Understanding our responses to environmental change

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Exploring Well-being, Community Resilience, Governance, Place, Identity and Culture in the Great Barrier Reef

Early Career Researcher Workshop

Townville and Magnetic Island 23 March – 3 April 2015

We convened a truly inspiring two weeks with co-researchers from ESI, University of Exeter, CSIRO and Centre for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. We used the example of the Great Barrier Reef, and CSIRO’s Socio-Economic Long-term Monitoring Project (SELTMP) to explore cutting edge social science and interdisciplinary perspectives on social ecological sustainability. Our first week of workshops focused on science café style brainstorming of key themes; a publishing workshop (led by Josh Cinner); methods surgery (led by Samantha Stone-Jovicich); a wonderful seminar by Terry Hughes; a day at Reef HQ; and a trip to Lodestone Reef. During the second week, we stayed on magical Magnetic Island and carved out four topics and a series of publications that we will continue to work on. The workshop was invaluable for building and cementing collaborations across the institutions and furthering our interdisciplinary understanding of environmental and social change.

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We all learnt a lot about the Great Barrier Reef, especially the current challenges it faces as a result of human-induced stresses, such as the proposed expansion of coal mining and ports in northern Queensland; continued stresses from land uses and run-off; and the relentless advance of climate change. But the SELTMP survey highlights how passionately many Australians – not just those who live in Queensland and have access to the reef or who are dependent, directly and indirectly, on its abundant resources – feel about it. As a source of inspiration, national pride and identity, the Great Barrier Reef really matters to people across Australia. How and whether these affective connections to the Great Barrier Reef can be included in decision-making and longer-term management strategy within Queensland and Australia was a topic of much analysis and discussion in our group.

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