Professor Tim Smith | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Professor Tim Smith

BAppSc(Hons) S.Cross, GCert(Higher Ed) Griff., PhD NSW, GAICD, FIAG

  • Professor of Sustainability
Sunshine Coast
Professor Tim Smith


Professor Tim Smith is a human geographer focused on coastal management and climate change adaptation. He holds an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship, and is also an Adjunct Professor with Brock University, Canada, an Adjunct Professor with Southern Cross University, and a Senior Research Associate with Uppsala University, Sweden. His is also currently co-Chair of Future Earth Coasts, on the steering committee of Future Earth Australia, and Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Ocean & Coastal Management.

Prior to accepting the ARC Fellowship, Professor Smith was the Executive Dean for the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law. As Executive Dean, he was responsible for over 8,000 students and 550 academic, professional and casual staff, spread across 10 campuses/study locations. In response to changing student needs and recent fiscal challenges in the sector, he led significant learning and teaching reforms that improved student outcomes and maintained the 5-star teaching quality ratings in the Good Universities Guide (in 7 of 8 areas). He also initiated research measures that increased research quantum, quality and impact by emphasising existing areas of strength in sustainability, forestry, human factors, Indigenous studies, and the arts; as well as supporting emerging areas of critical significance to communities such as sexual violence. He was also the Faculty lead on strategic university imperatives including student wellbeing and planning of the new Moreton Bay campus precinct.

From 2007-2017 Professor Smith was the inaugural Director of the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC). During this time the SRC generated over $7m of external grants for research projects in 25 countries; published over 500 papers; graduated over 25 PhD students; and contributed the majority of outputs that resulted in USC’s equal highest rating nationally of 5 (well above world average) in the area of environmental science and management for the past two national (ERA) assessments.

Before joining USC, Professor Smith was a senior research scientist with the CSIRO. He has also led the social sciences and education portfolios of 2 national research centres (Coastal and Catchment Hydrology CRCs). Professor Smith has also worked at Griffith University and UNSW, for local and state government, and in the private sector.

Selected awards

  • 2019: Fellowship of the Institute of Australian Geographers
  • 2018: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship 
  • 2010: Vice Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Research and Research Training
  • 2009: Australian Museum Eureka Prize (Innovative Solutions to Climate Change)
  • 2009: NSW Coastal Innovation Award

Selected Board and Committee Appointments

  • 2021-present: Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts
  • 2020-present: Co-Chair, Future Earth Coasts
  • 2020-present: Steering committee, Future Earth Australia
  • 2016-present: QCoast2100 Expert Panel, Local Government Association of Queensland
  • 2015-2019: International Scientific Steering Committee, Future Earth Coasts
  • 2015-2017: Executive Scientific Advisory Committee, Healthy Land and Water
  • 2015-2016: Director, UNESCO Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation
  • 2003-2016: Funds Committee, Surfrider Australia

Research Overview

Professor Smith has been a lead or co-investigator on over 30 research projects relating to sustainability (valued at over $15m of competitive research grants) and has authored over 200 publications in this area. He has supervised 20 PhD students and 16 post-doctoral fellows. He also been an invited examiner of 20 PhD students from 12 universities. He has undertaken numerous projects for national and international organisations such as the Australian Research Council, CSIRO, Land and Water Australia, five Cooperative Research Centres, AusAID, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, Compagnia di Sal Paolo, and UNDP.

Apart from assessing Australian research proposals and programs, he has been invited to assess applications for the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Canadian Chairs program, Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA), US Sea Grants, South African Research Council, Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, and was part of the assessment panel of the International Opportunities Fund (€20m) for the Belmont Forum and G8 Research Councils Initiative on Multilateral Research Funding.

Professor Smith recently led the Institutions Work Package of the Global Challenges Project: Climate Change and Water Governance, the Socio-Economic Vulnerability Theme of the Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia project, and convened the Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network) of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). He has led 3 international journal special issues, is currently on the Editorial Board of the journal Geographical Research, and Editor-in-Chief of Ocean & Coastal Management.

