Professor Kristen Lyons


School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

UQ Senate Member

Finance and Business Services
+61 7 336 52020


Professor Kristen Lyons is a public intellectual with over twenty years experience in research, teaching and service that delivers national and international impacts on issues that sit at the intersection of sustainability and development, as well as the future of higher education. Trained as a sociologist, Kristen is comfortable working in transdisciplinary teams to deliver socially just outcomes, including for some of the world's most vulnerable communities. Kristen works regularly in Uganda, Solomon Islands and Australia, and her work is grounded in a rights-based approach. In practice, this means centring the rights and interests of local communities, including Indigenous peoples, in her approach to research design, collaboration, and impacts and outcomes. Kristen is also a Senior Research Fellow with the Oakland Institute.

Research Interests

  • Climate Change and Human Rights
    Responses to climate change deliver significant impacts at the local level. I lead cross country research that examines the impacts of carbon trading initiatives - one response to climate change - for local communities.
  • Transdisciplinary and Indigenous Rights
    I am engaged in research that examines the social, legal and policy frameworks to support Australia to meet its Indigenous rights obligations, especially in the context of a climate changing world.
  • Transforming Universities for the Public Good
    Today’s university system is increasingly market driven, with institutional requirements that constrain options for public good research and learning. This system stands at odds with the primary and historical role of universities. Higher education movements – including free universities, progressive colleges and civic forums – offer important critical alternatives to this current system. I am engaged in research to analyse a selection of movements, delivering outcomes that will increase knowledge of how alliances and campaigns organise, what their change agenda entails, and how they are transforming universities for the public good.

Research Impacts

My recognised role as public intellectual enhances my national and international academic, policy and industry impacts on issues related to the environment, development and human rights. Over the last five years I have led research teams to deliver socially just outcomes for some of the world's most vulnerable communities. For example, I have led research to identify human rights abuses that underpin international carbon offset projects in Uganda. The outcome of this has changed practices of one of the worlds largest plantation forestry and carbon offset companies, and shaped public debates related to global carbon trade projects. Collaborative research with Traditional Owners in Australia has also also delivered outcomes that have impacted public and policy understandings of Australia's indigenous rights obligations in the context of resource development.

To maximise research impact, I regularly work with funding bodies that support collaborative engagement with key partners, and build enduring relations between academic, industry and community groups.

In my role as advisor on a number of government advisory bodies, I have played a part in changing guidelines and policies related to emerging technologies. I was part of a team that provided recommendations to the Department of Industry Science and Resources to ensure Australia's compliance with international organic agriculture and food standards, with outcomes that ensure Australia maintains international market access.

I am committed to publishing broadly in non academic outlets, including in The Conversation (over 126,000 readers, and ranked #3 at UQ in 2018), ABC, New Matilda), and my research regularly features in international and national media.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Central Queensland University
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours), Griffith University
  • Bachelor of Science, Griffith University


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision



Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision