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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Tiffany Morrison

Tiffany Morrison

Program 1 Leader

James Cook University

+61 (0)7 4781 6825

As a political geographer (PhD, University of Queensland), I draw on the disciplines of political science, public administration, geography, and sociology to understand and improve the design of complex and multi-scalar environmental governance regimes. My approach is based on the development of an empirical database of specific national cases and transnational trends across the US, Australia, and Asia. This systematic comparative approach has generated important contributions to governance theory and practice, particularly in the area of decentralisation, regionalisation and risk. I also work closely with a range of physical, natural, and social scientists and policymakers on inter-disciplinary approaches to environmental governance problems. Prior to joining JCU, I was a tenured faculty member in the School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Management at The University of Queensland (2008-2015) and the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University (2004-2008). I have also held adjunct, visiting and research appointments at University of Kyoto, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Oregon, Stanford University, and CSIRO.

My current Environmental Governance group centres around two main themes:

(1)    Basic theory of environmental governance. My principal theoretical contributions to this field emerge out of conducting empirical research on policy and administration in the USA, Australia, and Asia, and focus on the role of inter-agency arrangements, the use of science and stakeholders in decision-making and assessment and planning, and the role of scale in governance. My most recent work has involved the development of a Regional Governance Index for assessing the institutional potential of regions. This has led to a new cross-national project analysing the role of environmental and economic institutions and policy in shaping regional ecosystems, and further theoretical exploration of the governance of governance (‘meta-governance’).

(2) Applied studies of environmental governance. This dimension of my research is concerned with the feasibility of different institutional designs to respond to contemporary environmental issues, such as climate variability and unplanned coastal development. I am particularly interested in how different institutional designs deal with socio-ecological dynamics and the science-policy interface. As a chief investigator on a recent ARC Super Science Fellowship award, I co-lead a team of geographers, planners, economists, lawyers and ecologists on a multi-disciplinary approach to defining and solving the problems and impacts posed by sea level rise, a project which was profiled by The Australian newspaper (2 November 2011) as in the top 10 of innovative collaborative Australian research projects. Key results include papers on dealing with scientific uncertainty in policy, and ontransformation of governance systems to deal with heightened risk.

Research Group

I am always encouraging applications from exceptional PhD and postdoctoral scholars with backgrounds in political science, public administration, geography, sociology, economics, planning law and cognate disciplines. Areas of interest include:

Selected Publications

Morrison, T. H. (2017). Evolving polycentric governance of the Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,    doi:10.1073/pnas.1620830114 .

Wilson, C. E., Morrison, T. H., & Everingham, J. A. (2017). Linking the ‘meta-governance’ imperative to regional governance in resource communities. Journal of Rural Studies, 50: 188-197.

Foley, M. M., Mease, L. A., Martone, R. G., Prahler, E. E., Morrison, T. H., Murray, C. C., & Wojcik, D. (2017). The challenges and opportunities in cumulative effects assessment. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 62: 122-134.

Cumming, G. S., Morrison, T. H., & Hughes, T. P. (2016). New Directions for Understanding the Spatial Resilience of Social–Ecological Systems. Ecosystems, doi:10.1007/s10021-016-0089-5.

Morrison, T. H. (2016). The meta-governance of regions and the need for a political geography of planning. International Planning Studies, 21(3): 298-304.

Daniel, C., Morrison, T. H. and S. Phinn (2016) The Governance of Private Residential Land in Cities and Spatial Effects on Tree Cover. Environmental Science and Policy, 62: 79–89.

Turner, R., Addison, J., Arias, A., Bergseth, B., Marshall, N., Morrison, T., & Tobin, R. (2016). Trust, confidence, and equity affect the legitimacy of natural resource governance. Ecology and Society, 21(3): art. 18.

Wilson, C. E., Morrison, T. H., Everingham, J. A., & McCarthy, J. (2016). Steering Social Outcomes in America’s Energy Heartland State and Private Meta-Governance in the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania. The American Review of Public Administration, 0275074016654012.

Morrison, T.H., Lane, M.B. and Hibbard, M. (2015). Planning, governance and rural futures in Australia and USA: Revisiting the case for rural regional planning. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 58(9): 1601-1616.

Althaus, C and T.H. Morrison (2015). Federalism Dreaming: Re-Imagining the governance of Australian landscapes Australian Journal of Public Administration, 74(1): 93-99.

Bell, J. and T.H. Morrison (2015) A comparative analysis of the transformation of governance systems: Land-use planning for flood risk, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 17(4): 516-534.

Belmar, Y, McNamara, K.E and T.H. Morrison (2015). Water security in Small Island Developing States: The limited utility of evolving governance paradigms. WIRES Water, 3(2): 181–193.