Research projects



Grant agency

Funding amount

Project name



Australian Research Council


Coastal Governance: Embracing Vulnerability and Change

2019- 2022

Ashford, Smith et al

Sunshine Coast Council


Valuing the Sunshine Coast's Natural Assets


Smith et al. (researchers from USC and Uppsala)

Sunshine Coast Council


Improving disaster management: a comparative study between the Sunshine Coast, Australia and Gotland, Sweden


Smith and Elrick-Barr

NSW Office of Environment


Evidence review for the design of training and leadership engagement to build adaptive capacity for climate risk management in NSW agencies


Smith et al. (6 partner organisations)

Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility


Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network)


Jacobson, Smith et al. (3 partner organisations in 3 countries)

Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN)


Climate adaptation and community resilience


Lovelock, Smith, et al. (6 partner organisations)

Australian Government: Natural Resource Management (NRM) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Grants Program


Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia


Smith, Leitch and Thomsen

Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility


Community Engagement Manual for Climate Change Adaptation


E Smith and T Smith

Northern Tablelands and Local Land Service


Measuring and Monitoring Farm Profitability


Powell, Smith, et al. (10 partners from 7 countries)

Global Challenges Programme: Rikbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, and Compagnia di San Paolo


Climate Change and Water Governance (CADWAGO)

Research areas

  • Sustainability
  • Coastal management
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Water governance
  • Geography

Recent selected publications

  1. Elrick-Barr CE & Smith TF, 2021, ‘Policy is rarely intentional or substantial for coastal issues in Australia’, Ocean & Coastal Management, 207 (2021) 105609
  2. Raikes J, Smith TF, Baldwin C & Henstra D, 2021, ‘Linking disaster risk reduction and human development’, Climate Risk Management, 32, 2021, 100291
  3. Frohlich MF, Smith TF, Fidelman P, Baldwin C, Jacobson C & Carter RW, 2021, ‘Legal barriers to adaptive coastal management at a coastal erosion hotspot in Florianópolis, Brazil’, Marine Policy, 127, May 2021, 104436,714MjKOG
  4. Raikes J, Smith TF, Jacobson C & Baldwin C, 2019, ‘Pre-disaster planning and preparedness for floods and droughts: A systematic review’, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 38,
  5. Nursey-Bray M, Palmer R, Smith TF & Rist P, 2019, ‘Old ways for new days: Australian Indigenous peoples and climate change’, Local Environment,
  6. Freduah G, Fidelman P & Smith TF, 2019, ‘Adaptive capacity of small-scale coastal fishers to climate and non-climate stressors in the Western Region of Ghana’, The Geographical Journal. Vol. 185, No. 1, pp. 96-110. DOI:10.1111/geoj.12282
  7. Plummer R, Baird J, Bullock R, Dzyundzuak A, Dupont D, Gerger Swartling A, Johannessen A, Huitema D, Lyth A, de Lourdes Melo Zurita M, Munaretto S, Smith TF & Thomsen DC, 2018, ‘Flood Governance: A multiple country comparison of stakeholder perceptions and aspirations’, Environmental Policy and Governance. Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.67-81, DOI: 10.1002/eet.1796
  8. Melo Zurita M, Thomsen DC, Holbrook NJ, Smith TF, Lyth A, Munro, PG, de Bruin A, Seddaiu G, Roggero PP, Baird J, Plummer R, Bullock R, Collins K & Powell N, 2018, ‘Global Water Governance and Climate Change: Identifying innovative arrangements for adaptive transformation’, Water, Vol. 10., No. 1(29).
  9. Melo Zurita M, Cook B, Thomsen D, Munro P, Smith TF & Gallina J, 2018, ‘Living with Disasters: Emerging Governance Frameworks in Queensland’, Disasters, Vol. 42. No. 3, pp. 571-589, doi:10.1111/disa.12257

Frohlich MF, Jacobson C, Fidelman P, & Smith TF, 2018, ‘The relationship between adaptive management of social-ecological systems and law: a systematic review’, Ecology and Society, Vol. 23, No. 2(23).

Professor Smith's specialist areas of knowledge include sustainability, coastal management, climate change adaptation, water governance and geography

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