I grew up in Queensland, Australia. I completed a PhD on complex environmental governance in the USA and Australia in 2004, supported by a highly competitive Land and Water Australia scholarship at The University of Queensland and a visiting fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research focuses on improving how society governs complex environmental change. My interest in complex environmental governance began in 1996 while working on the first CSIRO experiment in regional environmental governance, an experiment fundamentally challenged by hidden political-economic dynamics. From 2004-2008 I taught in the Master of Public Administration program while tenured faculty in the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University. In 2005, I was awarded a visiting Fellowship at the University of Kyoto, where I became interested in the complex governance challenge of climate adaptation. During 2008-2014 I held an ARC Super Science Fellowships grant, where I focused on developing integrated governance solutions for sea level rise. This project which was profiled by The Australian newspaper (2 November 2011) as in the top 10 of innovative collaborative Australian research projects. Throughout this time, I was tenured faculty in the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management at The University of Queensland. I joined the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies as tenured Social Science Research Leader and co-leader of the People and Ecosystems Program in 2015. Since then, I have developed a major new research program on multiscale governance of climate adaptation and conflict in large-scale reef systems. In 2017, a BAFTA-awarded BBC documentary producer interviewed me about my work on the complex governance of the Great Barrier Reef. A two-part documentary Costing the Earth was aired on the BBC in early 2018.
My Google Scholar page
Our research program combines the disciplines of political science and geography to understand and improve the design of complex environmental governance regimes. We work closely with a range of physical, natural, and social scientists and policymakers on inter-disciplinary approaches to environmental governance problems. Our social science capacity and competitiveness is underpinned by an international research program, involving co-tutelle PhD supervision and co-appointed postdoctoral fellowships, with colleagues at Exeter University, Stockholm University, WorldFish, and the University of Queensland.
Our current research is centred around three questions.
Hidden political-economic drivers in complex regimes: Global sustainability depends on better understanding and implementation of complex environmental governance regimes. However, current understanding is typically limited to snapshot analyses of the initial design or the emergent structure of complex regimes. To meet this challenge, we are focusing not only on the structure of regimes but also on systematically examining internal and external socio-political drivers in environmental governance. Recent results have been published in journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and WIREs Climate Change, and cited in major policy reviews such as the 2017 Review of Governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Our main aim is to uncover hidden levers for improving the design, implementation and robustness of complex environmental governance regimes. This program involves a diverse array of collaborators from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, University of Michigan, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, University of Exeter, University of Melbourne, Lancaster University, McGill University, WorldFish and WWF.
Governing through power asymmetry and complexity: The problems of resource-dependent regions include globally uneven power relations and development patterns, and rapid and uncertain exogenous threats. At the same time, economic and social restructuring involving devolved planning responsibilities, privatised resource rights, and networked management approaches are undermining previous scientific and policy assumptions about the resilience of resource-dependent regions. We already know that multiscale institutions play a critical role in ensuring the resilience and resourcefulness of regions in the face of such challenges. We do not yet understand why some regions are resilient while others strain or even paralyse under conditions of inequity, complexity, uncertainty, and unpredictability. Our early contributions to this field emerge out of conducting empirical research on policy and administration in the USA and Australia, focusing on the role of scale in governance. Our more recent work has involved the development of a Regional Governance Index for assessing the institutional potential of regions. This has led to new cross-national projects analysing the governance of governance (‘meta-governance’) in governing through power asymmetry and complexity. By focusing on scale and power asymmetry, we are providing an important counterpoint to the ‘bottom-up bias’ in sustainability science. See new papers in Journal of Rural Studies and American Review of Public Administration here.
