Gillian Ainsworth

As a social scientist, my role is to design, manage and interpret sociological research, often within interdisciplinary projects, using a range of methodologies to improve socio-ecological outcomes. This involves understanding the social factors that shape human interactions with the natural environment.

My main areas of expertise are: social, cultural and relational values of marine ecosystem services, human dimensions of wildlife, biodiversity governance, conflict transformation, attitudes towards biodiversity management, transformative travel, non-monetary value chain analysis. This research has significant impact because it often explores the interface between science and policy, for example when scientific evidence affects stakeholder livelihoods.

I have been working in environmental conservation within the ENGO, government and academic sectors since 2000. Prior to this, I worked in the pharmaceutical market research industry with positions in Australia, Hong Kong, Spain, the UK and the USA.

Research lines

My main research interests are the relationships between humans and nature, specifically the role of non-monetary values in motivating sustainable behaviour regarding threatened species and marine ecosystem services. I am also interested in developing ways to improve the integration of science into policy-making decisions.



  • 2021: Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand Eric Anderson Award for best publication in the scientific journal Australasian Journal of Environmental Management 2020-21: Ainsworth, Gillian Barbara, and Georgette Leah Burns. 2020. “‘Although I use science, it’s an emotional thing’: conservation practitioners’ use of positive affect to frame messages about threatened birds.”  Australasian Journal of Environmental Management 27 (4):351-377. doi: 10.1080/14486563.2020.1830446.
  • 2015: Charles Darwin University Pro Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Doctoral Thesis Excellence Award for Most Outstanding Doctor of Philosophy Thesis: Ainsworth, Gillian B. 2014. “Valuing birds: understanding the relationship between social values and the conservation of Australian threatened avifauna.” PhD, Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment, Charles Darwin University.