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)

Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image

PhD Pre-Completion Seminar – Georgina Gurney


18th of March 2015

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Georgina Gurney
Georgina Gurney

Improving the success of conservation planning: integration of socioeconomic considerations into the design and management of marine protected areas


Abstract: Protected areas (PAs) are a key strategy employed worldwide to maintain marine ecosystem services and mitigate biodiversity loss. However, the efficacy of PAs in achieving biological and socioeconomic goals is highly variable; a significant factor impeding their success is a lack of consideration and understanding of associated human systems. Therefore, the broad goal of my thesis was to investigate how socioeconomic factors can be incorporated into the design and management of PAs, which I addressed through three specific objectives. I pursued this research through the lens of systematic conservation planning but drew on theory and methods from a range of disciplines including social psychology, political science and economics, and used marine protected areas (MPAs) in Indonesia and Fiji as case studies. The first objective of my thesis was to examine the socioeconomic impacts of an integrated conservation and development MPA project, including whether impacts varied by social subgroup. I found that the project contributed to alleviating three key domains of poverty (i.e. empowerment, security, and opportunity) mostly during the implementation period of the project, and that there was little evidence of heterogeneous impacts according to age, gender and religion. Second, I identified the individual- and community-scale social factors related to participation in community-based MPA management, finding three main factors related to participation: subjective norms, structural elements of social capital, and nested institutions. Third, I tested key paradigms for incorporating socioeconomic considerations into spatial prioritisation, finding that widely-used methods can produce unnecessarily hard trade-offs between objectives for biodiversity, fisheries, and social equity. My thesis contributes to conservation planning theory and practice by elucidating important human dimensions relating to MPAs and how they can be incorporated into the spatial and non-spatial aspects of MPA design and management. More nuanced understanding and incorporation of socioeconomic considerations in design and management of MPAs will help ensure these conservation tools contribute to human wellbeing, and increase the likelihood of gaining local stakeholders’ support, on which conservation success is predicated.

Bio: 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.


Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

Partner Partner Partner Partner
Coral Reef Studies