Dr Veronica Doerr

Research Director

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I currently lead CSIRO's Sustainability Pathways Program, which integrates biophysical, social and economic sciences to help our stakeholders optimise decisions and design adaptive roadmaps toward a more sustainable future in the context of a rapid global change.

I began my science career trying to link the disciplines of ecology and environmental history, exploring how dominant cultural perceptions of nature at any given point in history shape the types of questions that ecologists ask about nature and how they translate their results into management recommendations. After being told that such transdisciplinarity wasn't something I could continue to progress in a PhD, I shifted my interest in human decision-making to animals, researching the evolution and maintenance of cooperation using Australian treecreepers (woodland birds) as a model study system. I felt instantly at home in Australia - with its environments and its people - and became passionate about doing more applied research to help us be good stewards of this wide brown land and her people. I applied my work in dispersal and social group formation to explore how animals actually experience landscape connectivity, and how we can therefore design landscapes and wildlife corridors that actually function well for both animals and people.

With every new project though, I found myself moving closer and closer to where I had started - bringing in more and more of the human decision-making elements into my work. I became particularly interested in decision-making under uncertainty and unpredictability and saw many parallels between how Australia's animals have evolved to cope with changing environmental conditions and how humans could do a better job with it. Global climate change has now made it profoundly urgent that we develop some of these new decision-making skills, and I am incredibly privileged to have led the Climate Risks and Resilience Group, helping others make transformative changes in their planning and decision-making to cope with disruption, using a systems approach. As a personal contribution during that time, I led AdaptNRM, the national project to embed climate adaptation into natural resource planning at a national scale. I also played a central role in developing Climate Compass, a climate risk guide for the whole of the Australian Public Service. And I was a key leader in a strategic partnership between CSIRO and the National Resilience Taskforce which used an inspiring humanistic approach to plan how our nation can reduce our vulnerability to disaster events.

I now find myself in the most inspiring role of my career - leading the Sustainability Pathways Program which aims to take the best of what we have learned in climate adaptation and apply it to a much broader suite of sustainability challenges facing us in this rapidly changing world. We aim to do that by working at the leading edge of the science and practice of systems integration – bringing together cross-sectoral systems analyses of the natural world with social, economic and institutional processes to design the most effective interventions and guide a long-term sustainability journey. I truly believe that people all over the world can craft an inspiring new future for ourselves, and I hope that Sustainability Pathways can be an important catalyst in that process.

Academic Qualifications

  • 1992

    Yale University

  • 2003

    University of Nevada Reno


We have publications by Dr Veronica Doerr