Clement, S., Moore, S.A., Lockwood, M. and T. H. Morrison (2015) A diagnostic framework for biodiversity conservation institutions. Pacific Conservation Biology, 21(4): 277-290.

Cuevas, S.C., Peterson, A., Robinson, C. and T.H. Morrison (2015) Challenges in Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation into Local Land Use Planning. The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, 7(3): 45-65.

Cuevas, S.C., Peterson, A., Robinson, C. and T.H. Morrison (2015) Institutional Capacity for Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation: Evidence from land use planning in Albay, Philippines. Regional Environmental Change, doi: 10.1007/s10113-015-0909-8.

Hettiarachchi, M., Morrison, T.H. and McAlpine, C.(2015). Forty-three years of Ramsar and Urban Wetlands.Global Environmental Change, 32: 57-66.

Mills, M.,  Leon, J., Saunders,  M.,  Bell, J.,  Liu, Y., O’Mara, J., Lovelock, C., Mumby, P., Phinn, S., Possingham, P., Tulloch, V., Mutafoglu, K., Morrison, T.H., Callaghan, D., Baldock, T., Klein, C., and O. Hoegh-Guldberg. (2015). Reconciling development and conservation under coastal squeeze from rising sea-level. Conservation Letters, doi: 10.1111/conl.12213.

Mills, M., Weeks, R., Pressey, R.L., Gleason, M., Eisma-Osorio R., Lombard, A.T, Harris, J.M., Killmer A.B., White, A. and T.H. Morrison (2015). Real-world progress in overcoming the challenges of adaptive spatial planning Biological Conservation, 181: 54-63.

Morrison, T.H. (2014). Developing a regional governance index: the institutional potential of regionsJournal of Rural Studies, 35: 101-111.

Bell, J., Saunders, M., Leon Patino, J., Mills, M., Kythreotis, A., Phinn, S., Mumby, P.J., Lovelock, C.E., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., and T.H. Morrison (2014). Maps, laws and planning policy: working with biophysical and spatial uncertainty in the case of sea level rise. Environmental Science & Policy, 44: 247-257.

Cuevas, S. C., Peterson, A. & T.H. Morrison (2014). An analytical framework for investigating complex institutions in climate change adaptation: The institutional environment matrix. In Leal, W. (Ed.), Handbook of Climate Change Adaptation: Springer, Berlin Heidelberg. DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-40455-9_18-1.

Hettiarachchi, M., T. H. Morrison, et al. (2014). The eco-social transformation of urban wetlands. Landscape and Urban Planning, 132: 55-68.

Hettiarachchi, M., McAlpine, C. and T.H. Morrison (2014). Governing the urban wetlands: a multiple case-study of policies and institutions. Environmental Conservation, 41 (3): 276-289.

Morrison, T. H., C. Wilson and M. Bell (2012). The role of private corporations in regional planning and development: Opportunities and challenges for the governance of land use. Journal of Rural Studies, 28(4): 478-489.

Schmidt, P. and T.H. Morrison (2012) Watershed management in an urban setting: Process, scale and administration. Land Use Policy, 29: 45– 52.

Morrison, T.H., McAlpine, C., Rhodes, J.R., Peterson, A. and P. Schmidt (2010) Back to the Future: Planning for environmental outcomes and the new Caring for our Country program. Australian Geographer, 41(4): 521-538.

Morrison, T.H. (2009). The road ahead for regional governance. In Lane, M., Robinson C., and Taylor, B., (eds),Contested Country, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 227-240.

Morrison, T.H. (2007). Multiscalar governance and regional environmental management. Space and Polity, 11 (3): 227-241.

Morrison, T.H. (2006). Pursuing rural sustainability at the regional level: key lessons from the literature on institutions, integration and the environment. Journal of Planning Literature, 21(2): 143-152.

Morrison, T.H. and Lane, M.B. (2006). The convergence of regional governance discourses: enduring challenges and constructive suggestions. Rural Society, 16(3): 341-357.

Lane, M.B. and T.H. Morrison (2006). Public interest or private agenda? A meditation on the role of NGOs in environmental policy and management. Journal of Rural Studies, 22(2): 232-242.

Morrison, T.H. (2005). Institutional design for collective environmental decision and action: the prescriptions of technocrats, neo-liberals and democrats. Political Geography, 24(6): 775-778.

Morrison, T.H. and Lane, M.B. (2005). What ‘Whole-of-Government’ means for environmental policy and management. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 12(1): 47-54.

Morrison, T.H., McDonald, G.T. and Lane, M.B. (2004). Integrating natural resource management for better environmental outcomes. Australian Geographer, 35(3): 243-258.

Lane, M.B., McDonald, G.T. and T.H. Morrison (2004). Decentralisation and environmental management.Geographical Research, 42(1): 103-115.


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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