Dr Chris Jacobson

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Dr Chris Jacobson


Teaching areas

  • Sustainability
  • Measuring Sustainability
  • Sustainability Project

Research areas

  • adaptive management
  • monitoring and evaluation for natural resource management
  • co-management of natural resources
  • application of Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge


Dr Chris Jacobson joined the University in 2012 and holds a USC Research Fellowship with a focus on social aspects of natural resource management (NRM). Chris is also the sustainability program leader (teaching). She is a research associate with Kā Rakahau o te Ao Tūroa (Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago, New Zealand), and is associate-editor for the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management. She has been an expert reviewer for government grant bodies and IUFRO, and contributed to the Australian Academy of Science think tank on shaping a vision for Australia’s future and to UNEP’s program on ecosystem and community-based adaptation to climate change.

Chris is interested in how we learn to manage natural resources (NRM) including agricultural, coastal and conservation landscapes. Her research emphasises (i) adaptation to climate change, (ii) adaptive and cooperative governance and management processes, and (iii) approaches to intra- and inter-extension. Key research questions include:

  • How does social resilience contribute to NRM?

  • How can monitoring and evaluation enhance NRM?

  • How (and why) does co-operative NRM vary under different governance contexts?

  • How can we improve extension in agriculture and NRM?

Professional memberships

  • Great Sandy Biosphere Management Committee member


  • Associate editor, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management
  • Research Associate, Kā Rakahau o te Ao Tūroa (University of Otago, New Zealand)
  • Advisory Panel, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
  • USC Research Fellowship, 2013, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Overall best presentation, Research Week 2013, Faculty of Arts and Business*, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank, 2012, Australia Academy of Sciences
  • Eric Andersen Award for best journal article, 2009, Environmental Institute for Australia and New Zealand, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management
  • Lady Isaac Scholarship for Nature Conservation, 2002
  • Lincoln University Graduate Scholarship, 2002
  • L.W. McCaskill Scholarship for Mountain Lands Management, 2001

Research projects

Chris has led small international project teams (1–5 members) and been a part of larger multi-disciplinary project teams (>10 members) on grants valued at >AUD $1,350,000. She has co-authored >30 journal articles and project reports since completing her PhD in 2007. Chris’s doctoral studies reflected on discourse of adaptive management in New Zealand and barriers to its application. Her postdoctoral studies (University of Queensland, Australia) enhanced the use of evaluation assessments in NRM across Australia. Examples of recent projects are detailed below.

Research students

Chris’s students’ research (past and present) emphasises community engagement in and community management of natural resources, and has included projects in Australia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada and Kenya. Examples include:

  • Miguel Frohlich, PhD candidate, Adaptive learning and coastal management:  Linking governance and management through monitoring and evaluation
  • Bec Cotton, Honours candidate, Organic agriculture extension in the Pacific Islands
  • Delia Siivola, PhD candidate, Protected area management in the Circumpolar north

  • Francisco Gelvez-Gomez, PhD candidate, Adaptive-co-management of Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve

  • Flora Kwapena, PhD candidate, Land tenure, gender and development in Papua New Guinea

  • Yuan Lu (with Otago University), PhD, A case study of traditional ecological knowledge in Yancheng Biosphere Reserves, China

  • An Ngyuen (UQ), PhD, Understanding Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve as a socio-ecological system (Viet Nam)

  • Josie Kelman (UQ), PhD, Drivers of effective management in NSW parks

  • Grace Muriuki (UQ), PhD, The role of squatter settlements in vegetation change in the Chyulu Hills, Kenya

  • Anne Stephens (UQ), PhD, A feminist critique of systemic intervention theory

Research project examples

2015– Climate adaptation and community resilience (AP GRC CAF). This project involves development and testing of a rapid community resilience assessment tool and its application to support climate adaptation planning. Partnering with Institute for Social and Environmental Transitions (Viet Nam), Hue University of Economics (Viet Nam), University of Battambang (Cambodia), Ministry of Environment (Cambodia) and working in conjunction with UN FAO (Cambodia).

2015 Co-operative management of water (MBIE) An analysis of arrangements for cooperative governance and management of freshwater in Australia and New Zealand (sub-contract to NZ MBIE water management project).

2015 Pacific Islands Extension Strategy (SPC)  Leader of consultancy team reviewing extension approaches and outcomes in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Pacific and working with SPC and SPC member representatives to develop the strategy and associated Pacific Islands Regional Advisory Services Network.

2015 Worksheet on monitoring and evaluation of climate adaptation (NCCARF).

2014 Community gardens: creating networks that enhance success, Leader, USC engagement grant.

20124 Prioritising Coastal Adaptation and Development Options for Local Governments Coastal Adaptation Pathways Program (Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency funded). Project led by Sydney Coastal Councils Group.

20123 Social dimensions of stewardship and land-seascape planning Project leader, Research Futures Collaborative Research Network with C Baldwin (USC), D Rissik (Griffith) and H Ross (UQ).

20123 Cultural resilience and customary fisheries (MBIE) Analysis of community and cultural resilience associated with customary fisheries, as part of Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (Guiding sustainable food gathering) led by Prof Henrik Moller.

2012 Integrating Inuit knowledge and aspirations in the management of Auyuittuq National Park (Parks Canada).

2011-13 Knowledge interfacing and power sharing in co-management: a comparative analysis (Marsden Fund) Project leader with J Stephenson (University of Otago, New Zealand), R Kirikiri (Consultant), H Ross (The University of Queensland, Australia) and F Berkes (University of Manitoba, Canada). This is a highly competitive grant, with <7% success rate for social sciences panel in this round.

200311 Adaptive Management to restore Forests Affected by Deer (Department of Conservation, New Zealand)Investigator, Department of Conservation, with C Veltman (Department of Conservation), with input from, R Allen, W Allen, P Bellingham (Landcare Research), D Forsyth and C Todd (Arthur Rylah Institute, Melbourne) and S Nicol (Secretariat of the Pacific Community, New Caledonia). Responsibilities included documenting local knowledge, working with learning groups to develop indicators for deer impacts on forests, and iterative review of learning group process, including documenting learning.

2009 Develop a management effectiveness assessment framework for the National Reserve System, in line with the Caring for Our Country monitoring and evaluation framework (Australian National Reserve System) Investigator, Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts led by M Hockings (The University of Queensland), with RW Carter (University of the Sunshine Coast) and B Cummings (Consultant).

20069 Building capacity for adaptive management in protected areas through improved systems for monitoring and evaluation (ARC Linkage) Postdoctoral Research Fellow with M Hockings, RW Carter and G Wardell-Johnson, in conjunction with NSW Parks and Wildlife Division (DECCW), Parks Victoria, Parks Australia and the Australian Director of National Parks.

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