Research

This site explains a little of the research I’m involved in, which is broadly defined as environmental social science. In other words, I study the people part of environmental issues.

I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Moreton Bay Sustainable Urban Seascapes project, which is based at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I have recently been working as a Senior Research Officer at the Queensland University of Technology, and I continue to hold a Visiting Fellow position at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University (following my time as a Rose Postdoctoral Research Associate), in Ithaca, New York, U.S.A (2017-2019)).

The main focus of much of my work these days is sustainability, communication, behaviour, and community and stakeholder engagement in solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges we currently face. I draw from social psychology, communication theories, and environmental studies to understand why people do the things they do, and how we might engage society in improving environmental and social outcomes. I am passionate about improving the quality of social research used to inform environmental decision-making!

If you’re looking for my publications, click here or on the button at the top of the page.

Research background

Beginning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the mid-1990s, I have been fortunate enough to work in a range of environments in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Latin America. Some of the topics I’ve worked on include marine debris, climate change, energy efficiency & waste reduction, citizen science, pro-environmental behaviour change, environmental science communication, environmental values, protected area management, tourism impacts on coral reefs and geothermal vegetation, and community impacts of wastewater treatment plants and aquaculture development.

Current research interests include:

  • Social research on environmental impact and management issues
  • Social research in science communication and public engagement in science
  • Behaviour change and pro-environmental behaviours
  • Environmental communication
  • Environmental values
  • Quantitative and qualitative social research

Employment

Organisations I have worked with:

  • Mosaic Insights, Australia
  • Healthy Land & Water, Australia
  • Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
  • Future Fuels CRC/School of Chemical Engineering, University of Queensland
  • Centre for Marine Socioecology, University of Tasmania, Australia
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, U.S.A.
  • Facultad Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C., USA
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC, U.S.A.
  • Southern Cross University, Australia
  • Queensland Fisheries, Australia
  • Landcare Research/Manaaki Whenua, New Zealand
  • National Institute for Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), New Zealand
  • Lincoln University, New Zealand
  • Taylor Baines & Associates, New Zealand
  • Canterbury University, New Zealand
  • Hiking New Zealand
  • Environment & Behaviour Consultants, Australia
  • CRC Reef Research Centre, Australia
  • James Cook University, Australia
  • Implementation Group, Washington D.C., U.S.A.

Current projects and collaborations

Here is a brief summary of the projects I am currently working on (updated June 2021)

  1. Sustainable Urban Seascapes in Moreton Bay: Conservation and management (Ocean Conservation Team, School of Earth and Environmental Science, UQ)
  2. Barriers and drivers for increased adoption of waste-free takeaway food packaging solutions (Centre for a Waste-free World, QUT, with Dr Angela Dean)
  3. Community values of waterways (Healthy Land & Water and QUT, with Dr Angela Dean)
  4. Social impacts of marine debris in coupled human-marine systems (QUT, with Dr Angela Dean)
  5. Selecting indicators of success for behaviour change programs (QUT, with Drs Erik Simmons, Blake Simmons, Angela Dean, and Professor Kerrie Wilson)
  6. Increasing participation of young adults in citizen science (Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Prof. Drew Margolin, Cornell University)
  7. Quantifying bird feeding practices and motivations in the U.S.A (Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Dr. Ashley Dayer, Virginia Tech)
  8. Understanding how people assess the reliability and trustworthiness of the data source when we communicate about species range shifts (Prof. Jonathon Schuldt, Prof. Drew Margolin, Prof. Bruce Lewenstein, and Prof. Rich Stedman, (Cornell University) and Dr. Emma Greig and Dr. David Bonter, (Cornell Lab of Ornithology))
  9. Understanding how perceived competence in bird identification influences people’s participation in citizen science (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
  10. Situational factors related to participant retention in a continental-scale citizen science project (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
  11. Understanding marine litter perceptions, norms and behaviors in 11 Latin American countries (D. De Veer (PhD candidate), Prof. Martin Thiel et al., Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile)

Education

My undergraduate and honours studies were completed at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, and my PhD is from Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia.

The marine environment was the focus of my research in both my Honours and PhD theses:

Martin, V.Y. (2016). Science engagement from the audiences’ perspective: can participatory marine science communication increase public engagement in science? PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Johnson, V.Y. (1995). Reef Walking on the Great Barrier Reef: A Study of Visitor Experiences. Honours thesis, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD.

Funding and grants

My research and other work has received additional funding from the Centre for a Waste-free World (QUT), Selby and Hancock Endowments, Centre for Marine Socioecology (University of Tasmania), Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Cornell University, U.S.A.), North Carolina State University, American Ornithological Society, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Southern Cross University, Australian Citizen Science Association, Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (University of Tasmania), Royal Society of New Zealand, Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust, James Cook University, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Media (Lead PI/author research only)

  • Over 50 news items in Australian and New Zealand newspapers
  • 13 local & national radio interviews, incl. ABC’s Science Show with Robyn Williams (twice; 2016/2019; see links below)
  • 1 television news piece
  • 3 podcasts (for BioScience Talks, Science Communication, and Cornell University) and an interview for the YouTube channel (Track My Fish)
  • Several special interest magazines (e.g. sailing and dive publications) and newsletters

Here is an interview I did in March 2019 with Robyn Williams for Australia’s ABC Science Show, where we discuss some of the research I’m doing at the Lab. Robyn and I also discussed my PhD research on marine citizen science back in December 2016, again for the ABC Science Show.

Committees (since 2014)

2018-2019
North American Bird Conservation Initiative Human Dimensions Subcommittee
2018-2019
Social Science Taskforce Committee, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
2019
Postdoctoral Advisory Committee, Cornell University
2018
Postdoctoral Research Associate Selection Committee, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
2016 – 2017
National projects advisory group, Australian Citizen Science Association
2015 – 2017
Great Barrier Reef Citizen Science Alliance Steering Committee
2014 – 2015
Communications Working Group, Australian Citizen Science Association

Please contact me if you would like a copy of my full CV.