BSc (Griffith), BSc (Hons) (UQ), PhD (UQ), FASSA

Human geography

Professor Tiffany Morrison is a professor of environmental governance based at James Cook University in Australia. Prof. Morrison’s research combines political science, human geography and ecology to tackle governance of complex environmental change. Morrison’s earlier work on the regionalised implementation of the Australian Natural Heritage Trust changed the way policymakers and researchers understood the spatial and scalar politics of natural resource management, and stimulated better design and implementation of regional natural resource management across Australia. More recently, Morrison’s ARC-funded research on the governance of the Great Barrier Reef has been adopted by a range of Australian government reports and reviews. Prof. Morrison currently leads a new international program on Governing Changing Oceans funded by ARC Discovery and US SNAPP awards. This research program 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, Prof. Morrison and her team are focusing not only on the structure of regimes but also on systematically examining internal and external socio-political drivers in environmental governance. Their aim is to uncover hidden levers for improving the design, implementation and robustness of complex environmental governance regimes. 

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 do not yet understand why some marine systems are resilient while others strain or even paralyse under conditions of inequity, complexity, uncertainty, and unpredictability. By focusing on scale and power asymmetry in governance, this work is providing an important counterpoint to the ‘bottom-up bias’ in environmental governance.

Governance in the Anthropocene: This dimension of the programme 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. New findings demonstrate that conventional governance is failing comprehensively for marine ecosystems 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.

Prof. Morrison serves on Scientific Advisory Committees for CGIAR-WorldFish, the Australian Government Reef 2050 Plan, the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, the Australian Institute of Marine Science-JCU Partnership and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. She is a member of the Editorial Board for Global Environment Change, Frontiers in Climate and Earth System Governance.

Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (2022)

Fellow of the Regional Studies Association (2020)

1. Morrison, T.H., Adger, W.N., Agrawal, A., Brown, K., Hornsey, M.J., Hughes, T.P., Jain, M., Lemos, M.C., McHugh, L., O’Neill, S. and Van Berkel, D. (2022) Radical interventions for ecosystems of the future. Nature Climate Change.

2. Morrison, T.H., Adger, N., Barnett, J., Brown, K., Possingham, H., and Hughes, T. (2020). Advancing coral reef governance into the Anthropocene. One Earth. 2: 64–74.

3. Morrison, T.H., Adger, N., Brown, K., Hettiarachchi, M., Huchery, C., Lemos, M., and Hughes, T. (2020). Political dynamics and governance of World Heritage ecosystems. Nature Sustainability 3: 947–955. 

4. Morrison, T.H., Adger, N., Brown, K., Lemos, M., Huitema, D., Phelps, J., Evans, L., Cohen, P., Song, A., Turner, R., Quinn, T., and Hughes, T. (2019). The black box of power in polycentric environmental governance. Global Environmental Change. 57: 101934. 

5. Morrison, T.H. (2017). Evolving polycentric governance of the Great Barrier Reef. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114: E3013–E3021.