Concordia University

Monica E. Mulrennan, PhD

Associate Professor , Geography, Planning and Environment

Office: S-H 1255-33 
Henry F. Hall Building,
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2055

Dr Monica Mulrennan is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography,Planning and Environment.

She was born and raised in Ireland where she completed her BA and PhD degrees at University College Dublin before moving to Australia for post-doctoral work at the University of Wollongong and the Australian National University. From there she moved to Canada where she held an NSERC International Post-doctoral Fellowship at McGill University. She joined the Department of Geography,Planning and Environment at Concordia University in 1994, and has since served as Graduate Program Director, Undergraduate Programs Advisor, and Associate Dean, Graduate Student Affairs, in the School of Graduate Studies. She is currently Chair of the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment.

A physical geographer by training, Dr Mulrennan's research interests focus on indigenous peoples and their knowledge, use, and stewardship of coastal/marine environments. More specifically, her research is focused on community-driven strategies of environmental protection that draw upon indigenous institutions of knowledge and practice and enhance local authority over decisions affecting their lives, lands, seas and resources. This work addresses local ecological knowledge, land and sea tenure systems, community-based conservation, protected area development, human adaptations to environmental change, as well as the documentation of placenames, stories and personal narratives.

Dr Mulrennan has worked closely with Torres Strait Islanders (northern Queensland) since the early 1990s, initially as coordinator of their Marine Strategy for Torres Strait and more recently, in collaboration with Colin Scott(Anthropology, McGill University) in the documentation of lslander knowledge,marine resource use and Islander sea claims on Erub (Darnley), an island in the eastern Torres Strait at the northernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef. She has worked with James Bay Crees (northern Quebec), particularly the Cree Nation of Wemindji, for more than twenty years and is centrally involved in research supporting the creation of community-led protected areas in Wemindji; this includes the Paakumshumwaau-Maatuskaau Biodiversity Reserve on an area of 4,500 km sq (which represents about 20 percent of Wemindji’s traditional lands) and a proposal to establish a 20,000 km sq Tawich (marine) Conservation Area in the adjacent offshore. Dr Mulrennan’s sustained research engagements with both James Bay Crees and Torres Strait Islanders are defined by the three core principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR): 1) a community-defined research agenda; 2) a collaborative research process; and 3) meaningful research outcomes.

Dr Mulrennan directs the Indigenous Resource Management Research Group (IRM lab) at Concordia which currently includes five PhD students and four MSc students. She, along with several of her graduate students, is an active member of the FQRSC-funded McGill-based Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA) and the McGill-based project on Indigenous Stewardship of the Environment and Alternative Development(INSTEAD). She is also a co-investigator of the Indigenous theme of a SSHRC Partnership Grant Rural Policy Learning Commons (RPLC) and serves as Coordinator of Axis 4 (Human Dimensions of Biodiversity Science) of the FRQNT-funded Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science (QCBS).

Research interests

The establishment of culturally appropriate locally managed protected areas on the traditional land and sea territory of the Wemindji Cree, James Bay, Northern Quebec.
Aboriginal rights and interests in marine and coastal conservation in Canada and Australia.
Indigenous sea rights and community-based fisheries development in Torres Strait, Northern Australia
Indigenous women and their use, knowledge and attachments to sea space.


GEOG203               Canadian Environmental Issues

GEOG290               Environment and Society

GEOG407/607         Indigenous Peoples and the Environment

GEOG470/670         Environmental Management

GEOG620C              Community Participation in Environmental Conservation


Research activities

Indigenous Resource Management Research Lab (IRMLAB)

Dr Mulrennan oversees a dynamic lab focussed on themes and topics related to Indigenous Resource Management. Students with research interests in this field, or in community-based conservation more broadly, are invited to apply to work with her through the MSc. Program in Geography, Urban and Environmental Studies.

