Kiely McFarlane

Kiely McFarlane

Social Scientist

Role at Cawthron

Kiely is an environmental geographer whose research explores the social dimensions of freshwater issues and collective approaches to environmental restoration. Her work seeks to understand processes of socio-ecological transformation, environmental politics, and governance, with a particular focus on the role of community and government institutions in driving change. She is interested in how communities organise to address environmental degradation, and how these initiatives could reconfigure social-ecological and economic relations toward more just and sustainable futures.

She draws from a range of theories and approaches in social science, including geography, political ecology, critical policy studies, settler colonial studies, and community-based natural resource management. Her work at Cawthron has included research on the environmental history of lakes in Aotearoa, the application of environmental limits and targets in policy, collective approaches to ecosystem restoration, and the future of freshwater fish management.

Technical skills, experience and interests:

  • Environmental policy and law
  •  Collaborative environmental governance
  • Freshwater management and restoration
  • Community-led conservation
  • Social and cultural environmental history
  • Qualitative social science methods including interviewing, surveys, participatory methods and discourse analysis

Professional affiliations

  • New Zealand Geographical Society
  • Community Economies Research Network
  • American Association of Geographers
  • Professional ECR member of Royal Society Te Apārangi


  • PhD Resources Environment & Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Canada, 2020
  • MSc Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2012
  • BSc Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand, 2010
Kiely McFarlane