Predictive modelling to inform institutional processes in integrated oceans management

About the project

This PhD will examine what factors or components of integrative capacity can or cannot be incorporated into decision-support modelling tools. The aim is to expand the capacity of predictive coastal social-ecological system models to include a richer and more authentic variety of human responses, particularly social and political dynamics to do with policy relevant decision making and the responses of coastal ocean users to decisions around the use of spatial areas and resources.

The project will leverage well respected CSIRO system models used in numerous marine ecosystems around Australia and the globe. Once these modelling frameworks have been expanded by incorporating the appropriate integrative governance processes, decision-making and human responses, the project will use these predictive models to map relationships between governments and end-users (decision and policy makers).

The work is part of a bigger project considering integrated governance and will draw on data collected in that larger project as a basis of the modelling work. The goal of the project is to develop predictive models that could assist in strengthening integrative capacity for management issues, planning for climate change and supporting the sustainable and equitable development of coastal ecosystems and marine industries.

Primary Supervisor

Prof Marcus Haward

Closing date: 6 March 2023

Please find more information and selection criteria here

Policy learning from climate interventions in Global Marine Hotspots

About the project:

To sustain the significant benefits of marine ecosystems into the future, policymakers must design and implement an ever-expanding range of marine interventions at a variety of ecological and governance scales. This includes those that propose to mitigate climate change (e.g., seaweed aquaculture and carbon trading), as well as those promoting adaptation and resilience (e.g., assisted marine animal and plant migration (Morrison et al 2020)). Policymakers must also navigate radically different interests in marine ecosystems, and at the same time, the risks of failure to intervene responsibly are significantly higher. This highlights the critical role of policy learning in advancing governance transformation, whereby governance moves from incremental improvement of established strategies, to adjustment for evolving conditions, and finally to implementation of new strategies (Dunlop and Radaelli 2018).

This project will examine the forms and role of policy learning arising from planning, implementing and evaluating climate interventions within specific sites experiencing global warming. The project will use planning and management for the marine estate in Tasmania, Australia, as a case study in which a range of place-based interventions (e.g., kelp restoration, fisheries stock enhancement) have been led by public, private and community actors. The project will identify the array of interventions, their scales of intensity of cause and effects, the synergistic effects of groups or sequences of interventions, and the marine management goals they were designed to address. It will then examine the role of current institutional and policy conditions (such as policy framing, scaling and core beliefs, local and multi-scale networks) across the suite of interventions and the extent of any policy learning.  Drawing on the emergent concept of responsible innovation (which includes processes for considering risk, feasibility and ethics), the project will identify properties of site and estate-level governance which enhance or hinder policy learning for more responsible intervention.

Primary supervisor:

Prof Gretta Pecl

Please find more information about eligibility, selection criteria and application process here

About the project:

An exciting opportunity using inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to examine socioecological tipping points for marine systems in 3 case studies that differ in their climatic zones, ecosystem characteristics, and socioeconomic context, as well as management and governance frameworks (the Southern Ocean, South-east Australian kelp forests and Indo-pacific coral reefs).

Project supervisors:

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas (

Prof Gretta Pecl (

Dr Rowan Trebilco

Dr Steven Rust

Domestic applicants can apply any time, international applications are due by Oct 10th 2022. Please email Jess Melbourne-Thomas or Gretta Pecl to express interest or more information.

Understanding risk literacy in the context of decision-making for a sustainable Blue Economy

About the project:

The growth of the Blue Economy is seeing novel activities emerge in Australian marine environments to support energy and living resources production systems. This is driven by a potential offshore expansion of aquaculture and diversification of cultured species, and the push to transition to renewable energy, including but not limited to offshore wind and tidal energy. It is expected and preferred these novel activities be sustainable, with environmental, economic, and social implications of new developments considered. To achieve sustainable outcomes, decision-making processes should be comprehensive across stakeholder groups, including non-specialists.

By definition, novel activities are subject to a lack of empirical evidence on performance and the sustainability of their operations, and inherently involve risks. In this context of uncertainty, assessing the sustainability of outcomes is challenging if embedded within an evidence-based decision-making framework. Risk literacy is the ability to evaluate risks when making decisions. Research on risk literacy – and communicating risks of developments to stakeholders – is more common in the fields of public health, medicine, and finance, but less so in marine management for primary industries. The overarching aim of this project is to examine how risks could be best communicated to stakeholders for informed decision-making leading to sustainable outcomes for emerging marine industries in Australia.

This HDR project will 1) conduct a literature review on risk literacy and communications in fields of environmental science and management for primary industries, particularly in the context of making judgements about the sustainability of activities ; 2) propose a conceptual framework connecting sustainability, uncertainty, and risk literacy in the context of marine primary industries; 3) examine how different people, including experts and non-experts, perceive and understand risk, including what factors can influence this understanding; 4) propose approaches or tools to communicate risks with uncertain outcomes to broad groups of stakeholders by considering links between risk literacy and decision-making by individuals and organisations, for example through scenario-based decision-support tools or comparisons with other industries and lived experience.

Primary supervisor:

Dr Myriam Lacharité

Please find more information about eligibility, selection criteria and application process here

About the project

Political factors like political will and leadership, and political positioning by interested stakeholders can inhibit the transition for governments to integrated oceans management (IOM). Little is known about how to work with these political factors to achieve integrative capacity. This PhD project will examine and compare the influence of political leadership in Australia and Canada. The candidate will investigate how politics shapes policy integration through institutional architecture, policy design and the broader policy process.

The candidate will undertake empirical and qualitative research to assess which political factors facilitate or hinder the implementation of IOM. This PhD project will contribute to a set of recommendations that Australian and Canadian governments can utilise to strengthen integrative capacity and governance for the transition to IOM.

Primary Supervisor

Assoc Prof Joanna Vince

Please find more information about eligibility, selection criteria and application process here

What spatial information is used to address socio-cultural objectives in Marine Spatial Planning?

This PhD project examines the plastic pollution problem in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions, the current governance measures for dealing with plastic pollution through the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), and other broader global governance arrangements.

The candidate will investigate the effectiveness of the global governance systems in place that address plastic pollution. Further, they will analyse activities in the region such as tourism, research and fishing and their impact on the plastic pollution problem. The candidate will undertake empirical and qualitative research to assess whether the ATS can provide an adequate governance framework to address this issue.


Application process: please find more information here

More Information: Please contact Dr Joanna Vince,

Closing Date: 14th May 2021, Applicants should contact the primary supervisor, and submit their Expression of Interest (EOI) and Application as soon as possible.

University of TasmaniaInstitute of Marine and Antarctic StudiesCSIRO Department of the EnvironmentGEOS
© copyright Centre for Marine Socioecology 2022
About this site