Governance in the Anthropocene. This dimension of our research is concerned with the feasibility of different institutional designs to respond to chronic conflict and cumulative impacts of multiple environmental threats, such as global climate change, coastal development and over-fishing. In four recent and highly influential Reviews (in Nature, WIRES Climate Change, Nature Climate Change and Ecosystems), we identified several key challenges associated with governing large scale SESs under climate change. Future research will continue this work by developing a robust framework for understanding complex environmental governance under climate change, providing a more rigorous basis for understanding the effects of complexity and change on socio-ecological systems. New findings demonstrate that current governance interventions fail comprehensively for large scale SESs under climate change, highlighting the need for a more forward-looking understanding of the governance of socio-ecological change incorporating complex exogenous, cumulative and feedback dynamics. See our new paper on marine fisheries and future ocean conflict in Fish and Fisheries.
Complex Environmental Governance Research Group
- Sivee Chawla, JCU PhD Candidate: Understanding ecosystem service choices made by individual actors and their implications for social–ecological interactions
- Dr Pip Cohen, WorldFish Scientist & JCU Adjunct Research Fellow: Resilient small-scale fisheries
- Eduardo Gallo-Cajiao, UQ PhD Candidate: Global governance for conserving migratory shorebirds
- Dr Missaka Hettiarachchi, JCU & WWF Senior Fellow: Environment and disaster governance
- Cindy Huchery, JCU & WorldFish Research Associate: People and ecosystems
- Dr Danika Kleiber, JCU & WorldFish Research Fellow: Governance of small-scale fisheries
- Sarah Lawless, JCU PhD Candidate: Assessing and orchestrating complex meta-norm diffusion in natural resource governance
- Lucy McHugh, JCU PhD Candidate: Power and participation in seascape conservation in the Anthropocene: How are new governance models turning the tide?
- Dr Andrew Song, JCU & WorldFish Research Fellow: Regional governance of fisheries
- Jessica Spijkers, JCU & Stockholm University PhD Candidate: Navigating international conflicts in the governance of shared stocks
- Shanna Grafeld, JCU: Market structures, trade networks, and governance of coral reef fisheries across a development gradient
We are 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:
- Quantitative and qualitative analysis of governance norms
- Comparative analysis of multi-scalar governance transformation
- Scalar and spatial dimensions of governing for ecological resilience
- Adaptation of governance in tropical, coastal and marine regions
If you are about to contact me to inquire about a PhD, please read this article first.
Cinner, J.E., Adger, W.N., Allison, E.H., Barnes, M.L., Brown, K., Cohen, P.J., Gelcich, S., Hicks, C.C., Hughes, T.P., Lau, J., Marshall, N.A., and Morrison, T.H. (2018) Building adaptive capacity to climate change in tropical coastal communities. Nature Climate Change, 8(2): 117-123.
- Provides a roadmap for governments, development agencies, and civil society organizations concerned with deep systemic adaptation to climate change in tropical coastal communities. Output of an international working group on coastal adaptation in Townsville, Australia 2015. Ranked in top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric. Featured on cover of issue and picked up by media outlets.
Song, A.M., Cohen, P.J., Hanich, Q., Morrison, T.H., Andrew, N. 2019. Multi-scale policy diffusion and translation in Pacific Island coastal fisheries. Ocean & Coastal Management, 168: 139-149.
Pratchett, M.S.,…,Morrison, T.H., et al. 2019. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. World Seas: an Environmental Evaluation, 333-362
Blythe, J., Silver, J., Evans, L., Armitage, D., Bennett, N.J., Moore, M.L., Morrison, T.H. and Brown, K., 2018. The Dark Side of Transformation: Latent Risks in Contemporary Sustainability Discourse. Antipode. doi: 10.1111/anti.12405.
Gallo-Cajiao, E., Archibald, C., Friedman, R., Steven, R., Fuller, R., Game, E., Morrison, T.H., and Ritchie, E. (2018) Crowdfunding biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, doi: 10.1111/cobi.13144.
Song, A.M., Johnsen, J.P., and Morrison, T.H. (2018) Reconstructing governability: How fisheries are made governable. Fish and Fisheries, 19(2): 377-389.
Spijkers, J., Morrison, T.H., Blasiak, R., Cumming, G., Osborne, M., Watson, J., and Osterblom, H. (2018) Marine fisheries and future ocean conflict. Fish and Fisheries, doi: 10.1111/faf.12291.
