Dr Cinner’s research explores how socio-economic factors influence the ways in which people use, perceive, and govern natural resources, with a specific focus on coral reef social-ecological systems. He often works on interdisciplinary research topics such as defining the socio-economic factors that drive successful conservation, understanding resilience and thresholds in coral reef social-ecological systems, examining and operationalizing vulnerability to environmental change, and examining the applicability of Western conservation models in developing countries. Dr. Cinner began working on human dimensions of marine conservation while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica in the mid 1990s. He has since completed a Master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a PhD from James Cook University. He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, Australia. He has worked on human dimensions of marine conservation in Australia, Jamaica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Indonesia, and the USA.
The ecosystem goods and services provided by coral reefs are critical to the social and economic welfare of hundreds of millions of people, overwhelmingly in developing countries. Yet these goods and services are being threatened by overfishing. Dr. Cinner will describe recent breakthroughs that address important linkages between social and ecological systems in coral reef fisheries throughout the western Indian Ocean. Contrary to many recent studies, which emphasize human population as the principal driver of overfishing, Dr. Cinner will examine how levels of socio-economic development have the strongest influence on the condition of reef fisheries. Interestingly, the highest levels of overfishing occur in sites part-way up the development ladder. Dr Cinner will examine how several key social and ecological feedback mechanisms associated with moderate levels of socioeconomic development drive reef fisheries toward a social-ecological trap with low levels of resilience. Dr Cinner will then review progress from around the world that has been made toward avoiding or climbing out of these social-ecological traps.