Michele is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the College of Arts, Society, and Education, an Associate Professor in the School of Project Management at the University of Sydney, and is the head of the Social Dynamics & the Environment Lab. In 2023 she served as the President of the Australian Network for Social Network Analysis and she currently serves on the board of the International Network for Social Network Analysis. Her work draws on theories and methods from sociology and complex systems science to contribute a better understanding of the linkages between people and nature that underpin complex environmental problems. She has specialized expertise in social network science, which she applies to explore key issues such as: how human-nature interactions drive environmental outcomes, how environmental knowledge spreads through society, and how social networks influence environmental behaviour.

Michele's research is increasingly focused on adaptation and resilience, asking critical questions such as: What factors drive or underpin human responses to environmental change (and in what context)? When can a response or action be considered transformative vs. adaptive? How are human responses to change underpinned by social-ecological feedbacks, and how can they potentially alter these feedbacks? What role does power play in shaping responses to change, and what does this mean for resilience (and for whom)? To investigate these questions, she works closely with interdisciplinary teams of scholars, policy-makers, managers, and practitioners and has active research sites in Australia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, and Hawai‘i.

Michele obtained her PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Management from the University of Hawaii in 2015. Throughout her tenure in Hawaii, she held adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific University, where she developed and taught courses on the human dimensions of marine systems and quantitative social science methods. Michele is committed to research impact and has worked with communities, practitioners, and policy makers to apply research insights in Hawaii, the United States, Australia, and in the Western Indian Ocean. For example, from 2021-2022, Michele served as a member of the Expert Working Group that developed a National Strategy for Just Adaptation in Australia.

  • climate change adaptation policy and planning
  • marine and coastal policy
  • justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • social networks, social-ecological networks
  • social-ecological systems
  • climate change adaptation
  • adaptation, transformation, and resilience
  • adaptive capacity
  • coastal communities
  • environmental governance
  • power dynamics
  • social capital
  • justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • social network analysis
  • environmental social science
  • human dimensions of environmental systems
  • social-ecological interactions
  • 2023 to present - Adjunct Associate Professor, College of Arts, Society, and Education, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2023 to present - Associate Professor, School of Project Management, University of Sydney (Sydney, Australia)
  • 2023 - Associate Professor, College of Arts, Society, and Education (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2022 - Associate Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2019 to 2022 - Senior Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Townsville, Australia)
  • 2017 to 2018 - 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 - Research Associate, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2012 to 2015 - Graduate Researcher, NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (Honolulu, HI, USA)
  • 2011 to 2012 - Graduate Research Assistant, Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii (Honolulu, HI, USA)
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2023 - International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA) Freeman Award
  • 2021 - Academy of Social Sciences in Australia Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research
  • 2020 - AIPS Young Tall Poppy Award
  • 2020 - Australian Museum Eureka Award for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Science
  • 2019 to 2022 - ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award
  • 2015 to 2017 - U.S. National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

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 52+ research outputs authored by A/Prof 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 4 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 (Research Division)
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.

  • Climate change and violent conflict: building capacities in climate and conflict-affected coastal communities (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • Addressing Collective Action Challenge for Sustainable and Equitable Governance of Coastal Wetlands (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Strengthening stakeholder engagement and collaborations in marine resource management (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Rural Cassava Farmers Behaviour and Adaptation to Climate Smart Africulture in Nigeria (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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


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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