Wilson, C., Morrison, T.H., Everingham, J-A, and McCarthy, J. (2018) Capture and crush: Gas companies in the fracking dispute and deliberative depoliticization. Geoforum, 92: 106-116.
Morrison, T. H. (2017). Evolving polycentric governance of the Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(15): E3013-E3021.
- Analyses extent and impact of governance change for the Great Barrier Reef. Recommendations adopted by the 2017 Review of Governance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Commended by the Faculty of 1000. Ranked in top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric.
Morrison, T. H., Adger, W. N., Brown, K., Lemos, M. C., Huitema, D., & Hughes, T. P. (2017). Mitigation and adaptation in polycentric systems: sources of power in the pursuit of collective goals. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, doi: 10.1002/wcc.479.
- Develops highly novel conceptual model for understanding complex governance under climate change. One of the outputs of a working group on coastal and marine governance under climate change convened in Cornwall, UK, 2016.
Cohen, P.J., Song, A.M., and Morrison, T.H. (2017) Policy coherence with the small-scale fisheries guidelines: analysing across scales of governance in Pacific small-scale fisheries. In: Jentoft, Svein, Chuenpagdee, Ratana, Barragán-Paladines, María José, and Franz, Nicole, (eds.) The Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines: Global Implementation. MARE Publication Series (14). Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 57-77.
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.
Hettiarachchi, M., Morrison, T.H., and Mcalpine, C. (2017) Power, politics and policy in the appropriation of urban wetlands: the critical case of Sri Lanka. The Journal of Peasant Studies, doi: 10.1080/03066150.2017.1393801.
Hughes, T.P., Barnes, M.L., Bellwood, D.R., Cinner, J.E., Cumming, G.S., Jackson, J.B., Kleypas, J., van de Leemput, I.A., Lough, J.M., Morrison, T.H. and Palumbi, S.R. (2017). Coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature, 546(7656): 82-90.
- Milestone interdisciplinary paper forecasting radical changes in the science and governance of coral reefs under climate change. Picked up by 37 news outlets, including major media. ISI listed “Hot Paper” and “Highly Cited Paper”.
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.
Wilson, C.E., Morrison, T.H., and Everingham, J.-A. (2017) Multi-Scale Meta-Governance Strategies for Addressing Social Inequality in Resource Dependent Regions. Sociologia Ruralis, doi: 10.1111/soru.12189.
Wilson, C. E., Morrison, T. H., Everingham, J. A., & McCarthy, J. (2017). Steering Social Outcomes in America’s Energy Heartland State and Private Meta-Governance in the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania. The American Review of Public Administration, 47(8): 929-944..
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.
Cuevas, S.C., Peterson, A., Morrison, T.H., and Robinson, C. (2016) Methodology for examining the challenges in mainstreaming climate change adaptation. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 8(3): 418-439.
Cuevas, S.C., Peterson, A., Robinson, C. and T.H. Morrison (2016) Institutional Capacity for Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation: Evidence from land use planning in Albay, Philippines. Regional Environmental Change, 16(7): 2045-2058.
Cumming, G.S., Morrison, T. H., & Hughes, T. P. (2016). New Directions for Understanding the Spatial Resilience of Social–Ecological Systems. Ecosystems, 20(4): 649-664.
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.
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. (2016). Reconciling development and conservation under coastal squeeze from rising sea-level. Conservation Letters, 9(5): 361-368.
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.
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.
Hettiarachchi, M., Morrison, T.H. and McAlpine, C.(2015). Forty-three years of Ramsar and Urban Wetlands.Global Environmental Change, 32: 57-66.
- Provides a roadmap for updating environmental governance regimes in response to contemporary conditions, part of a series on social-ecological transformations.
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 regions. Journal of Rural Studies, 35: 101-111.
- Develops and tests a metric for analysing resilience and robustness of regional environmental governance in US and Australian cases over time.
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.