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.

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Georgina Gurney

Georgina Gurney

Environmental Social Science Research Fellow

PhD (2016), BSc with Honours (2009)

James Cook University

+61 (0)7 4781 6483

My research interests lie broadly in understanding the factors that influence opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool natural resources (CPRs), and the multiple socioeconomic and environmental outcomes of such initiatives. I take an interdisciplinary approach to my research, and draw on theories and methods from a range of disciplines, including social psychology, behavioural economics, human geography and political science. I also collaborate widely with a range of natural and social scientists, policymakers and natural resource managers. To date, I’ve undertaken much of my research in the context of coral reef management in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Fiji. I received my PhD from James Cook University in 2016 (for more details on my time as a graduate student please see this article), and am currently an Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, Australia.

My current research program has two broad themes:

Opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool resources

This theme of my research is concerned with understanding the factors affecting opportunities for collaborative management of common-pool resources, including examining why people engage in collective action in regards to CPR management and how such cooperative activities are affected by the micro and macro social-ecological context. My recent research in this theme has included examining how multi-scale socioeconomic and institutional factors affect people’s participation in community-based management, and cooperative behavioural disposition, as indexed by a public goods game.

Outcomes of collaborative management of common-pool resources

A core focus of my research in this theme is evaluating how people are impacted by and respond to community-based CPR management. Recent related projects have included evaluating the impacts of community-based CPR management on multidimensional poverty (for an overview of this project please see this video from a science communication event) including the equality of those impacts according to social subgroups, such as gender. Currently, I am working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a global social-ecological monitoring framework to be applied to coral reef sites in more than seven countries. Specifically, I am leading the development of the social indicators, which are designed to facilitate identification of impacts to various dimensions of human wellbeing, including equity and power in relation to natural resource management (more about this project can be found here).

Google Scholar Profile

Selected Publications

Diedrich, A., Stoeckl, N., Gurney, G., Maipa, A., Pollnac, R. In press. Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community-based marine protected areas. Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12808.

Gurney, G., Cinner, J., Sartin, J., Ban, N., Pressey, R., Marshall, N., Prabuning, D. 2016. Participation in devolved commons management: Multiscale socioeconomic factors related to individuals’ participation in community-based management of marine protected areas in Indonesia. Environmental Science & Policy 61:212-220.

Gurney, G., Pressey, R., Cinner, J., Pollnac, R., Campbell, S. 2015. Integrated conservation and development: evaluating a community-based marine protected area project for equality of socioeconomic impacts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 370: 20140277.

Gurney, G., Pressey, R., Ban, N., Álvarez-Romero, J., Jupiter, S., Adams, V. 2015. Efficient and equitable design of marine protected areas in Fiji through inclusion of stakeholder-specific objectives in conservation planning. Conservation Biology 29:1378–1389.

Gurney, G., Cinner, J., Ban, N., Pressey, R., Pollnac, R., Campbell, S., Tasidjawa, S., Setiawan, F. 2014. Poverty and protected areas: an evaluation of a marine integrated conservation and development project in Indonesia. Global Environmental Change 26:98-107.

Gurney, G., Melbourne-Thomas, J., Geronimo, R., Aliño, P., Johnson, C. 2013. Modelling coral reef futures to inform management: can reducing local-scale stressors conserve reefs under climate change? PLOS ONE 8(11).

Aswani, S., Gurney, G., Mulville, S., Matera, J., Gurven, M. 2013. Insights from experimental economics on local cooperation in a small-scale fishery management system. Global Environmental Change 6:1402-1409.

Pietri, D., Gurney, G., Benitez-Vina, N., Kuklok, A., Maxwell, S., Whiting, L., Vina, M., Jenkins, L. 2013. Practical recommendations to help students bridge the research-implementation gap and promote conservation. Conservation Biology 27:958-967.

Melbourne-Thomas, J., Johnson, C., Aliño, P., Geronimo, R., Villanoy, C., Gurney, G. 2011. A multi-scale biophysical model to inform regional management of coral reefs in the western Philippines and South China Sea. Environmental Modelling & Software 26:66-82.

Gurney, G. 2010. Integrated models of natural and human systems: a critical component of environmental management. Pages 132-137 in Cleland, D., Melbourne-Thomas, J., King, M., Sheehan, G., editors. Building Capacity in Coral Reef Science: an Anthology of CRTR Scholars’ Research 2010. The Coral Reef Targeted Research (CRTR) Program, Global Environment Facility/University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au