My research examines collaborative governance of tropical marine and coastal ecosystems and has two key themes: (1) opportunities for collaborative governance of tropical marine and coastal ecosystems; and (2) the multiple sustainability outcomes of such initiatives. My research is interdisciplinary, drawing on human geography and sociology and involving collaborations with natural scientists. I have undertaken much of my research in the context of coral reef governance in Australia and the Asia-Pacific (Fiji, Indonesia, Philippines), often in partnership with environmental management practitioners. 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 governance of tropical marine and coastal ecosystems 

This theme of my research is concerned with understanding the factors affecting opportunities for collaborative governance of marine ecosystems, including examining why people engage in collective action in regards to management and how such cooperative activities are affected by the micro and macro social-ecological context. Research in this theme includes examining how multi-scale socioeconomic and institutional factors affect participation in co- management and cooperative behavioural disposition (as indexed by a public goods game). My current research includes examining the role of socioeconomic and cultural heterogeneity in influencing the likelihood of collaborative governance, including in relation to cooperative behavioural types (i.e. conditional cooperator, free rider etc), and how environmental policy and management practice can account for that heterogeneity when engaging civil society in stewardship and public participation. In regards to the latter, my recent research draws on place attachment theory to re-examine the notion of ‘community’ in environmental policy and management in the context of addressing contemporary sustainability challenges, which increasingly require transnational collaborative governance and stewardship given globalisation (related conference talk can be found here).

Outcomes of collaborative governance of tropical marine and coastal systems

A core focus of my research in this theme is evaluating how people are impacted by and respond to co-management. Projects have included evaluating the impacts of co-management on multidimensional poverty, including the equality of those impacts according to social subgroups, such as gender. Over the past two years I have been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a social-ecological monitoring framework to be applied to coral reef sites; specifically, my role in the transdisciplinary process was to lead the development of the social indicators (more about this project can be found here). The framework has now been applied in seven countries and we have a number of projects in the pipeline drawing on the resulting data; these include examining distributional and procedural equity in regards to co-management and identifying the trade-offs and co-benefits among the multiple social and ecological outcomes of co-management (the topic of our NCEAS SNAPP working group).

Selected publicaitons

For complete publication list see Google Scholar

Gurney, G., E. Emily, 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. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000632071931420X

Darling, E.S., McClanahan, T.R., Maina, J., Gurney, G., Graham, N.A., Januchowski-Hartley, F., Cinner, J.E., Mora, C., Hicks, C.C., Maire, E., Puotinen, M., et al., 2019. Social–environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature Ecology & Evolution, pp.1-10, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-019-0953-8.

Lau, J.D., Hicks, C.C., Gurney, G. and Cinner, J.E., 2019. What matters to whom and why? Understanding the importance of coastal ecosystem services in developing coastal communities. Ecosystem Services35, pp.219-230, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.12.012.

Ban, N.C., Gurney, G.., Marshall, N.A., Whitney, C.K., Mills, M., Gelcich, S., Bennett, N.J., Meehan, M.C., Butler, C., Ban, S. and Tran, T.C., 2019. Well-being outcomes of marine protected areas. Nature Sustainability2(6), p.524, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0306-2.

Bellwood, D.R., Pratchett, M.S., Morrison, T.H., Gurney, G.., Hughes, T.P., Álvarez-Romero, J.G., Day, J.C., Grantham, R., Grech, A., Hoey, A.S., Jones, G.P., Pandolfi, J.M., Tebbett, S.B., Techera, E., Weeks, R., and Cumming, G. 2019. Coral reef conservation in the Anthropocene: confronting spatial mismatches and prioritizing functions. Biological Conservationhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.05.056.

Marshall, N., Adger, W.N., Benham, C., Brown, K., Curnock, M.I., Gurney, G., Marshall, P., Pert, P.L. and Thiault, L., 2019. Reef Grief: investigating the relationship between place meanings and place change on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Sustainability Science14(3), pp.579-587, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00666-z.

Bergseth, B.J., Gurney, G., Barnes, M.L., Arias, A. and Cinner, J.E., 2018. Addressing poaching in marine protected areas through voluntary surveillance and enforcement. Nature Sustainability1(8), p.421, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0117-x.

Cinner, J.E., Maire, E., Huchery, C., MacNeil, M.A., Graham, N.A., Mora, C., McClanahan, T.R., Barnes, M.L., Kittinger, J.N., Hicks, C.C., D’agata, S., Hoey, A., Gurney, G., et al., 2018. Gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(27), pp. E6116-E6125, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708001115.

Gurney, G., Blythe, J., Adams, H., Adger, W.N., Curnock, M., Faulkner, L., James, T. and Marshall, N.A., 2017. Redefining community based on place attachment in a connected world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences114(38), pp.10077-10082, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1712125114.

Diedrich, A., Stoeckl, N., Gurney, G., Esparon, M. and Pollnac, R., 2017. Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community-based marine protected areas. Conservation Biology31(2), pp.311-321, https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12808.

Gurney, G., Cinner, J.E., Sartin, J., Pressey, R.L., Ban, N.C., Marshall, N.A. and 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 & Policy61, pp.212-220, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2016.04.015.

Gurney, G., Pressey, R.L., Cinner, J.E., Pollnac, R. and Campbell, S.J., 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 Sciences370(1681), p.20140277, https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2014.0277.

Gurney, G., Cinner, J., Ban, N.C., Pressey, R.L., Pollnac, R., Campbell, S.J., Tasidjawa, S. and Setiawan, F., 2014. Poverty and protected areas: an evaluation of a marine integrated conservation and development project in IndonesiaGlobal Environmental Change26, pp.98-107, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.04.003.

  • EV3020: Human Dimensions of Nature, Environment and Conservation (Level 3; TSV)
  • EV5020: Human Dimensions of Nature, Environment and Conservation (Level 5; TSV)
  • 2019 to 2021 - NCEAS Science for Nature and People Partnership Working Group (co-CI) https://snappartnership.net/teams/coastal-outcomes/
  • 2019 - Fulbright Research Fellowship
  • 2018 - Queensland Tall Poppy Science Award
  • 2018 - AATSE Young Science Ambassador Award
  • 2016 - James Cook University Dean’s Award for PhD Excellence
  • 2015 - Virginia Chadwick Outstanding Publication Award
  • 2012 - Australian Federation of Graduate Women Award
  • 2012 to 2016 - CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund Fellowship
  • 2017 to 2019 - Wildlife Conservation Impact Fellow

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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 36+ 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.

Wildlife Conservation Society - Contract Research

Coral reef social-ecological systems

Indicative Funding
$46,386 over 2 years
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.
Georgina Gurney (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Social-ecological systems; Coral Reefs; Sustainability; Co-management

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.

  • Urbanization and human-nature relationships: A comparison of urban and rural dwellers’ perceptions of ecosystem services in the Solomon Islands (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Just Fisheries: Equity perceptions and their role in environmental management and conservation (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Understanding the production of scosystem services and benefits through a socio-cultural approach (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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


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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