Dr Phillipa McCormack is a Lecturer in Administrative Law and Legal Research Methods in the Faculty of Law. She has practical experience as a solicitor in environmental and government law, having worked in an international legal firm for major international and domestic government, resources and infrastructure clients. Since joining the Faculty of Law at the University of Tasmania, Phillipa’s research has focused on the effects of climate change on biodiversity and the role of legal frameworks in facilitating climate adaptation. She has published widely on the challenges and opportunities for legal and policy reform in Australia, with the goal of improving nature conservation in a rapidly changing world.
Phillipa graduated from the University of Tasmania in 2007 with a combined degree in social ecology and law (first class honours) and a university medal. She was admitted to practice and worked as a solicitor at an international commercial law firm in Melbourne in government and environmental law, before taking a position as senior associate to the Honourable Justice Lasry at the Supreme Court of Victoria. She was recently awarded a doctorate for her thesis titled: “Australia’s legal frameworks for biodiversity conservation: facilitating adaptation in a rapidly changing world”. Her work is cross-disciplinary and she has published widely, with lawyers, scientists and policy makers in a range of scientific and legal journals.
'How can Australia's legal frameworks for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management better facilitate adaptation under climate change?'
This thesis examines the regulatory framework for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management in Australia, in the context of significant historical biodiversity decline and the potentially catastrophic impact of projected climate change on species and ecosystems. The thesis proposes that legal frameworks should operate to enable and enhance biodiversity adaptation and should, themselves, be adaptable under change. Given the threat to biodiversity from climate change and the clear resulting conservation imperative, this thesis argues that, at the very least, legal frameworks should not hinder adaptation under climate change.
- Prof. Jan McDonald (Faculty of Law, UTAS)
- Assoc Prof Michael Lockwood (School of Geography and Environmental Studies, UTAS)
- Ms Louise Gilfedder (DPIPWE, Tasmanian Government)
Conference and Symposia Presentations
Presentation at the National NCCARF Conference in Sydney from 24-27 June 2013, 'Biodiversity Conservation and NRM Legal Frameworks: Can We Do Better?'
Presentation at University of Tasmania Law Faculty Research Symposium in Hobart on 18 November 2013, ‘Biodiversity conservation and climate adaptation in the law’
Presentation at the Adaptation Futures conference in Fortaleza, Brazil from 12-16 May 2014, 'Assisted colonisation and the law: natural ecosystems under + 4 degrees C'.
Poster presentation at the Adaptation Futures conference in Fortaleza, Brazil from 12-16 May 2014, 'Climate - Adapted Policy Objectives: Barriers to Adaptation in Australian Law'.
Presentation at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney from 14 November 2014, 'Re-thinking conservation objectives for protected areas under climate change: the role of the law'.
Panellist and presentation for the Hobart Symposium of a National Panel Series hosted by the Animal Law Institute, on 10 February 2016, 'What can animal law learn from environmental law?'
Presentation at the Re-wilding Tasmania Symposium in Hobart on 20 February 2015, 'Rewilding and Novel Ecosystems: Reforming Nostalgic Laws to Promote Adaptive Conservation'
Presentation at the International Species on the Move conference in Hobart from 8-12 February 2016, 'Developing dynamic law and policy for conservation introductions under climate change'.
Three Minute Thesis presentation for the Tasmanian Royal Society in Hobart on 4 Oct 2016, ‘Biodiversity conservation law and climate change: can we do better?’
Presentation at National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF)/Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS) public symposium in Hobart on 13 Dec 2016, ‘The challenge of climate change for Australia’s conservation laws’
Presentation to the Australian Plants Society of Tasmania, Northern Group in Launceston on 21 March 2017, ‘Does climate change change everything? Rethinking conservation laws to promote biodiversity adaptation’
Scholarships, Grants and Prizes
McDougall Faculty of Law Postgraduate Scholarship (2014).
Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists Scholarship and participant in Scholarship Masterclass Program (2015).
Neasy Faculty of Law Postgraduate Scholarship (2015).
2016 NCCARF grant to research climate-adaptive conservation objectives in law (external, co-recipient, $5,000).
2015 UTAS ABL Hub cross-disciplinary grant for research project into conservation objectives in law – background paper and workshop (internal, co-recipient, $6,000).
Co-winner 2017 Sun Foundation Women in Science Prize competition, Earth, Environment & Space Category ($20,000), drawing on recent papers Phillipa co-authored in Science (link here) and Biological Reviews (link here).
Winner of the 2017 Australian Academy of Law essay competition ($10,000).
