Abstract: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are commonly employed in coral reef systems as a principle tool to mitigate degradation and biodiversity loss and increasingly are advocated as a means to improve the well-being of associated human communities. However, the efficacy of MPAs for achieving biological and social goals is highly variable; a significant factor impeding their success is a lack of consideration and understanding of the dynamics of associated human systems. Given the dependence of millions of people on coral reefs and the alarming rate of their decline, there is a pressing need to better understand and incorporate human dimensions into MPA design, implementation and management. To address this research gap, I will examine how social factors can be incorporated into several stages of the conservation planning process for coral reef systems. First, I will investigate how to explicitly integrate fisheries livelihood objectives into spatial prioritization procedures to enable MPA designs to be better aligned with the needs of local stakeholders. Second, to inform the selection of contextually appropriate conservation actions, I will explore the social impacts of MPA management, and the relative role of individual-scale (e.g. personal norms, socioeconomic attributes) and community-scale variables (e.g. collective choice arrangements, number of users) in influencing stakeholders’ engagement in collective MPA management. The outcomes of my research will contribute to conservation planning theory through elucidating how key social factors can be incorporated into planning procedures. Furthermore, I aim to develop and evaluate practical techniques that enable direct application of this knowledge to MPA planning.
Biography: Georgina is from Tasmania, where she completed her BSc in Marine, Freshwater and Antarctic Science. Preferring tropical rather than Antarctic waters for diving, she headed north to do her Honours research in the Philippines, where she used bio-physical simulation modelling to explore potential reef futures under multiple management and climatic scenarios. Georgina’s experiences in the Philippines inspired her to pursue a PhD in understanding the human dimensions of marine resource management