Dr James Butler

James Butler

Sustainability Scientist

Role at Cawthron

James is a sustainability scientist with a multi-disciplinary background in agricultural economics, development studies and terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology gained in Africa, Scotland, Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. His research solves complex natural resource management problems, focussing on achieving climate resilient development with coastal and island communities. He applies participatory systems research to develop tools and processes with decision-makers that enable them to better understand future change, and to adapt and innovate accordingly. At Cawthron, James’ projects involve transforming coastal food systems, adaptation in commercial and recreational fisheries and aquaculture, and blue carbon conservation and restoration.

Technical skills, experience and interests

  • Social-ecological systems understanding
  • Adaptation pathways planning
  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning
  • Knowledge integration, including traditional and Indigenous knowledge
  • Governance and power mapping
  • Workshop facilitation and knowledge brokering
  • Conflict resolution


  • Diploma, Australian Institute of Company Directors, 20210
  • PhD, Tropical Resource Ecology Programme, University of Zimbabwe, 1998
  • MSc, Tropical Resource Ecology Programme, University of Zimbabwe, 1994
  • BSc (Hons.), Agricultural Economics and Management, University of Reading (UK), 1989

Professional Affiliations

  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Rewilding Working Group (Co-chair)
  • IUCN Specialist Group on Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence (Member)
  • Associate Editor, Environmental Science and Policy
Dr James Butler