Date of award
Australia’s legal frameworks for biodiversity conservation: facilitating adaptation in a rapidly changing world
University of Tasmania
Grad Cert (Research)
University of Tasmania
LLB (1st Class Hons)
University of Tasmania
Social Ecology major
University of Tasmania
Solicitor and barrister of the High Court of Australia and Supreme Court of Victoria
Commissioning Editor, Australian Environment Review
Communications Manager, Australian Forum for Climate Intervention Governance (AFCIG)
Member, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law
Member, Centre for Marine Socioecology
Member, Women’s Environment and Climate Law Network
Affiliated researcher, Institute for the Study of Social Change
Alumnus, Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists Masterclass
Coordinating the Faculty of Law Honours Program for all candidates for first and second class honours in law
Administrative Law, Public Law, Legal Research Methods, Parliament, Environment
Dr Phillipa McCormack coordinates and teaches a range of units in the UTAS Faculty of Law, including Administrative Law (undergraduate level), Legal Research Methods (honours level), and Parliamentary Law Practice and Procedure (Graduate Certificate, masters level). She also teaches guest lectures on environmental law, conservation and climate change adaptation in Introduction to Law and Current Issues in Environmental Law units at the UTAS Faculty of Law.
Phillipa has re-designed content and delivery for core law units, including Administrative Law, and designed and delivered online modules and content for core, elective and post-graduate units.
Invited speaker, Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law (ACCEL), 2017 Year in Review (University of Sydney, 2018)
Invited guest speaker, Dynamics of Eco-Evolutionary Patterns (DEEP) research group, Annual Research Symposium: Going DEEPer Into Research (Hobart, 2018)
Invited panel chair, ‘Parallel Session: Adaptation’, Imagining a Different Future International Conference (Hobart, 2018)
Invited guest speaker, Australian Plants Society of Tasmania Northern Group (Launceston, 2017)
Invited participant, 3MT presentation for the Tasmanian Royal Society (Hobart, 2016).
Biodiversity conservation law
Climate change adaptation law and policy
Administrative law and government decision-making
Phillipa’s research in environmental law, government decision-making and climate change adaptation aligns with the University of Tasmania’s Environment, Resources and Sustainability research theme. She is also a member of the Centre for Marine Socioecology, and her work with that Centre aligns with both the Environment, Resources and Sustainability and Marine, Maritime and Antarctic research themes.
Dr Phillipa McCormack is a member of the newly launched Australian Forum for Climate Intervention Governance (AFCIG)(see here). She is the AFCIG Communications Officer and manages its online research network. AFCIG is a collaborative research centre for climate intervention governance with affiliated members across UTAS, around Australia and around the world including Norway and the United States.
Phillipa collaborated with other organisers, invited speakers and international conservation and ecological experts from the inaugural international Species on the Move conference in 2016 to produce papers in the leading journal Science and in Biological Reviews and in a civil society newsletter published by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat:
- Pecl GT, Araujo MB, Bell JD, Blanchard J, Bonebrake TC, et al., 'Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being' (2017) Science 355(6332) Article eaai9214;
- Bonebrake TC, Brown CJ, Bell JD, Blanchard JL, Chauvenet A, et al., 'Managing consequences of climate-driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science' (2018) Biological Reviews, 93, (1) pp. 284-305;
- Lee E, McCormack P, Michael P, Molloy SW, Mustonen T, et al., 'The language of science: Essential ingredients for indigenous participation' [square brackets] 10 (CBD Secretariat, Canada, 2016), pp. 22-24.
Along with other female researchers from the collaboration, above, Phillipa entered and won the 2017 Sun Foundation Women in Science Prize competition, Earth, Environment & Space Category, worth $20,000. She also joined, by invitation, the Early Career Researchers (ECR) Organising Committee for the second Species on the Move conference in Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2019 (see here).
In 2016, Phillipa co-led a successful application for funding from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) worth $5,000, with Professor Jan McDonald. The grant was used to support research on climate-adaptive conservation objectives in law. That project built on a cross-disciplinary collaboration in 2015 with Prof Jan McDonald and Assoc Prof Michael Lockwood from the University of Tasmania, Dr Rebecca Harris from the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and Dr Aysha Fleming from CSIRO, with an internal (Arts, Business and Law Research Hub) grant worth $6,000. Outcomes from these two collaborations included a one-day intensive workshop with government and civil society representatives from around Tasmania, a two-day workshop with legal and ecological experts from around Australia, a public symposium on climate adaptive conservation objectives, and the following co-authored papers:
- McDonald J, McCormack PC, Fleming AJ, Harris RMB, Lockwood M, 'Rethinking legal objectives for climate-adaptive conservation' (2016) Ecology and Society, 21(2) Article 25;
- McDonald J, McCormack PC, Dunlop M, Farrier D, Feehely J, Gilfedder L, Hobday AJ, Reside AE, ‘Adaptation pathways for conservation law and policy’ (2018) WIREs Clim Change (online) doi: 10.1002/wcc.555
In 2014-2015, Phillipa co-led a research collaboration with conservation ecologists and a Commonwealth policy maker on migratory bird conservation in international and domestic law and policy. This collaboration was co-led with Dr Claire Runge from the SNAPP Better Land-Use Decisions working group and the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California Santa Barbara. This collaboration resulted in the following co-authored paper in a high-ranking conservation journal: Runge CA, Gallo-Cajiao E, Carey MJ, Garnett ST, Fuller RA, et al., 'Coordinating domestic legislation and international agreements to conserve migratory species: a case study from Australia' (2017) Conservation Letters 10(6): 765-772.
