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Adapting to climate change: the role of organisational personalities in natural resource management


Preparing for climate change represents a significant challenge to environmental managers and is influenced by their ability to access and use the latest information. However, communicating and delivering adaption science across diverse stakeholder groups remain a significant challenge. We explore the utility of concepts from personality research to improve understanding of stakeholder capacity. Specifically, we defined eight potential climate-related personality ‘axes’ for natural resource management (NRM) organisations. We surveyed 80% of Australia’s 56 regional NRM organisations to characterise their traits in relation to these axes. Through cluster analysis and trait mapping, we defined six NRM ‘personality types’. These types were unrelated to external factors such as geographic location or land use activities. Rather, five organisational personality axes were important in defining personality type: where information is sourced, strategic skill sets for learning and reorganising, perceptions of risk and the ability to manage for uncertainty, perceptions of the role of NRM groups, and strategies for engagement. Identifying NRM personality type allows organisations to identify and capitalise on their strengths to target their adaptation efforts to maximise success. Organisations can also recognise what they might find most challenging and deliberately collaborate with other personalities with strengths in those areas. Finally, information providers can better understand how to tailor information delivery for improved knowledge exchange between research providers and organisations responsible for sustainability of natural resources, which enables stronger relationships and facilitates evidence-based decision-making.

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Data collection was undertaken in accordance with Human Research Ethics procedures CSSHREC: No. 049/13. This activity was funded by an Australia Government Initiative through the National NRM Impacts and Adaptation project ( The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein. We appreciate the involvement of all the survey respondents, and logistical support from Paul Ryan, Talia Jeanneret, Barton Loechel, and Petina Pert. We also thank two anonymous reviewers and the journal editor for constructive comments that improved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alistair J. Hobday.

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Editor: Diana Sietz.

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Hobday, A.J., Doerr, V.A.J., Marshall, N.A. et al. Adapting to climate change: the role of organisational personalities in natural resource management. Reg Environ Change 18, 561–571 (2018).

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  • Adaptive capacity
  • Capacity-building
  • Decision-making processes
  • Climate adaptation
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge transfer