I grew up in Queensland, Australia. I completed a PhD on complex environmental governance in the USA and Australia in 2004, supported by a 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. During that time, I 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.  I currently hold concurrent professorial appoinments in the School of Geography, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Melbourne and the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University & Research.   With these institutions, I am leading a new international program on Governing Changing Oceans funded by ARC Discovery and US SNAPP awards.

Morrison Governing Environmental Change Research Group

Our research program combines the disciplines of political science, climate science, ecology 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 University of Melbourne, Wageningen University & Research, 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 Power in Polycentric Governance Framework for assessing different types of power in multiscale governance regimes. This has led to a new cross-national project analyzing political dynamics across the governance of 238 World Heritage regions. 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 Nature Sustainability and Nature 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 influential Reviews (in Nature, WIRES Climate Change, One Earth and Nature Climate Change), 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 ARC Discovery and US SNAPP funded program on Governing Changing Oceans.

  • EV3201: Coastal and Marine Management and Conservation (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • EV5701: Coastal and Marine Management and Conservation (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • Basic theory of environmental governance, planning, and management (drawing on empirical research on policy and administration in the USA, Australia, and Asia focusing on the role of inter-agency arrangements, the use of science and stakeholders in decision-making and assessment and planning, and the role of scale).
  • Applied environmental governance, planning, and management (concerned with the feasibility of different institutional designs to respond to contemporary environmental issues - such as climate variability and unplanned coastal development - through manipulating socio-ecological dynamics and the science-policy interface).
  • 2023 to present - Professor, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Melbourne (Australia)
  • 2023 to present - Professor, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands)
  • 2023 to present - Professor, College of Science & Engineering, James Cook University (Australia)
  • 2015 to 2022 - Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Australia)
  • 2008 to 2015 - Senior Lecturer, Founding Director - Environmental Governance Research Group, Geography, Planning and Environment, University of Queensland (Australia)
  • 2004 to 2008 - Lecturer, Political and International Studies, Flinders University (Australia)
  • 2000 to 2004 - PhD, Geographical Sciences and Planning, The University of Queensland (Australia)
Research Disciplines
  • 2023 - Lead Investigator, ARC Discovery Award - Novel Governance for Marine Ecosystems in Rapid Transition, $401,000
  • 2023 - Lead Investigator, Science for Nature and People Partnership Award - Governing Changing Oceans , $285, 000
  • 2022 - Independent Expert Panel, Reef 2050 - Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
  • 2022 - Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences Australia (elected 2022)
  • 2021 - Editorial Board, Global Environmental Change
  • 2021 - Associate Editor, npj Climate Action
  • 2018 - Expert Reviewer, US National Science Foundation
  • 2018 - Editorial Board, Earth System Governance
  • 2017 - Scientific Management Committee, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  • 2016 - Expert Assessor, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in Political Science
  • 2016 - Steering Committee, UQ Network of Environmental Social Scientists, University of Queensland
  • 2015 - Adjunct Fellow, School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Management, University of Queensland
  • 2012 - Adjunct Professor, University of Oregon Institute for Policy Research and Innovation
  • 2012 - Member, Australian Academy of Science Stressed Ecosystems Implementation Committee
  • 2011 - Expert Assessor, Australian Research Council
  • 2020 to 2022 - Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre Advisory Committee, Sustainable Offshore Developments Research Program
  • 2016 to 2021 - Chief Investigator, ACIAR Research Grant - Regional Governance of Fisheries, $180,000
  • 2018 to 2020 - Participating Investigator, US SESYNC Award
  • 2017 to 2020 - Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrated Coral Reef Studies, $28,000,000
  • 2014 to 2015 - Ambassadorial Fellow, Regional Studies Association
  • 2013 to 2014 - University of Queensland, Career Progression for Women Program
  • 2013 to 2014 - Participating Investigator, US SESYNC Award
  • 2010 to 2014 - Chief Investigator, Australian Research Council Super Science Fellowships, $837,000
  • 2012 - Universitas 21, Early Career Researcher Award
  • 2009 to 2012 - Chief Investigator, University of Queensland Early Career Researcher Award, $20,500
  • 2011 - Rapporteur, Australian Academy of Sciences Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank
  • 2005 - Chief Investigator, Japan Foundation Fellowship Award, $12,000
  • 2001 to 2003 - Honorary Fellow, Department of Urban and Regional Planning & School of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin- Madison

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 103+ research outputs authored by Prof Tiffany Morrison from 2001 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Science for Nature and People Partnership - Working Group Scheme

Governing Changing Oceans

Indicative Funding
$236,320 over 3 years
Climate impacts are creating novel marine ecosystems, stimulating new interventions to conserve oceans and communities. Novel interventions include blue economy, blue carbon, and blue conservation approaches that mitigate climate change (e.g. offshore renewable energy development, seaweed restoration, carbon trading) and promote conservation and adaptation (e.g. assisted marine animal and plant migration, marine climate refuge protection, solar-radiation control). Novel interventions require transitions in governance: to realise new opportunities, meet escalating demand for marine resources, and manage risks and unintended consequences. Achievement of these multiple outcomes is limited by a lack of understanding of which governance arrangements are enabling intervention win-wins for nature and people. This SNAPP group works directly with governments, NGOs, and donors to co-create practical guidance on how to govern new marine interventions in a changing climate.
Tiffany Morrison, Philippa Cohen and Gretta Pecl (Research Division and University of Tasmania)
Policy; Governance; Marine Sciences; Climate Change; Ethics

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Novel governance for marine ecosystems in transition

Indicative Funding
$401,000 over 3 years
Human pressures are tipping marine ecosystems into new equilibrium states. Australia has the third largest marine estate in the world, and its marine ecosystems support critical industries and social and cultural values. The transition in our marine ecosystems requires similar transitions in governance. This project aims to pioneer knowledge about the new governance arrangements required to manage changing marine ecosystems. It does this though a comparative study of novel interventions now underway in Australia, from which practical guidance on responsible marine governance will be elicited, with significant benefits to the sustainability of Australian and international marine ecosystems.
Tiffany Morrison, Terry Hughes and Gretta Pecl (Research Division, College of Science & Engineering and University of Tasmania)
policy; governance; marine science; governance; climate change; Ethics

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research - Fisheries Program - Small Research Activity

Spatially integrated Portfolio Approach to support a portfolio of livelihoods.

Indicative Funding
$248,458 over 3 years
The Integrated Livelihoods Approach (ILA) provides an approach to diagnose and help navigate interrelated and cumulative impacts, trade-offs and co-benefits of interacting livelihood activities occurring in spatially defined coastal areas. Participatory and interdisciplinary research, integrated governance, negotiation, trust-building, ongoing conflict management, and cross-sectoral and political engagement are central to the ILA. This project will establish the mechanisms for achieving the strengthened networks, integrated governance and policy, and improved planning required to implement an ILA in Western Province, Solomon Islands, with the potential to scale-up to other locations.
Amy Diedrich, Jacqueline Lau, Tiffany Morrison, Nicholas Murray, Stephanie Duce, Claire Holland, Faye Siota and Bethany Smith (College of Science & Engineering, Research Division, College of Business, Law & Governance and WorldFish Solomon Islands)
Sustainable livelihoods; Solomon Islands; Pacific Islands; Participatory research approach; Natural Resource Management

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence

ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrated Coral Reef Studies

Indicative Funding
$28,000,000 over 7 years
The overarching aim of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrated Coral Reef Studies is to provide the scientific knowledge necessary for sustaining ecosystem goods and services of the world's coral reefs, which support the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the tropics. The Centre will enhance Australia's global leadership in coral reef science through three ambitious research programs addressing the future of coral reefs and their ability to adapt to change. A key outcome of the research will be providing tangible benefits to all Australians by bui8lding bridges between the natural and social sciences, strengthening capacity, and informing and supporting transformative changes in coral reef governance and management.
Graeme Cumming, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Malcolm McCulloch, Peter Mumby, Sean Connolly, John Pandolfi, Bob Pressey, Andrew Baird, David Bellwood, Joshua Cinner, Sophie Dove, Maja Adamska, Mia Hoogenboom, Geoff Jones, Mike Kingsford, Ryan Lowe, Mark McCormick, David Miller, Philip Munday, Morgan Pratchett, Garry Russ and Tiffany Morrison in collaboration with Janice Lough, David Wachenfeld, Stephen Palumbi, Serge Planes and Philippa Cohen (Research Division, The University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Stanford University, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and WorldFish)
coral reef ecosystems; Climate Change Adaptation; ecological resilience; biodiversity goods and services; social-ecological dynamics

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 adaptation in the face of Societal Conflict: Policy and Regulatory Dimensions that promote livelihood enhancement and Peacebuilding in Coastal Communities (Masters , 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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