jacqui Lau (2015-present, co-advising with J. Cinner and C. Hicks) Winners and losers in coral reefs: access, equity and ecosystem services

Marie Lapointe (2016-present, co-advising with G. Cumming) Trade-offs among ecosystem services in peri-urban and rural coastal communities

Kim Zoeller (2017-present, co-advising with G. Cumming and N. Marshall) Understanding the production of cultural ecosystem services and benefit

Cristina Ruano Chamorro (2018-present, co-advising with J.Cinner and S. Gelcich) Equity in fisheries co-management: determinants and social-ecological trade-offs


Co-advised Masters: Tracy MacKeracher (2017), Jeremy Horowitz (2016), Anushka Sandanam (2015)

Selected Publications

For complete publication list see Google Scholar

Bergseth, B., Gurney, G., Barnes, M., Arias, A., Cinner, J. 2018. Addressing poaching in marine protected areas through voluntary surveillance and enforcement. Nature Sustainability 1: 421–426.

MacKeracher, T., Diedrich, A., Gurney, G., Marshall, N. 2018. Who trusts whom in the Great Barrier Reef? Exploring trust and communication in natural resource management. Environmental Science and Policy 88:24-31 doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2018.06.010.

Lau, J., Hicks, C., Gurney, G., Cinner, J. 2018. Disaggregating ecosystem service values and priorities by wealth, age, and educationEcosystem Services 29:91-98. doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.12.005

Goldberg, J., Marshall, N., Birtles, A., Case, P., Curnock, M., Gurney, G. 2018. On the relationship between attitudes and environmental behaviours of key Great Barrier Reef user groups. Ecology and Society 23(2):19. doi.org/10.5751/ES-10048-230219.

Cinner, J., Maire, E., Huchery, C., MacNeil, A., Graham, N., Mora, C., McClanahan, T., Barnes, M., Kittinger, J., Hicks, C., D’Agata, S., Hoey, A., Gurney, G. et al. 2018. The gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gurney, G., Blythe, J., Adams, H., Adger, W.N., Curnock, M., Faulkner, L., James, T., Marshall, N. 2017. Redefining community based on place attachment in a connected world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114 (38): 100-10082. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1712125114. Related conference talk can be found here.

Diedrich, A., Stoeckl, N., Gurney, G., Maipa, A., Pollnac, R. 2017. Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community-based marine protected areas. Conservation Biology 31(2): 311–321. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12808

Gurney, G., Cinner, J., Sartin, J., Ban, N., Pressey, R., Marshall, N., Prabuning, D. 2016. Participation in devolved commons management: Multiscale socioeconomic factors related to individuals’ participation in community-based management of marine protected areas in Indonesia. Environmental Science & Policy 61:212-220.

Gurney, G., Pressey, R., Cinner, J., Pollnac, R., Campbell, S. 2015. Integrated conservation and development: evaluating a community-based marine protected area project for equality of socioeconomic impacts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 370: 20140277.

Gurney, G., Pressey, R., Ban, N., Álvarez-Romero, J., Jupiter, S., Adams, V. 2015. Efficient and equitable design of marine protected areas in Fiji through inclusion of stakeholder-specific objectives in conservation planning. Conservation Biology 29:1378–1389.

Gurney, G., Cinner, J., Ban, N., Pressey, R., Pollnac, R., Campbell, S., Tasidjawa, S., Setiawan, F. 2014. Poverty and protected areas: an evaluation of a marine integrated conservation and development project in Indonesia. Global Environmental Change 26:98-107.

Aswani, S., Gurney, G., Mulville, S., Matera, J., Gurven, M. 2013. Insights from experimental economics on local cooperation in a small-scale fishery management system. Global Environmental Change 6:1402-1409.

Pietri, D., Gurney, G., Benitez-Vina, N., Kuklok, A., Maxwell, S., Whiting, L., Vina, M., Jenkins, L. 2013. Practical recommendations to help students bridge the research-implementation gap and promote conservation. Conservation Biology 27:958-967.


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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au