Dr Beth Fulton leads an ecosystem modelling group at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.
Fellowship boosts marine ecosystem research
Australian research into how marine ecosystems are affected by a combination of environmental change, human activity and management decisions, received a boost recently with the award of a CSIRO CEO’s Science Leader Fellowship to marine scientist, Dr Beth Fulton.
The Fellowship recognises Dr Fulton’s exceptional leadership of marine ecosystem modelling research at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.
It follows Dr Fulton’s award last year of the Science Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year – part of the Prime Minister's Prizes – for her world-leading work and its influence on managing the impacts of fishing and understanding climate change.
Dr Fulton’s Atlantis computer model – the only one to give equal attention to the biophysical components of marine ecosystems, and the impacts and economic benefits of human use – was rated the ‘world's best’ model for strategic evaluation of marine fisheries management issues by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation last year.
Together with colleagues, Dr Fulton also developed InVitro – ecosystem modelling software that allows users to explore the impacts and management of the myriad pressures exerted on marine and coastal environments by major industries such as tourism, mining, fishing and shipping. InVitro was integral to the success of the recently launched North West Shelf Joint Environmental Management Study, which provides practical tools for planners to envisage and evaluate different management scenarios.
Atlantis and InVitro underpin research by the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship into managing competing uses of Australia’s precious marine and coastal environments.
“The Fellowship will allow me to take this research to the next level, where we can start to unravel the interplay of: evolution, genetics, ecosystem processes, environmental change, human behaviour and management practices,” Dr Fulton said.
As a CEO Science Leader, Dr Fulton will be provided with the resources required to build a research program and recruit a small team of post-doctoral fellows and PhD students to complement the capability she can draw on across CSIRO.
“The Fellowship will allow me to take this research to the next level, where we can start to unravel the interplay of: evolution, genetics, ecosystem processes, environmental change, human behaviour and management practices,”
Dr Fulton said.
Dr Fulton’s vision for this research program concerns the assumption that in the absence of human impacts, a system would be in a pristine steady state.
“This assumption underlies the widespread use of fixed targets, on which existing management practices are built,” she said.
“We know ecosystems are always changing, so we need to take a step back and assess whether steady state thinking is the best way of doing things. For example, by weaving socio-economic research into the models, we can take into account that people don’t always behave the way you expect because they are influenced by traditions and social and economic stresses.
“We might find that the existing models are fine for our purposes as they are, or with minor modification. Or we might find that we need new approaches.
“Whatever the result, this fundamental research will provide a rigorous foundation for future, more operational research to support marine managers and industry.”
CSIRO’s CEO Science Leader Scheme aims to attract up to 25 of the best young scientists from across the globe and provide them with freedom of research direction to allow them to deliver outstanding scientific impacts.
National Research Flagships
CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.
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