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Dr Sarah Clement

Senior Research Fellow Geography and Planning


Personal Statement

I am an environmental social scientist and environmental governance researcher, and I lecture in environmental management and planning. My research focuses on environmental governance, especially with respect to rapid environmental and social change. A strong theme throughout my work is how improving governance, as well as planning and policy, can enable better ecological, socio-economic, and democratic outcomes, particularly during periods of rapid environmental and social change. My current research focuses on the role of governance in improving ecosystem management in 'natural', cultural, and peri-urban landscapes. I am particularly interested in the interface between governance and the Anthropocene, especially with respect to issues such as wildfire, biodiversity, and climate change. I examine how governance can help build capacity for dealing with these issues and other major drivers of environmental change. In urban environments, my work focuses on how green infrastructure and nature-based solutions can help address multiple environmental, social, and economic challenges; and how we might mainstream the use of such approaches in policy and planning if they prove to be effective. As the concept of NBS becomes increasingly popular, I am particularly interested to see how it plays out in the governance realm, and whether the promise for more collaboration, participation, co-production, and stakeholder engagement will be realised.

I have an interdisciplinary background, which strongly informs my approach to research, impact, and engagement. Before academia, I worked on both the social and ecological aspects of environmental issues in government, NGOs, and private companies. I spent time working as an environmental planning consultant, researcher, and environmental policy adviser for 10 years in the USA and Australia, after completing a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at Michigan State University (USA). I undertook my doctoral research at Murdoch University (Australia), in the Department of Environmental and Conservation Sciences. My research evaluated current approaches to biodiversity conservation in two highly valued landscapes in Australia, developing and applying an original conceptual framework for diagnosing and designing adaptive biodiversity institutions. Focusing on the landscape scale, I developed governance reforms to address areas where institutions were not fit for purpose, and identified ways to build adaptive capacity to manage climate change and other major drivers of biodiversity decline. These reforms were tested using a social-ecological systems approach and collaborative scenario planning exercises, involving key stakeholders and interdisciplinary researchers. This novel approach to scenario planning integrated governance drivers into social-ecological systems models in a detailed way, in order to understand the effect of governance reform on biodiversity outcomes in the future. This doctoral and additional research alongside my PhD was conducted as part of the Landscapes and Policy Research hub: Life at Large Website. This interdisciplinary collaboration across seven research institutions, examining how biodiversity conservation can be integrated into landscape-scale and bioregional planning, was funded by the Australian Government's National Environmental Research Program, which is now called the National Environmental Science Program. This work sparked my interest in novel ecosystems and the Anthropocene, which is described in more detail in the research section of my profile.