Michele grew up poking around tide pools on the California coast. She completed her PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Management and a graduate certificate program in Ocean Policy at the University of Hawaii in 2015. Her dissertation work investigated the effect of resource user’s social networks and social capital on ecological and economic outcomes, and their implications for sustainable resource management in the largest commercial fishery in the Hawaiian Islands.

Michele previously worked as a research specialist in the Socioeconomics and Planning Group at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, and held adjunct appointments at Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Hawaii, where she taught an upper division course on the human dimensions of marine and coastal systems. After graduating with her PhD, Michele was awarded a prestiguous U.S. National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship to study social-ecological interactions in coral reef ecosystems. During this time she joined the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies as a visiting scholar, where she now holds a Research Fellowship position in the People and Ecosystems Program. 

Michele's research draws on sociology, psychology, economics, and social-ecological systems theory to understand human behavior and group dynamics in environmental systems, and how they relate to the sustainable use and governance of environmental resources. Her work is highly interdisciplinary and has an applied quantitative focus. Current projects span the developing-developed world divide, with field sites in coastal Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and Hawaii, and themes include:

  • Social networks, social capital, and environmental outcomes
  • Social-ecological networks to capture complex relationships between people and ecosystems
  • Adaptation, transformation, and social-ecological resilience
  • Inequality, power, and sociocultural diversity in coastal communities


  • marine policy
  • social networks
  • social-ecological systems
  • fisheries
  • socio-cultural diversity
  • social capital
  • equity
  • shark ecotourism
  • marine policy
  • economic valuation
  • fisheries sustainability
  • environmental social science
  • environmental economics
  • human dimensions of environmental systems
  • 2017 to present - Social Science Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2015 to 2017 - Visiting Scholar & Adjunct, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2015 to 2017 - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dept. of Botany, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2015 - Research Specialist, NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2012 to 2015 - Graduate Researcher, NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2012 to 2015 - Research Associate, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2011 to 2012 - Graduate Research Assistant, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, USA)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2015 - Ph.D. Student Oral Presentation Award, University of Hawaii
  • 2014 - University of Hawaii Graduate Student Organization Travel Grant
  • 2014 - U.S. National Science Foundation Marine Research Network Travel Grant
  • 2014 - Ph.D. Oral Presentation Award, University of Hawaii
  • 2014 - Achievement Scholarship, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii
  • 2012 - M.S. Student Oral Presentation Award, University of Hawaii
  • 2015 to 2017 - U.S. National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
  • 2011 to 2012 - Sachiyuki Masumoto Scholarship, University of Hawaii

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 29+ research outputs authored by Dr Michele Barnes from 2011 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

How social networks and power shape adaptive action

Indicative Funding
$370,000 over 3 years
This project aims to determine how social networks and power affect adaptive action in response to climate change impacts. It will be the first longitudinal study that tracks individuals and a governance institution before and after a global coral bleaching event to explicitly demonstrate key factors that facilitate (or inhibit) adaptive action at multiple scales. This project will significantly improve our b/u withunderstanding of how adaptive capacity translates into adaptive action, and the role of social networks and power in shaping adaptive responses. Ultimately, this project will contribute practical guidance on how to build adaptive capacity among both individuals and governance institutions.
Michele Barnes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
social networks; Adaptive Capacity; Power; Transformation; Adaptation; Social Capital

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.

  • Macro and Micro Level Determinants of the Contribution of Fish to Nutritional Security (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The resilience of ecologically-dependent human communities to disturbances within volatile social-ecological systems (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Untapped capacity for adaptation and transformation in coral reef social-ecological systems: exploring governance and discourse in the Great Barrier Reef and Hawaiian Islands (PhD , Primary 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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