Professor Tim Smith

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Professor Tim Smith


Professor of Sustainability

PhD NSW, GAICD, GCert(Higher Ed) Griff., BAppSc(Hons) S.Cross

+61 7 5456 5042
Professor Tim Smith


Professor Tim Smith is a human geographer focused on coastal management and climate change adaptation. His research aims to discover innovative coastal governance approaches that embrace vulnerability and change. He holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship, is a Lead Author of the upcoming IPCC Assessment Report, and a member of the scientific steering committee for Future Earth Coasts. Professor Smith is also an Adjunct Professor with Brock University, Canada, an Adjunct Professor with Southern Cross University, and a Senior Research Associate with Uppsala University, Sweden.

Prior to accepting the ARC Fellowship, Professor Smith was the Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law. As Executive Dean, he was responsible for over 8,000 students and 550 academic, professional and casual staff, spread across 10 campuses/study locations. In response to changing student needs and recent fiscal challenges in the sector, he led significant learning and teaching reforms that improved student outcomes and maintained the 5-star teaching quality ratings in the Good Universities Guide (in 7 of 8 areas). He also initiated research measures that increased research quantum, quality and impact by emphasising existing areas of strength in sustainability, forestry, and human factors research, and supporting emerging areas of critical significance to communities such as sexual violence. He was also the Faculty lead on strategic university imperatives including student wellbeing and planning of the new Moreton Bay campus precinct.

From 2007-2017 Professor Smith was the inaugural Director of the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC). During this time the SRC generated over $7m of external grants for research projects in 25 countries; published over 500 papers; graduated over 25 PhD students; and contributed the majority of outputs that resulted in USC’s equal highest rating nationally of 5 (well above world average) in the area of environmental science and management for the most recent national (ERA) assessment.

Before joining USC, Professor Smith was a senior research scientist with the CSIRO. He has also led the social sciences and education portfolios of 2 national research centres (Coastal and Catchment Hydrology CRCs). Professor Smith has also worked at Griffith University and UNSW, for local and state government, and in the private sector.

Selected awards
  • 2018: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship 
  • 2010: Vice Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Research and Research Training
  • 2009: Australian Museum Eureka Prize (Innovative Solutions to Climate Change)
  • 2009: NSW Coastal Innovation Award
Selected Board and Committee Appointments
  • 2015-present: International Scientific Steering Committee, Future Earth Coasts
  • 2016-present: QCoast2100 Expert Panel, Local Government Association of Queensland
  • 2015-2017: Executive Scientific Advisory Committee, Healthy Land and Water
  • 2015-2016: Director, UNESCO Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation
  • 2003-2016: Funds Committee, Surfrider Australia
Research overview 

Professor Smith has been a lead or co-investigator on over 30 research projects relating to sustainability (valued at over $15m of competitive research grants) and has authored over 200 publications in this area. He has supervised 20 PhD students and 16 post-doctoral fellows. He also been an invited examiner of 20 PhD students from 12 universities. He has undertaken numerous projects for national and international organisations such as the Australian Research Council, CSIRO, Land and Water Australia, five Cooperative Research Centres, AusAID, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, Compagnia di Sal Paolo, and UNDP.

Apart from assessing Australian research proposals and programs, he has been invited to assess applications to the Canadian Chairs program, Canadian Social Sciences Research Council grants, US Sea Grants, South African Research Council grants, and was part of the assessment panel of the International Opportunities Fund (€20m) for the Belmont Forum and G8 Research Councils Initiative on Multilateral Research Funding (2012-2013).

Professor Smith has given keynote addresses or invited seminars in Australia, Norway, Italy, China, Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Fiji and the United States on his sustainability research.

Professor Smith recently led the Institutions Work Package of the Global Challenges Project: Climate Change and Water Governance, the Socio-Economic Vulnerability Theme of the Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia project, and convened the Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network) of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). He has led 3 international journal special issues, and is currently on the Editorial Board of the journal Geographical Research.

Research projects



Grant agency

Funding amount

Project name



Australian Research Council


Coastal Governance: Embracing Vulnerability and Change


Smith et al. (researchers from USC and Uppsala)

Sunshine Coast Council


Improving disaster management: a comparative study between the Sunshine Coast, Australia and Gotland, Sweden


Smith and Elrick-Barr

NSW Office of Environment


Evidence review for the design of training and leadership engagement to build adaptive capacity for climate risk management in NSW agencies


Smith et al. (6 partner organisations)

Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility


Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network)


Jacobson, Smith et al. (3 partner organisations in 3 countries)

Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN)


Climate adaptation and community resilience


Lovelock, Smith, et al. (6 partner organisations)

Australian Government: Natural Resource Management (NRM) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Grants Program


Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia


Smith, Leitch and Thomsen

Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility


Community Engagement Manual for Climate Change Adaptation


E Smith and T Smith

Northern Tablelands and Local Land Service


Measuring and Monitoring Farm Profitability


Powell, Smith, et al. (10 partners from 7 countries)

Global Challenges Programme: Rikbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, and Compagnia di San Paolo


Climate Change and Water Governance (CADWAGO)

Recent selected publications
  1. Frohlich MF, Jacobson C, Fidelman P, & Smith TF, 2018, 'The relationship between adaptive management of social-ecological systems and law: a systematic review', Ecology and Society, 23(2):23.
  2. Plummer R, Baird J, Bullock R, Dzyundzuak A, Dupont D, Gerger Swartling A, Johannessen A, Huitema D, Lyth A, de Lourdes Melo Zurita M, Munaretto S, Smith TF & Thomsen D, 2018, 'Flood Governance: A multiple country comparison of stakeholder perceptions and aspirations', Environmental Policy and Governance. Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.67-81, DOI: 10.1002/eet.1796
  3. Freduah G, Fidelman P & Smith TF, 2018, 'Mobilising adaptive capacity to multiple stressors: insights from small-scale coastal fisheries in the Western Region of Ghana', Geoforum, Vol. 91, pp.61-72.
  4. de Lourdes Melo Zurita M, Thomsen DC, Lyth A, Holbrook N, Smith TF, Baum S, Preston BL, et al. 2018, 'Global Water Governance and Climate Change: Identifying innovative arrangements for adaptive transformation', Water. Vol. 10., No. 1.
  5. Smith EF, Lieske SN, Keys N, & Smith TF, 2018, 'The socio-economic vulnerability of the Australian east coast grazing sector to the impacts of climate change', Regional Environmental Change, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp.1185-1199,
  6. Plummer R, Renzetti S, Bullock R, de Lourdes Melo Zurita M, Baird J, Dupont D, Smith TF & Thomsen DC, 2017, ‘The roles of capitals in building capacity to address urban flooding in the shift to a new water management approach, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. DOI: 10.1177/2399654417732576
  7. Freduah G, Fidelman P & Smith TF, 2017, ‘The impacts of environmental and socio-economic stressors on small scale fisheries and livelihoods of fishers in Ghana’, Applied Geography, 89, 1–11.
  8. Sharma B, Gadenne D, Smith TF & Kerr D, 2017, ‘Environmental beliefs, norms and behaviours: An investigation of their relationships using data from green consumers’, Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends, 15(1), 1-17.
  9. Howes M, Wortley L, Potts R, Dedekorkut-Howes A, Serrao-Neumann S, Davidson J, Smith TF, Nunn PD, 2017, ‘Environmental Sustainability: A case of policy implementation failure?’, Sustainability, 9(2), 165; doi:10.3390/su9020165
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