BA (Colorado); MA (Rhode Isalnd); PhD (JCU); FASSA

Human geography

Broadly, my research examines how socioeconomic and institutional factors (e.g. poverty, market integration, trust, leadership) influence the ways that people use and manage natural resources. My work draws together a wide range of social science disciplines (including human geography, human ecology, and common property theory), and I regularly collaborate with ecologists to conduct big picture, comparative studies of human-environment interactions. I have led comparative research in over 180 coastal communities spanning Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Chile, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. This large-scale comparative approach has allowed me to make significant impact and contributions to three major areas:

  1. How socioeconomic conditions drive societies’ impact on natural resources. In this body of work, I use a quantitative comparative approach to examine the specific conditions under which different human-environment perspectives (e.g., Malthusian, ecological modernization, political economy) best explain ecosystem structure and function at various This theme involves close linkages with ecologists and key outcomes include: highlighting the critical influence of markets and socioeconomic development on fishery resources; determining critical thresholds of sustainability in coral reef fisheries; and developing the concept of coral reef ‘bright spots’ (i.e. positive deviants). My work in this research theme has shown that, while human population is related to overfishing, alternative socioeconomic drivers such as development and access to markets (which are frequently ignored by many scientists and policy-makers) can have a much stronger influence on resource conditions. These studies have appeared on the cover of Nature and PNAS and gained international coverage in venues such as The New York Times and CNN.
  2. Determining the socioeconomic context under which certain types of reef governance arrangements are most effective. Integrating theories from geography and common property economics, I have used a rigorous quantitative approach to answer the questions: “which strategies are working for both people and ecosystems?” and “what are the socioeconomic and institutional conditions under which they succeed or fail?” Results from this body of research have not only been published in prestigious journals such as, Global Environmental Change, and Current Biology, but also has been used to directly help local communities and fisheries departments to shape local conservation initiatives around community aspirations and
  3. How fishers and local-scale institutions adapt to change. In this body of work I have examine how fishers, ecosystems, and local-scale institutions can adapt to the impacts of environmental My colleagues and I are conducting the most detailed social-ecological studies to date on the vulnerability of small-scale fishing communities to climate change and developing frameworks to better understand how adaptive capacity can be bolstered. Importantly, this research has policy uptake by WorldFish, who are applying my adaptive capacity framework to help small-scale fisheries prepare for climate change impacts.

Professor (E level), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia

Pew Marine Fellow (2015)

International Society for Reef Studies Fellow & Mid-Career Award (2018)

ARC Future Fellowship (2016-2020)

Elinor Ostrom Award (2017)

ARC Australian research Fellowship (2011-2015)

ARC Australian Postdoctoral Award (2007-2010)

JCU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence (2011)

  1. Cinner et al. (2018) The gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains. PNAS. 115 (27):E6116-6125
  2. Cinner et al. (2018) Building adaptive capacity to climate change in tropical coastal communities. Nature Climate Change. 8: 117-123
  3. Hughes, TP, M. Barnes, D. Bellwood, JE Cinner, GS Cumming, JBC Jackson, J Kleypas, I van de Leemput, J Lough, TH Morrison, SR Palumbi, E van Ness, M Scheffer (2017) Coral Reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature. 546: 82-90
  4. Cinner, J et al. (2016). Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs. Nature 535: 416-419.
  5. Cinner J, McClanahan TR, MacNeil MA, Graham NAJ, Daw TM, Mukminin A, Feary DA, Rabearisoa AL, Wamukota A, Jiddawi N, Campbell SJ, Baird AH, Januchowski-Hartley FA, Hamed S, Lahari R, Morove T, Kuange J. (2012). Comanagement of coral reef social-ecological systems. Proceedings of the US National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) 109: 5219-5222