Dr. Joshua Cinner
Principal Research Fellow
Research & Innovation, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University

Dr. Joshua Cinner grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. He completed a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 2000, and received a PhD from James Cook University in 2006. His research focuses on using social science to improve coral reef management. The interest in this field began in 1996 while working as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in the Montego Bay Marine Park in Jamaica, where he witnessed first hand how conventional conservation strategies were failing because they did not understand or reflect the social, economic, and cultural needs of resource users.

He has since worked with various coastal peoples in the Pacific Islands, South East Asia, East Africa, and the Caribbean to better understand how socioeconomic factors influence the ways in which people use, perceive, and govern coral reefs.

Joshua's work draws together a wide range of social science disciplines (including human geography, common property, anthropology, and conservation policy) and he often works closely with ecologists on interdisciplinary research topics. Increasingly, his research is moving beyond the case study approach toward a ‘big picture’ comparative exploration of human-environment interactions.


Human actions and social structures profoundly influence ecological dynamics, and vice-versa. These linked dynamics have profound implications for sustaining ecosystems and the livelihoods of people that depend on them. Yet, social science and ecology are rarely brought together, particularly on the coast.  In this talk, I highlight some of the interdisciplinary efforts my research group and I have taken to link coastal human-environment systems.  First, I identify key ecological tipping points for ecosystem-based fisheries management, and show how different types of governance arrangements perform. Second, I examine key drivers of overexploitation, highlighting how proximity to markets profoundly shapes the condition of reef fisheries. Third, I describe the socioeconomic and institutional conditions that can lead to more successful outcomes for both people and ecosystems. Finally, I highlight how end-users (including coastal communities, governments, and intergovernmental organizations) have applied this research and describe the directions I would like to pursue in the future.