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.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Mental Models in Community-based Conservation Projects


Friday 22nd June, 1.00pm - 1.30pm

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Conference Room, JCU. Video link to CMS Conference Room, UQ
Duan Biggs

Duan Biggs is currently working as a research officer for CSIRO Resource Futures. Prior to coming to Australia, Duan lived in South Africa where he worked on and researched integrated conservation and ecotourism development projects. Duan has conducted work, consultancies and research in 6 African countries. He is interested in applying resilience theory and adaptive management tools to biodiversity conservation and sustainability
challenges in developing regions.


Mental models are defined as the models people use to interpret the world around them and these are partially culturally derived. Conservation practice in many developing countries operates in a multi-cultural arena and therefore different actors have different mental models in interpreting a project’s, desired objectives, actions and outcomes. This presents a key challenge to conservation scientists and managers. In-depth interviews were used to investigate these issues in community-based birding tourism initiatives in South Africa.

The results demonstrate differences in the perceptions and world views of community beneficiaries, project managers and stakeholders with respect to levels of project success and stakeholder conflict. Evidence of differences in mental models is also shown through the differences in the expectations of the roles of the different project actors. Organizational frameworks that operate for five years or more in a transparent, participatory fashion are recommended to bridge these differences over time. This requires a shift away from traditional project business models which are designed for project sustainability over a relatively short period of time to models which embrace the long term commitment required for multi-cultural settings.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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