Recipient, Institute for the Study of Social Change Write-Up Fellowship, 2018
Winner, Australian Academy of Law essay competition, 2017 ($10,000)
Co-winner, Sun Foundation Women in Science Prize competition, Earth, Environment & Space Category, 2017 ($20,000) [Note: drawing on papers Dr McCormack co-authored, published in Science (link here) and Biological Reviews (link here).
Neasy Faculty of Law Postgraduate Scholarship, University of Tasmania, 2015
McDougall Faculty of Law Postgraduate Scholarship, University of Tasmania, 2014
Australian Postgraduate Award PhD Scholarship, University of Tasmania, 2013-2018
Faculty of Law Top Up scholarship, University of Tasmania, 2013-2018
Fields of Research
- Environmental and Natural Resources Law (180111)
- Conservation and Biodiversity (050202)
- Heritage and Cultural Conservation (210202)
- Global Change Biology (069902)
- Administrative Law (180103)
- Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl. Marine Ichthyology) (060205)
- Ecological Impacts of Climate Change (050101)
- Studies in Human Society (169999)
- Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies (970118)
- Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards (960799)
- Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas at Regional or Larger Scales (961308)
- Justice and the Law (940499)
- Law Reform (940405)
- Government and Politics (940299)
- Climate and Climate Change (960399)
- Law, Politics and Community Services (949999)
- Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change (960305)
- Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales (960805)
- Environmental Services (940110)
- Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (950302)
- Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. Social Impacts) (960310)
- Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) (960307)
- Social Impacts of Climate Change and Variability (960311)
Journal Article(14 outputs)
|2019||McCormack PC, 'Introduction to the Special Edition on Water', Australian Environment Review, 33, (7&8) ISSN 1035-137X (2019) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]|
|2019||McDonald J, McCormack PC, Dunlop M, Farrier D, Feehely J, et al., 'Adaptation pathways for conservation law and policy', WIREs Climate Change, 10, (1) Article e555. ISSN 1757-7780 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3
Co-authors: McDonald J; Gilfedder L; Hobday AJ
|2018||Bonebrake TC, Brown CJ, Bell JD, Blanchard JL, Chauvenet A, et al., 'Managing consequences of climate-driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science', Biological Reviews, 93, (1) pp. 284-305. ISSN 1464-7931 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 35Web of Science - 21
Co-authors: Blanchard JL; Champion C; Clark TD; Frusher S; Hobday AJ; Lee E; McDonald J; Twiname S; Villanueva C; Wapstra E; Pecl GT
|2018||Gogarty B, Kirkpatrick J, Fitzgerald N, Jarman S, McCormack P, et al., 'Commercial tourism in Tasmania's wilderness threatens the attraction it exploits', Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, (1826) ISSN 2397-334X (2018) [Letter or Note in Journal]|
Co-authors: Gogarty B; Kirkpatrick J; Fitzgerald N; Jarman S; Marthick J
|2018||McCormack PC, 'Conservation introductions for biodiversity adaptation under climate change', Transnational Environmental Law, 7, (2) pp. 323-345. ISSN 2047-1025 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 3
|2018||McCormack PC, 'Biodiversity conservation law and climate change adaptation', Australian Law Journal, 92, (10) pp. 839-845. ISSN 0004-9611 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
|2018||McCormack PC, 'The legislative challenge of facilitating climate change adaptation for biodiversity', Australian Law Journal, 92, (7) pp. 546-562. ISSN 0004-9611 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Web of Science - 4
|2018||McCormack PC, 'Introduction to the special edition on human rights and environmental law', Australian Environment Review, May pp. 26-28. ISSN 1035-137X (2018) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]|
|2017||Pecl GT, Araujo MB, Bell JD, Blanchard J, Bonebreak TC, et al., 'Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being', Science, 355, (6332) Article eaai9214. ISSN 0036-8075 (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 457Web of Science - 433
Co-authors: Pecl GT; Blanchard J; Clark TD; Frusher S; Jennings S; McDonald J; Villanueva C; Wapstra E
