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Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth

Research Fellow

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

+44(0) 29 2087 9366
2.11, 33 Park Place, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3BA
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Places Research Institute and a Director of the marine environmental charity Project Seagrass

My research interests are in the interactions between people and planet. In particular coupled social-ecological systems and sustainability in the marine environment. I currently have a stron focus on seagrass meadows internationally and lead a project investigating drivers of seagrass decline across multiple scales throughout SE Asia. Through my role as a director of Project Seagrass I work on improving our understanding of seagrass systems in the UK and raising awareness of their importance.

Expertise and Interests

* Nearshore habitats, particuarly seagrass systems

* Coupled social-ecological systems analysis

* Maintenance and strengthening of marine ecosystem services

* Marine Fisheries

* Cooperative research, community engagement, place-based research approaches

* Project management


Leanne has a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from Newcastle University, a M.Sc. in Marine Environmental Protection from Bangor University and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Essex University. Her PhD investigated marine resource use patterns and associated socio-economic impacts in Indonesia. She completed a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) postdoctoral fellowship in Australia where she focused on coupled social-ecological systems in a terrestrial context working closely with Indigenous peoples to document socio-cultural values associated with the environment. Her current research focuses on the threats posed to livelihoods and the economy, food security and lifestyles from global environmental change and the overexploitation of natural resources.

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.

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; sustainable livelihoods; 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. Co-development of solutions to resource problems using a variety of mixed methodological approaches is also a strong interest of hers. 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.

Professional memberships

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)
















Current research interests

Seagrass supported fisheries

Sustainability of marine and coastal systems in the UK and overseas

Restoration of critical marine habitat

Recognising the role of seagrass meadows in food security: re-prioritising the marine conservation agenda SE Asia

Strengthening local knowledge for marine conservation

Biodiversity and food security: developing collaborative policy for seagrass conservation


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

* Seagrass systems in the UK and overseas, particularly social-ecological linkages

* LEK and marine systems

* Coastal and marine sustainability and management

Current supervision

Rhian Power-Battrick

Research student