ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Dr Michael Mitchell

Dr Michael Mitchell

Dr Michael Mitchell has a growing body of social research experience related to natural resources management. He is currently collaborating with Prof Max Finlayson, Assoc Prof Catherine Allan, and Dr Richard Culas and  Adjunct Prof Jay Punthakey on a four-year Australian government funded project that aims to ultimately improve the lives of millions of people by tackling groundwater over-extraction in Pakistan. He has also been collaborating with Murray Local Land Services on a number of projects, including a novel way to undertake capacity needs assessment among community-based NRM groups.

Michael previously held two post-doctoral research fellow positions. The most recent (2012-2015) was part of the National Environmental Research Program's Landscape and Policy Hub. It involved applying social science theories and methods to improve regional-scale biodiversity assessment and planning in two case study sites – the Australian Alps (covering ACT, NSW & Vic) and Tasmanian Midlands. The other (2009-2012) was with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training exploring social dimensions of groundwater management. The position also involved a project working with rural agencies seeking to enable resource-dependent communities determine transformational strategies in the face of major changes to their resource base. Michael's doctoral dissertation (2005-2008) focused on sustainability reporting and the use of the 'triple bottom line' concept drawing on a case study with Murrumbidgee Irrigation.

Michael is interested in participatory action research and qualitative social research to support inter-disciplinary research related to rural NRM issues; in learning theories at organisational and social scales; in reporting as a strategy to enhance sustainability; and in applying social-ecological systems analysis to improve NRM outcomes.

Research Interests

  • Participatory/ transdisciplinary research and social learning
  • Resilience and social ecological systems analysis
  • Social dimensions of environmental management
  • Governance and NRM
  • Sustainability

BSc (Honours), University of Sydney, 1989

Thai I, II & III, Australian National University, 1991

Masters Phil, University of Sydney, 1994

TESOL Certificate, University of New South Wales, 2001

PhD, Charles Sturt University, 2008

Membership of Advisory Boards and Panels

Friends of Nail Can Hill (coordinator)

Peer Reviewed Papers

Jozaei, J., & Mitchell, M. (2018). An assessment for developing resilience capacity of Tasmanian coastal governance. Ocean & Coastal Management, 163, 130-140

Clement, S., Moore, S. A., Lockwood, M., & Mitchell, M. (2016) Fit-for-purpose institutions? An evaluation of biodiversity conservation in the agricultural landscape of the Tasmanian Midlands, Australia. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.

Mitchell, M., Lockwood, M., Moore, S. A., Clement, S., Gilfedder, L., & Anderson, G. (2016) Using scenario planning to assess governance reforms for enhancing biodiversity outcomes. Land Use Policy, 50, 559–572.. 

Mitchell, M., Lockwood, M., Moore, S. A., & Clement, S. (2016) Building systems-based scenario narratives for novel biodiversity futures in an agricultural landscape. Landscape and Urban Planning, 145, 45-56.

Mitchell, M., Lockwood, M., Moore, S. A., Clement, S., Gilfedder, L., & Anderson, G. (2016) Using scenario planning to assess governance reforms for enhancing biodiversity outcomes. Land Use Policy, 50, 559–572.

Mitchell, M., Lockwood, M., Moore, S. A., & Clement, S. (2015) Scenario analysis for biodiversity conservation: a social–ecological system approach in the Australian Alps. Journal of Environmental Management, 150, 69-80.

Sinclair, K., Curtis, A., Mendham, E., & Mitchell, M. (2015) Assessing the efficacy of transition theory to identify industry transformation: a case study examining deregulation of Australia's dairy industry. Australian Geographer, 46(1), 113–129.

Sinclair, K., Curtis, A., Mendham, E., & Mitchell, M. (2014) Can resilience thinking provide useful insights for those examining efforts to transform contemporary agriculture? Agriculture and Human Values.

Lockwood, M., Mitchell, M., Moore S. A. and Clement, S. (2014) Biodiversity governance and social-ecological system dynamics: transformation in the Australian Alps. Ecology and Society 19(2), 13. [online] URL:

Mitchell, M., Griffith, R., Ryan, P., Walkerden, G., Walker, B., Brown, V., et al. (2014) Applying resilience thinking to natural resource management through a "planning-by-doing" framework. Society and Natural Resources, 27(3), 299-314.

Mitchell, M. (2013) From organisational to social learning: A tale of two organisations in the Murray-Darling Basin, Rural Society 22:3, pp 230-241

Mitchell, M., Curtis, A., & Davidson, P. (2012) Can triple bottom line reporting become a cycle for "double loop" learning and radical change? Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 25(6), 1048-1068.

Mitchell, M., Curtis, A., Sharp, E., Mendham, E., (2012) Directions for social research to underpin improved groundwater management. Journal of Hydrology 448-449, 223-231.


Mitchell, M & Allan, C. (2018) Murray Region Community-Based Groups Capacity Needs Assessment: Results of the 2016-2017 Baseline Survey for Murray Local Land Services ILWS Report 115

Vella, S., Fuller, G., Mitchell, M., Allan, C., Burmeister, O. (2018) Automated process to create snapshot reports based on the 2016 Murray Community-Based Groups Capacity Survey: User Guide  ILWS Report 116

Mitchell, M., Moore. S.A., Lefroy, E.C., Clement, S., Lockwood, M., Anderson, G., Gaynor, S.M., Gilfedder, L,. Rowe, R., Norman, B, (2005) An evaluation of strategies used by the Landscapes and Policy Hub to achieve interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research. ILWS Report 84 PDF

Current Projects

Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan. (2016-2020) Finlayson, M., Punthakey, J., Allan, C., Mitchell, M. ACIAR & CSU ($100,000), Total value of the project $2,15M  Project details

Improving salinity and agricultural water management in the Indus Basin of Pakistan. Finlayson, M., Allan, C., Culas, R., Mitchell,M., Punthakey, J. (2017) ACIAR, $50,000

Completed Projects

Billabong Yanco Social Research. Allan, C., Mitchell, M. & Minato, W. (2016) Murray LLS, $30,000 Project details

Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey, Allan, C. & Mitchell, M. (2015) Murray Local Land Services, $14,900 Project details

Community groups capacity check. Allan, C. & Mitchell, M. (2015) Murray Local Land Services $29,900 Project details

Evaluating the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary activities of the NERP Landscapes and Policy Hub. Mitchell, M & Finlayson. M. (2015) University of Tasmania. CSU sub-contract. $21,464

National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training: Program 5: Integrating socio-economics, policy and decision support systems (social research component). Curtis, A., Mitchell, M., Mendham, E & Sharp, E. (2009-2014). ARC/ National Water Commission. This project initially received $650,000 plus $65,000 from NSW Government plus $100K from NCGRT Project details

Transformation for Resilient Landscapes and Communities project. Mitchell, M, & Griffith, R (2011-2016) Rural Industries Research Development Corporation and partner organisations