Dr Christopher Cvitanovic

Bachelor of Science(Hons); PhD, Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU
College of Science

Research interests


In its broadest sense, Chris' research is focused on improving the uptake and impact of scientific research among different end-users to facilitate evidence-informed decision-making for sustainable ocean futures.  He does so by collaborating closely with researchers from other disciplines (e.g. economists, psychologists and ecologists), and actors from other sectors (e.g. policy-makers, industry leaders and non-governmental organisations) to ensure a transdisciplinary approach to his work.  Chris is currently leading (or has led) research projects throughout Australia, in the EU, the US and the South Pacific. 

Specific Research Themes

Theme 1: Generating the knowledge needed to support the sustainable management of marine socio-ecological systems

The first of Chris’ research themes is focused on generating the knowledge that is needed to support the sustainable management of marine socio-ecological systems.  This research recognises that understanding, and developing solutions to, contemporary social-ecological challenges necessitates integrative forms of knowledge production, such as those associated with inter- and trans-disciplinary research approaches.  Despite the promise of integrative research approaches, however, persistent and systematic barriers to the implementation remain – and thus Chris’ research in this space aims to identify strategies to improve their implementation.  For example, through the evaluation of existing interdisciplinary research efforts to identify the critical factors underpinning success (e.g. Blythe and Cvitanovic, under review); or by drawing on organizational psychology theory to identify improved mechanisms for developing shared goals within interdisciplinary research teams that reflect the values, worldviews and knowledge bases of all team members (Cvitanovic et al. 2020).  

Theme 2: Connecting marine science to policy and practice

Chris’ second theme of research is focused on improving knowledge exchange among marine scientists and decision-makers to enable evidence-informed decision-making processes.  He approaches this topic in a number of ways.  First, by seeking to identify and better understand the strategies that can facilitate improved knowledge exchange, to optimise their implementation and match specific strategies to contexts.  This work has included a focus on knowledge brokers (Cvitanovic et al. 2017), boundary organisations (Cvitanovic et al. 2018a) and processes of knowledge co-production (Norström, Cvitanovic et al. 2020). Second, this research seeks to improve the ways in which knowledge exchange processes are evaluated (Posner and Cvitanovic, 2019) so as to improve our capacity to learn from existing efforts, and provide guiding principles for future initiatives aimed at linking marine science to policy and practice (e.g. Fig 1 in Cvitanovic and Hobday 2018). A key focus throughout all of this research has been identifying the institutional changes that are needed (by research organisations, government agencies and research funders) to better support a more dynamic relationship between marine science, policy and practice.  

Theme 3: Public engagement for ocean literacy

The third theme of Chris’ research is focused on improving ocean literary among the public (e.g. community groups, tourists, etc.) for better environmental outcomes.  This research stream developed following several years of collaborating with marine park managers in Australia across Commonwealth and State levels, and learning about their need for engagement strategies that can reach all segments of diverse communities and user groups.  Thus, to ensure the practical utility of this research it is co-developed with different marine park managers.  Recent examples include a study from the Ningaloo Coast in Australia that sought to understand community perceptions about the management of the Ningaloo Marine Park, so as to develop a typology of ‘community members’, and identify specific engagement strategies to engage with each ‘type’ of community member (Cvitanovic et al. 2018b).     

Building the capacity of early career marine scientists

In addition to his research, Chris’ work also focuses on helping to build the capacity of early career marine scientists in relation to the themes outlined above.  For example, Chris has co-authored several articles focused on helping early career researchers understand how to achieve impacts on policy and practice (e.g. Evans and Cvitanovic, 2018), and how to engage more effectively as part of interdisciplinary research teams and processes (e.g. Kelly et al. 2019; Moon et al. under review).  He is also a regular lecturer for the IMBeR ClimEco International Summer School series, and has convened practical workshops in Australia and overseas for early career scientists focused on building capacity for policy engagement. 


Dr Chris Cvitanovic is a transdisciplinary marine scientist working to improve the relationship between science, policy and practice to enable evidence-informed decision-making for sustainable ocean futures. In doing so Chris draws on almost ten years of experience working at the interface of science and policy for the Australian Government Department of Environment, and then as a Knowledge Broker in CSIROs Climate Adaptation Flagship.

Chris has published broadly on topics relating to knowledge exchange, stakeholder engagement and marine governance, with papers published in journals including Nature Climate Change, Nature Sustainability, Nature Communications, Nature Ecology and Evolution and Global Environmental Change.  Chris also regularly contributes to several blogs focused on linking science to action, including the LSE Impact Blog and Research to Action.

Chris was the founding chair of The Interdisciplinary Marine Early Career Network where he continues to serve as a member of the Organising Committee.  He is also on the Editorial Boards for the Springer-Nature journals Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries and Socio-Ecological Practice Research.  Previously Chris has also served as a member of the Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR) project Scientific Steering Committee and the MarXiv Advisory Board. 

Available student projects

Chris is available to supervise Honours, Masters and PhD research projects aligned with his research interests – so if you share similar interests, please get in touch via email to discuss potential opportunities.   

Current student projects

Denis Karcher (PhD Candidate) – Connecting marine science with policy and practice: Lessons from science-policy ‘bright-spots’.

Joe Duggan (PhD Candidate) – Integrating knowledge systems to enhance the adaptive capacity of marine socio-ecological systems.

Hannah Fogarty (PhD Candidate) – Preparedness of, and opportunities for, Australian state fisheries to support climate adaptation.

Nic Badullovich (PhD Candidate) – Towards more effective climate change communication: understanding the framing of climate change in an Australian context.

Sierra Ison (PhD Candidate) – Linking Marine Science to Action: The role and utility of Outcome Mapping.


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Updated:  28 September 2022 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers