Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Contact details

Email: Cullen-UnsworthLC@cardiff.ac.uk

Telephone:  +44(0) 29 208 79366

Research interests

Leanne is currently coordinating a research work package investigating the social, economic and ecological flows that occur within and between ecosystems and the resultant impacts of these flows on social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Leanne is interested in the threats posed to livelihoods and the economy, food security and lifestyles from a changing global environment as well as mitigation, adaptation and human behavioural changes within coupled physical, social and ecological systems.

Her previous research has focused on linked social-ecological systems within a terrestrial context (the Wet Tropical Rainforest of Queensland); however, Leanne has a strong background in marine science and is interested in marine and coastal resource use and management, in particular the ecological and economic value of seagrass meadows across multiple scales. She is skilled in community engagement and cooperative research and has experience in place-based research/learning approaches. Co-development of solutions to resource problems using a variety of mixed methodological approaches is also a strong interest of hers.

Other research interests include: the value of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in natural resource use and management and the integration of TEK and scientific knowledge; economic valuation of natural resources and Ecosystem Services; resource use patterns; alternative livelihoods; sustainable development; biocultural diversity and resilience.

Her experience includes: economic analysis of natural resources; Indigenous community engagement; socio-economic and ecological indicator development and verification; Community derived indicator development; Community engagement, cooperative research, place-based research/learning approaches; Environmental monitoring and survey work; Biological, ecological, oceanographic and socio-economic survey techniques. Leanne has extensive experience working with Indigenous peoples in remote areas of Indonesia and Australia particularly around joint management issues and governance of natural resources.

Current research interests

Waterloo Foundation (2012-2014): Recognising the role of seagrass meadows in food security: re-prioritising the marine conservation agenda (2012-2014)

Completed research projects

  • Resilience and Ecocultures: an example from the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
  • Research into the improved chances of resilience in a community maintaining traditional lifestyles and connections to nature
  • Development of integrated indicators to measure and monitor biological, social and cultural change for use by the statutory management authority, local stakeholder groups and community environmental stewards. Research in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Queensland, Australia
  • Impacts of climate change on rainforest Aboriginal People: a focus on shifting seasons. Cooperative research with Rainforest Aboriginal community
  • Sustainable livelihoods assessment: Indigenous ecotourism viability study. Collaborative research, report prepared for the Centre for Sustainable Indigenous Communities, James Cook University
  • Sustainable livelihoods assessment into the viability of a remote Indigenous community utilising 'ghost nets' to weave sellable items. Report prepeared for the Centre for Sustainable Indigenous Communities, James Cook University
  • Economic and subsistence values of the standing stocks of seagrass fisheries and the potential benefits of no-fishing marine protected area management in the Wakatobi Marine National Park
  • Direct financial value of natural marine resources to local dependants; local resource use patterns; appropriate alternative livelihoods; and methods for the development of a series of economic performance criteria to monitor the local economic impacts of management action. Research conducted in the Wakatobi Marine National Park, Indonesia
  • European University Association (EUA) An investigation of student and staff experiences within the Coastal and Water Management Network, European Joint Masters Programme: outlining best practice
  • Investigating the biology of the hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodeolus azoricus
  • Research involved mussel growth experiments under controlled conditions of methane, sulphide and oxygen exposure. Research conducted at the University of the Azores
  • Biochemical oxygen demand and dissolved oxygen in a lagoon in Southern Portugal. An investigation into the tidal flushing capacity of the Ria Formosa
  • Feeding behaviour of different colour morphs of the temperate rocky shore sea anemone Anemonia viridis


Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2007-2010), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Sustainable Ecosystems Division, Cairns, Australia
PhD (2004-2007), Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, UK
MSc Marine Environmental Protection (2000-2001), University of Wales, Bangor, UK
BSc (honours) Marine Biology (1997-2000), University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


Member: CSIRO alumni network (since 2010)
Member: International Society of Ecological Economics (since 2006)
Member: International Society of Reef Studies (since 2009)
Member: Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (since 2008)