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Researcher biography

Karen is a Professor in development geography in the School of the Environment. She is ultimately interested in how people experience and can improve their capacities to respond to the triple crises of poverty, disaster risk, and climate change. Over the last 20 years, Karen has been undertaking applied research in resilient livelihoods, non-economic loss and damage, community-based adaptation, human mobility, and gender, in close partnership with governments and NGOs throughout the Asia-Pacific region. For example, Karen has worked with farmers in Aceh as they rebuilt their livelihoods following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with newly-settled migrants in Dhaka (Bangladesh) forced from their rural homelands due to flooding and erosion, with Elders in the Torres Strait recording their traditional environmental knowledge, and with several rural communities throughout the Pacific Islands region, documenting their everyday stories of climate impacts, adaptation, and loss and damage.

Karen has advised several governments and international organisations on adaptation, loss and damage, mobility, and gender. She is currently a member of the Expert Group on Non-Economic Losses for the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (United Nations Climate Change Secretariat). Karen's recent advances have included a world-first conceptualisation of loss and damage across the Pacific Islands (ARC Future Fellowship), an understanding of how climate change is violating people's human rights (Vanuatu Government), the identification of optimisation points to improve adaptation outcomes (ARC Linkage), and strategies for supporting women in disaster recovery (UN Women).

Karen has managed 27 research and capacity building grants as lead or named CI worth >$6.4 million for the ARC, Australian Government, DFAT, National Geographic, OECD, Scope Global, UNDP, and others. She has published over 120 papers and book chapters, and over 80 reports, online commentaries, and policy briefs. Karen has supervised 14 PhD students to completion (9 as Principal) who have gone onto exciting roles in universities, government, the UN, and consultancy firms. She is currently supervising five PhD students, and teaches core courses into the environmental management and planning programs.

Karen proudly comes from the small town of Quirindi, which is Kamilaroi Country, on the Liverpool Plains in NSW. Growing up in a small, close-knit country town sparked Karen's interest in social, development, and environmental issues in rural communities.