Program 1: People and Ecosystems
Program Leaders: Professor Terry Hughes, A/Prof Tiffany Morrison and Professor Bob Pressey
This program expands the scope of contemporary coral reef research, from a predominantly biological focus to a broader understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.
The key objective is to improve the governance and management of natural systems and to enhance our capacity to sustain both human and natural capital.
Our research examines the economic, social, historical and cultural aspects of resource use and governance, while recognising that there is no simple, single solution to the wicked problem of preserving reefs while promoting development.
This inter-disciplinary program is being conducted on a global scale with study areas spread over 25 countries across the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean.
Social Adaptation, Resilience and Transformation – Examines the resilience and adaptive capacity of coral reef dependent societies across the tropic to inevitable change, particularly climate change and overfishing.
Integrated Land-Sea Planning – A primary goal is developing a new conceptual framework for planning human activities in coastal areas and seascapes, particularly in Australia, the Coral Triangle, Fiji and India.
Fish, Fishers and Fisheries – Aims to develop theory and test new models for understanding the dynamics of coupled ecological and social systems, where one or both components exhibit threshold dynamics.
Program 1: People and Ecosystems
Members of this program work across a range of themes (see introduction). Some are also part of individual research groups (below).
Individual Research Groups
The Conservation Planning Group, led by Bob Pressey:
We focus on spatial solutions to diverse resource management problems, involving the design of conservation areas and applications of a variety of conservation actions. In designing and conducting our research, we place a high value on engagement with managers and policy makers, from local communities to local, state and federal governments and non-government organizations. Our blog features regular updates about our research and collaborations.
The Bellwood Lab, led by David Bellwood:
Our lab focuses on reef fish ecology, ecosystem function and resilience. Our approach is eclectic, ranging from molecular phylogenetics and global biogeography to functional morphology and behavioural ecology. Yet we are all united by a single focus – to understand the role of biodiversity in ecosystem function and to find novel solutions to the problems faced by coral reefs. Our ultimate goal is to understand how coral reefs work, to identify the critical roles of fishes in coral reef ecosystems, and to develop new approaches to reef management that will include people as part of the solution.
Cinner Research Group, led by Josh Cinner:
Our research group focuses on the interface between social science and ecology to develop solutions for a wide range of issues facing coral reefs and the millions of people who depend on them. We integrate theories and methods from geography, economics, political science, ecology, and modeling to explore issues at the forefront of applied conservation. Our social science research is rigorous, quantitative, comparative in nature, and often conducted at extremely large scales.
Marine Palaeoecology Lab, led by John Pandolfi:
In the marine Palaeoecology Lab we conduct investigations into the effects of natural and anthropogenic climate change, as well as other anthropogenic stressors, on tropical and sub-tropical reefs in a historical context. Coral reefs are experiencing increasing degradations, but systematic studies of these amazing environments are only recent. To really know how these environments looked like before human influence we need to be creative in the use of tools that give us an insight into the recent past (hundreds to thousands of years) as well as the deep past (hundreds of thousands to millions of years). Historical ecology, along with fossil records and genetic studies allow us to establish appropriate baselines for the study and management of marine ecosystems.
Environmental Governance Group, led by Tiffany Morrison:
We focus on understanding and improving complex environmental governance regimes. We draw on the disciplines of political science, public administration, geography, and sociology to explore specific national cases and transnational trends across the US, Australia, Asia, and Europe. This systematic comparative approach is generating important contributions to governance theory and practice, particularly in relation to scale, power, and institutional change. We also work closely with a range of physical, natural, and social scientists and policymakers on inter-disciplinary and applied approaches to environmental governance problems.