For more details of the IRMLAB see:

Current/Recent graduate student research projects

Véronique Bussières (PhD, in progress) Reconciling Biological and Cultural Conservation in Indigenous Coastal Settings: Implications for Marine Protected Area Frameworks.

Annie Lalancette (PhD, in progress) Integrating Indigenous Perspectives Into Fisheries Management: Challenges and Opportunities in Torres Strait, Australia.

Kanwaljeet Dewan (MSc, in progress) Towards an improved understanding of community-level fisheries monitoring: A case study of the Wemindji Community Fisheries Program.

Erich Seydewitz (MSc, in progress) An Assessment of Multi-Stakeholder Participation in the Trans Canada Trail: Lessons to inform Sendero de Chile.

Genevieve Layton-Cartier, Genevieve (MSc, in progress) Environmental Governance of Marine Protected Area Initiatives in Quebec.

Magdalena Garcia (MSc, completed 2012) A Comparative Exploration of Indigenous Protected Area (PA) Governance Arrangements in Chile and Canada.

Andra Syvänen (MSc, completed 2011) Wemindji Cree Observation and Interpretations of Climate Change: Documenting Adaptability in the Sub-Arctic.

Marivic Pajaro (PhD, completed 2009) Socio-economic Indicators of Marine Protected Area (MPA) Success in the Central Philippines.

Jesse S Sayles (MSc, completed 2008) Tapaiitam: Human modifications of the coast as adaptations to environmental change, Wemindji, eastern James Bay.

Miriam Atkinson (MPPPA, completed 2007) Caring for the Land: Nemaska Cree strategies of resistance to the EM-1-A and Rupert Diversion Project in eastern James Bay, northern Quebec.

Present research projects

  1. The establishment of culturally appropriate locally managed protected areas on the traditional land and sea territory of the Wemindji Cree, James Bay, Northern Quebec.
  2. Aboriginal rights and interests in the land-sea interface in Canada and Australia.
  3. Torres Strait Islander women and their use, knowledge and attachments to sea space.
  4. Human dimensions frameworks in biodiversity science and management.

Selected publications

Manuscripts recently submitted

Garcia, M. and M.E. Mulrennan Tracking the history of protected areas in Chile: Shifting State rationalities and their implications for indigenous inhabitants. Latin American Geography

Mulrennan, M.E. and V. Bussières (under review) Social-Ecological Resilience in Indigenous Coastal Edge Contexts. Human Ecology

