BrisScience: The mathematics & economics of marine protected areas

20 May 2013

Long Room, Customs House at Riverside

Prof Hugh Possingham, Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, The University of Queensland

We have seen marine protected area systems appear on our doorstep in Moreton Bay and across the Great Barrier Reef. Most recently the Federal Government created a system of marine reserves which added more than 2.3 million square kilometres to Australia’s marine reserves estate. In this talk Prof Hugh Possingham, from The University of Queensland, will discuss how mathematics, economics and ecology is used to design marine protected area systems that meet the needs of conservation and also minimise the impact of recreational and commercial fisheries. Hugh will also discuss some of the politics of marine reserve system design and how mathematics is used to target catchments for restoration to minimise the damage from nutrients and sediments that flow into our coastal ecosystems.

Prof Hugh Possingham’s PhD in biomathematics at Oxford University was funded by a Rhodes scholarship. Following postdocs at Stanford and ANU, and an academic position at The University of Adelaide, Hugh moved The University of Queensland in a joint position between mathematics and biology, and currently directs two $15 million research centres.
The Possingham lab developed the most widely used conservation planning software in the world, Marxan, which was used to underpin the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef and is currently used in over 100 countries to build the world’s marine and terrestrial landscape plans. Most recently Marxan was used to develop the biggest marine reserve system in the world – Australia’s federal marine reserve system. Hugh coauthored two scientific consensus statements that lead to Australia’s marine reserve system. Many governments and ENGOs use his lab’s work for the allocation of funding to threatened species recovery and solving other conservation conundrums. In 2001 Hugh was awarded an Australian Mathematics Society medal for a mathematician under the age of 40.

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