|2017||Runge CA, Gallo-Cajiao E, Carey MJ, Garnett ST, Fuller RA, et al., 'Coordinating domestic legislation and international agreements to conserve migratory species: a case study from Australia', Conservation Letters, 10, (6) pp. 765-772. ISSN 1755-263X (2017) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 7
|2016||McDonald J, McCormack PC, Fleming AJ, Harris RMB, Lockwood M, 'Rethinking legal objectives for climate-adaptive conservation', Ecology and Society, 21, (2) Article 25. ISSN 1708-3087 (2016) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 9
Co-authors: McDonald J; Fleming AJ; Harris RMB; Lockwood M
|2016||McDonald J, McCormack PC, Foerster A, 'Promoting resilience to climate change in Australian conservation law: the case of biodiversity offsets', University of New South Wales Law Journal, 39, (4) pp. 1612-1651. ISSN 0313-0096 (2016) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Web of Science - 7
Co-authors: McDonald J; Foerster A
|2016||P C McCormack, 'Negotiating 'one-stop shop' reforms: Commonwealth-state relations and the public interest', Australian Environment Review, 31, (8) ISSN 1035-137X (2016) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]|
|2014||McCormack P, McDonald J, 'Adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation: Has Australian law got what it takes?', Environmental and Planning Law Journal, 31 pp. 114-136. ISSN 0813-300X (2014) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: McDonald J
Chapter in Book(1 outputs)
|2019||McCormack PC, 'Reforming restoration law to support climate change adaptation', Ecological Restoration Law: Concepts and Case Studies, Routledge, A Akhtar-Khavari and BJ Richardson (ed), London, pp. 265-287. ISBN 9781138605015 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]|
|2018||McCormack PC, 'Australia's legal frameworks for biodiversity conservation: facilitating adaptation in a rapidly changing world' (2018) [PhD]|
Other Public Output(4 outputs)
|2018||Gogarty B, Fitzgerald N, McCormack PC, 'Green light for Tasmanian wilderness tourism development defied expert advice', The Conversation, The Conversation Media Group Ltd, Australia, 16 October 2018 (2018) [Magazine Article]|
Co-authors: Gogarty B; Fitzgerald N
|2018||Gogarty B, Kirkpatrick J, McCormack P, 'Talking Point: Muddy ruling masks missteps', The Mercury, News Corporation, Hobart, Tasmania, 17 November 2018 (2018) [Newspaper Article]|
Co-authors: Gogarty B; Kirkpatrick J
|2016||Lee E, McCormack P, Michael P, Molloy SW, Mustonen T, et al., 'The language of science: Essential ingredients for indigenous participation', [squared brackets], Convention on Biological DIversity, Canada, 10, pp. 22-24. (2016) [Magazine Article]|
Co-authors: Lee E
|2016||P C McCormack, McDonald J, 'We can't save all wildlife, so conservation laws need to change', The Conversation, Conversation Media Trust, Australia, 4 July (2016) [Magazine Article]|
Co-authors: McDonald J
Grants & Funding
Number of grants
- This project will examine the feasibility, scalability, efficacy, costs, and possible risks of negative emissions technologies and their relevance for Australian climate policy.
- Department of Environment and Energy (Cwth) ($80,000)
- Administered By
- Australian National University
- Research Team
- Rohling EJ; Ellwood Michael; Adams H; Clark M; McGee JS; Boyd PW; McDonald J; Brent KA; McCormack P
- This project will map Australias legal, policy and institutional frameworks for bushfire governance and analyse whether existing scholarship supports the emergence of a new sub-discipline that could be described as bushfire law. This analysis is important because, if bushfire law can be identified as a separate body of law, then urgent work is needed to clarify the relevant institutional frameworks, the scope of decision-making authority and responsibilities, and appropriate principles to guide legal and policy implementation.
- University of Tasmania ($6,275)
- Administered By
- University of Tasmania
- Research Team
- McCormack P; McDonald J; Bowman DMJS; Harris R
- This is funding awarded as a prize, The Thinkable Peer Prize for Women 2017, and given to UTAS as a donation. It will be spent on research related to the prize nomination topic interdisciplinary investigations of climate-driven species redistribution.
- Donation via University of Tasmania Foundation ($20,000)
- Donation - Individual
- Administered By
- University of Tasmania
- Research Team
- Pecl GT; Blanchard JL; McDonald J; McCormack P; Jennings SM; Villanueva MC
|PhD||Bushfire Risk and Public Health - Balancing Competing Interests Through Law||2019|