Recent publications

  1. Brammer, J., Brunet, N., Burton, C., Cuerrier, A., Danielsen, F., Dewan, K., Herrmann, T.,Jackson, M., Kennett, R., Larocque, G., Mulrennan, M., Pratihast, A.,Ste-Arnaud, M., Scott, C. and Humphries, M. (in press) The role of digital data entry in participatory environmental monitoring. Conservation Biology.
  2. Mulrennan, M.E. (2015) Aboriginal Peoples in relation to resource and environmental management. In Mitchell, B.(ed) Resource and Environmental Management in Canada: Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 5th edition, 56-79.
  3. Mulrennan, M.E. (2014) On the edge: a consideration of the adaptive capacity of Indigenous Peoples in coastal zones from the Arctic to the Tropics. In: Martini, I. P.& Wanless, H. R. (eds) Sedimentary Coastal Zones from High to Low Latitudes: Similarities and Differences. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 388,
  4. Mulrennan M.E. (2013) Indigenous Knowledge in Marine and Coastal Policy and Management. Special Issue on Rio 20, Ocean Yearbook, 27: 89-119.
  5. Castleden, H., Mulrennan, M.E. and A. Godlewska (2012) Community-Based Participatory Research involving Indigenous Peoples in Canadian Geography: Progress? An Editorial Introduction. The Canadian Geographer 56(2): 155-59.
  6. Mulrennan, M.E., Mark, R. and C.H. Scott (2012) Revamping Community-Based Conservation through Participatory Research. The Canadian Geographer 56(2): 243-59.
  7. Sayles, J. and Mulrennan, M.E. (2010) Securing a Future: Cree Hunters’ Resistance and Flexibility to Environmental Changes, Wemindji, James Bay. Ecology and Society 15(4): 22. [online]
  8. Scott C.H. and Mulrennan M.E. (2010) Reconfiguring Mare Nullius: Torres Strait Islanders, Indigenous Sea Rights and the Divergence of Domestic and International Norms. In M. Blaser, R. de Costa, D. McGregor and W.D. Coleman (eds) Indigenous Peoples and Autonomy: Insights for a Global Age. Vancouver: UBC Press. Chapter 7, 148-176.
  9. Pajaro, M.G., M.E. Mulrennan, J. Alder and A.C.J. Vincent (2010) Developing MPA Effectiveness Indicators: Comparison Within and Across Stakeholder Groups and Communities. Coastal Management 38(2): 122-143.
  10. Pajaro, M.G., M.E. Mulrennan and A.C.J. Vincent (2010) Toward an Integrated Marine Protected Areas Policy: Connecting the Global to the Local. Environment, Development and Sustainability DOI 10.1007/s10668-010-9233-0
  11. Atkinson, M. and Mulrennan, M.E. (2009) Local Protest and Resistance to the Rupert Diversion Project, Northern Quebec. Arctic 62(4): 468-480.
  12. Mulrennan, M.E. (2008) Reaffirming ‘Community’ in the Context of Community-based Conservation. In D. Brydon and W.D. Coleman (eds) Renegotiating Community: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Global Contexts. Vancouver: UBC Press. Chapter 4, 66-82.
  13. Mulrennan M.E. (2007) Sustaining a Small-boat Fishery: Recent Developments and Future Prospects for Torres Strait Islanders, Northern Australia. In N. Haggan, B. Neis and I.G. Baird (eds) Fishers’ Knowledge: The Changing Face of Fisheries Science and Management. Chapter 9. Paris: UNESCO, Chapter 9, 183-198.
  14. Mulrennan M.E. and Scott C.H. (2005) Co-Management - An Attainable Partnership? Two Cases from James Bay and Torres Strait. Anthropologica 47(2): 197-213.

Participation activities

Recent conference presentations

  1. "Sea Space, Home Place: connections of Indigenous Torres Strait Islander Women to Sea". Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo, May 28-June 1, 2012.
  2. "Navigating a Sea of Uncertainty: Obstacles and Opportunities for Partnering with Aboriginal Peoples in the Protection of Canada's Oceans." Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo, May 28-June 1, 2012.
  3. "Coastal Marine Protected Areas beyond edges" (with Bussières). Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo, May 28-June 1, 2012.
  4. "Aa-wiichaautuwiihkw (travelling together): Wemindji Protected Areas Project" (with V. Bussières, M. Humphries, K. Scott and D. Stewart). Indigenous Knowledge Exchange, International Polar Year Conference, April 23-27, 2012.
  5. "Marine Conservation through Indigenous Agreements: the James Bay Cree". International Marine Conservation Conference II. Victoria, May 14-18, 2011.
  6. "Partnerships in Protected Area Planning: The Wemindji Protected Areas Project" (Mulrennan and K. Scott). Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, University of Regina, June 2010.
  7. “Progress Towards the Establishment of the Tawich (Marine) Conservation Area”, Annual Meeting of the Ocean Management Research Network, Ottawa, October 2009.
  8. “Protected Area Development: Opportunities and Constraints from the Perspective of a Northern Aboriginal Community”. Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers, Carlton University, Ottawa, May 2009.
  9. “Marine Protected Area Development and a Northern Aboriginal Community”. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Las Vegas, March 2009.

Recent interview

Les entretiens Concordia - Protéger le territoire ... et les communautés (31 December 2012)

Attention Media: Will speak on environmental issues related to indigenous peoples

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