About

I am an environmental social scientist, and my research integrates theories and methods from human geography, political science and psychology to examine environmental governance, in particular, governance of conservation, natural resource management and sustainability initiatives. The interdisciplinary approach I take to research often includes collaborations with biological scientists, and extends to a transdisciplinary approach, involving knowledge co-production with practitioners and policymakers in conservation, resource management and sustainability. Most of my research has focused on coral reef governance in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region (especially Indonesia and Fiji).

Since 2016, I have held an Environmental Social Science Fellowship at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, and am currently a Senior Research Fellow in the People and Ecosystems Program. In 2019, I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship supporting institutional visits with at the University of Michigan and Harvard University. I commenced my Discovery Early Career Research (DECRA) Fellowship, awarded by the Australia Research Council, in early 2021. This Fellowship focuses on fairness in conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives, and aims to advance understanding of what is considered fair by local stakeholders and the factors that shape those perceptions. I am currently co-leading a NCEAS Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Working Group. Awarded in 2019, this grant supports our working group's research on the co-benefits and trade-offs amongst the multiple social and ecological outcomes arising from different area-based conservation and resource management tools. The project is being undertaken using a transdisciplinary research process, involving ~30 academics, practitioners and policymakers working in conservation, resource management and sustainability, and whose collective expertise spans the biological and social sciences.

I have served on the Board of Directors of the Society of Conservation Biology’s (SCB) Social Science Working Group since I was elected in 2018, and am Chair of the Memberships Committee and a member of the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee. In 2020, I co-founded a JEDI Committee at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. I am currently an editor of Sustainability Science.

Research Program

Google Scholar profile

My current research program has two broad themes:

(1) The first theme is concerned with understanding the sociocultural and institutional drivers affecting opportunities for collaborative governance of conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives. To deliver benefits to nature and people, conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives tend to require collaborative governance approaches that involve stakeholders, including resource users. However, key gaps remain in our understanding of the why people cooperate and form groups to engage in collective action for conservation and sustainability - this is especially true in light of accelerating global environmental and social change. To help address this research need my collaborators and I examine the drivers affecting individual decisions to cooperate and the emergence of group collective action. Specifically, we elucidate the sociocultural and institutional drivers operating at multiple scales, including the individual (e.g. attitudes, beliefs), group (e.g. institutional history, group heterogeneity), and broader social-ecological contextual scale (e.g. market access). A key focus of this research theme is understanding the role of place attachment and identity in collaborative governance, including how place identity is related to participation in conservation. In particular, in a recent paper we drew on place attachment theory to re-examine the concept of ‘community’ in environmental policy in the context of addressing contemporary sustainability challenges, which increasing require transnational collaborative governance given globalisation (see related conference talk).

(2) The second theme is concerned with the social and ecological outcomes of conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives. Conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives are social-ecological systems, with their outcomes and the drivers of those outcomes being both social and ecological. However, past research has tended to take a disciplinary approach, often focused on the ecological outcomes of area-based management and the biophysical drivers. To contribute to better understanding the outcomes of area-based conservation, resource management and sustainability initiatives, my collaborators and I examine how area-based management (e.g. marine protected areas, including community-managed) affects people (e.g. with respect to multi-dimensional human wellbeing, poverty and social equality) and how ecological outcomes (e.g. coral assemblages, reef fish biomass and diversity) are related to multi-scale sociocultural and institutional drivers (e.g. markets, management rules).

A core component of my current work in this theme is my transdisciplinary research on trade-offs and co-benefits among the multiple social and ecological outcomes of coral reef co-management. Drawing on theoretical and empirical literature on social-ecological systems, knowledge co-production, and common property, a key focus of this research has been developing a social-ecological systems monitoring framework for coral reef co-management through a transdisciplinary collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society. The framework was developed to be used by conservation and sustainability practitioners (see the social-ecological systems monitoring framework manual) and has been applied in seven countries. We are currently using these data to explore the co-benefits and trade-offs amongst the multiple social and ecological outcomes arising from different area-based conservation and resource management tools through our NCEAS Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Coastal Outcomes Working Group Grant.

Supervision

Current Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

Past Students

  • Patrick Smallhorn-West, JCU PhD 2020 Graduate: Assessing the impact of coral reef community management in the Kingdom of Tonga
  • Jacqueline Lau, JCU PhD 2019 Graduate: The reef is our garden: expanding analysis of ecosystem services in coastal communities
  • Tracy MacKeracher, JCU Masters 2017 Graduate: Who trusts whom in the Great Barrier Reef? Exploring trust and communication in natural resource management
  • Jeremy Horowitz, JCU Masters 2016 Graduate: Investigating stakeholder perceptions of fish decline: making sense of multiple mental models
  • Anushka Sandanam, JCU Masters 2015 Graduate: Perceptions of cyclone preparedness: assessing the role of individual adaptive capacity and social capital in the Wet Tropics, Australia

Selected Publications

For complete publication list see my Google Scholar profile

Epstein, G., G. Gurney, S. Chawla, J. Anderies, J. Baggio, H. Unnikrishnan, S. Villamayor Tomas, G. Cumming. 2021. Drivers of compliance monitoring in forest commons. Nature Sustainability.

Lau, J., G. Gurney, J. Cinner. 2021. Environmental justice in coastal systems: perspectives from communities confronting change. Global Environmental Change 66:02208.

