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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


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Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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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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Systematic conservation planning in marine environments – sensitivities of the planning process to aspects of scale


Monday, March 26th 2018, 12:00 to 13:00 hrs (AEST)

Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room 106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville
Jessica Cheok
Jessica Cheok


Problems of scale abound in the science, governance, and conservation planning of complex social-ecological systems. In systematic conservation planning specifically, nearly half of the stages in the planning framework involve decisions directly related to scale. These can be described by two groups: stages that relate to technical aspects of planning (e.g., data selection), and those more practical in nature (e.g., how to transition between the different scales of planning and implementation). Implications of scale-related problems are still poorly understood by conservation planners and researchers, as well as approaches to deal with these problems and integrate explicit multi-scalar thinking into the planning framework. My thesis addresses four main research gaps. The first is the need to understand how prioritisation factors act and interact to influence how spatial conservation priorities are determined, and how these relate to the ability of priorities identified at broad extents and coarse resolutions to represent finer-resolution priorities. Second, in the difficult transition from regional plans to local actions where iterative cycling between regional- and local-perspectives is necessary to account for the mismatch in scales, I explore how frequently regional priorities should be updated during an iterative planning process. Third is the need to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of conservation plans developed at different scales in considering different social and ecological components, which I address using an explicitly multi-scalar social-ecological systems framework. This understanding relates to the fourth research gap, for which I investigate the scope of multi-scale planning in practice, to what extent it occurs, and factors that impede or facilitate effective planning across multiple scales. This research contributes a more nuanced and explicit understanding of how different aspects of scale influence outcomes throughout the conservation planning framework, and offers recommendations on ways to integrate this multi-scalar understanding in future conservation planning processes.



Jess grew up in Brunei, where she gained a profound interest and appreciation for the existence of natural environments. Coming from this part of the world, she has had firsthand exposure to the intricate cultural and socio-political complexities that comprise most Southeast Asian countries, which has influenced her fascination with the critical interdepencies between human and environmental systems. Jess’ previous areas of studies have included marine science and biology, and aquaculture. Her PhD thesis looks at the sensitivities of the systematic conservation planning process to aspects of scale. Through her research, she is trying to understand ways in which we can better and more explicitly integrate the consideration of multiple scales into the systematic conservation planning framework, through examining a range of influences and interactions that occur within and between different scales of planning. Ultimately, towards the goal of achieving effective conservation outcomes across multiple scales of complex social-ecological systems.


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