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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Social-Ecological Linkages: an Integrative Systems Approach to Marine and Coastal Governance


12.00pm -1.00pm Monday 2nd February 2015

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Dr. Michele Barnes-Mauthe

Abstract:  Considering the scale of anthropogenic stress on the global oceans, we must have a strong understanding of the linkages and feedbacks between people and the marine environment in order to develop viable strategies to advance global sustainability and meet conservation goals. Yet historically research and emphasis in marine and coastal ecosystems has focused primarily on human impacts, overlooking the broader socio-cultural and economic drivers that both shape, and are shaped by, human–environment relationships. In this talk, I present novel interdisciplinary research that integrates insights from sociology and economics to understand human-environment relationships in marine and coastal systems. First, I describe how human action is both enabled and constrained by networks of trust, reciprocity, and shared norms and values between people and communities, and report evidence suggesting fishers employ social (rather than individualistic) decision strategies mediated by ethnic diversity and social identity. Using an innovative combination of social, economic, and ecological data, I demonstrate how these complex social processes affect a diverse range of outcomes relevant for achieving resource governance that is not only ecologically and economically sustainable, but also equitable. Next, I demonstrate how an ecosystem service approach with a focus on environmental values can support improved policy and planning by creating space for a more inclusive understanding of the diversity of ways communities interact with, and value marine and coastal resources. I conclude with my own personal insights on the value of transdisciplinary social-ecological research, and describe how I envision my current and future research program contributing toward an integrative approach to marine and coastal governance.

Biography: Michele Barnes-Mauthe grew up poking around tide pools on the California coast. She completed her Master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management and earned a graduate certificate in Ocean Policy at the University of Hawaii in 2012, where she is currently a PhD candidate and research assistant.

Michele’s research has an applied, quantitative focus, drawing on methods and theories from sociology and economics to develop a better understanding of marine social-ecological systems. Her projects span the developed-developing world divide and cover a diverse range of contexts – from large-scale, commercially exploited systems, to small-scale, locally managed ones.

Michele is currently working as a research specialist with the Socioeconomics and Planning Group at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. She also holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii, where she teaches an upper division course on the human dimensions of marine and coastal systems.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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