Cinner, J., J. Zamborain-Mason, G. Gurney, et al., 2020. Meeting fisheries, ecosystem function, and biodiversity goals in a human-dominated world. Science 368(6488): 307-311.

Gurney, G., E. Darling, S. Jupiter, S. Mangubhai, T. McClanahan, P. Lestari, S. Pardede, S. Campbell, M. Fox, W. Naisilisili, N. Muthiga, S. D’agata, K. Holmes, N. Rossi. 2019Implementing a social-ecological systems framework for conservation monitoring: lessons from a multi-country coral reef program. Biological Conservation 240:108298.

Darling, E.S., T. McClanahan, J. Maina, G. Gurney, et al., 2019. Social–environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3(9):1341-1350.

Cumming, G., M. Pratchett, G. Gurney. 2019. New and emerging directions in coral reef conservations. Biological Conservation 241:108372.

Ban, N.C., G. Gurney, N. Marshall, C. Whitney, M. Mills, S. Gelcich, N.J. Bennett, M.C. Meehan, C. Butler, S. Ban, T. C. Tran, 2019. Well-being outcomes of marine protected areas. Nature Sustainability 2(6): 524-532.

Bellwood, D., M. Pratchett, T. Morrison, G. Gurney, T. Hughes, J. Álvarez-Romero, J. Day, R. Grantham, A. Grech, A. Hoey, G.P. Jones, J. Pandolfi, S. Tebbett, E. Techera, R. Weeks, G. Cumming, 2019. Coral reef conservation in the Anthropocene: Confronting spatial mismatches and prioritizing functions. Biological Conservation 236:604-615.

Marshall, N., W. Adger, C., Benham, K. Brown, M. Curnock, G. Gurney, P. Marshall, P.L. Pert, L. Thiault, 2019. Reef Grief: Investigating the relationship between place meanings and place change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sustainability Science 14(3): 579-587.

Gurney, G., J. Blythe, H. Adams, W. Adger, M. Curnock, L. Faulkner, T. James, N.A. Marshall, 2017. Redefining community based on place attachment in a connected world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114(38):10077-10082.

Gurney, G., J. Cinner, J. Sartin, R. Pressey, N. Ban, N. Marshall, D. Prabuning, 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., R. Pressey, J. Cinner, R. Pollnac, S. Campbell, 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: Biological Sciences 370(1681): 20140277.

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

Teaching
  • EV3020: Human Dimensions of Nature, Environment and Conservation (Level 3; TSV)
  • EV5020: Human Dimensions of Nature, Environment and Conservation (Level 5; TSV)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2020 - Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research - Social-Ecological Research Frontiers Team
  • 2019 to 2021 - NCEAS Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP ) Working Group Grant (co-CI) https://snappartnership.net/teams/coastal-outcomes/
  • 2017 to 2019 - Wildlife Conservation Society Impact Fellow
  • 2018 - Australian Academy of Sciences and Engineering Young Science Ambassador Award
  • 2018 - Australian Institute of Science and Policy Queensland Tall Poppy Award
  • 2016 - James Cook University Dean’s Award for PhD Excellence
  • 2015 - Virginia Chadwick Outstanding Publication Award
  • 2012 - Australian Federation of Graduate Women Award
Fellowships
  • 2021 to 2024 - Australia Research Council Discovery Early Career Research (DECRA) Fellowship
  • 2019 - Fulbright Future Research Fellowship
  • 2012 to 2016 - CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund Fellowship
Other
  • 2018 to 2021 - Elected to the Board of Directors of the Society of Conservation Biology’s (SCB) Social Science Working Group
Publications

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 46+ research outputs authored by Dr Georgina Gurney from 2010 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

Fair conservation: pathways to equitable and effective protected areas

Indicative Funding
$417,990 over 3 years
Summary
This project aims to determine the conditions under which coral reef protected areas are likely to be considered fair by local stakeholders and how perceived fairness is related to cooperation with management. With protected areas set to cover 30% of the world?s surface by 2030, addressing the understudied question of what constitutes fairness for stakeholders is of pressing importance. This project will conduct the first multi-country comparative analysis of perceived protected area fairness, the factors that shape those perceptions and their implications for cooperation with management. Project outcomes include enhanced capacity to plan for and inform effective protected areas that are onsidered fair by the people most affected by them.
Investigators
Georgina Gurney (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Keywords
fairness; Environmental Governance; Environmental justice; Protected Areas; Conservation; Social equity

Wildlife Conservation Society - Contract Research

Coral reef social-ecological systems

Indicative Funding
$46,386 over 1 year
Summary
This project aims to contribute to securing coral reef sustainability by examining the co-benefits and trade-offs among the multiple social and ecological outcomes of reef co-management. Further, by examining the contextual and institutional conditions associated with these outcomes, this project aims to elucidate what management strategies are likely to work in different places. This project involves close collaboration with the global non-profit Wildlife Conservation Society to ensure that the work provides actionable knowledge (e.g. decision-support tools) that results in real-world impact with respect to the future sustainability of coral reef social-ecological systems.
Investigators
Georgina Gurney (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Keywords
Social-ecological systems; Coral Reefs; Sustainability; Co-management
Supervision

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

Current
  • Understanding the production of scosystem services and benefits through a socio-cultural approach (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Just Fisheries: Equity perceptions and their role in environmental management and conservation (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
Completed
Data

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.

Collaboration

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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