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Marine Scientist Wins Pew Fellowship

Education & academia

AUSTRALIA - One of the worlds most prestigious awards for scientific research into the challenges facing the worlds oceans a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation has been won by a senior ecosystem modeller with CSIROs Wealth from Oceans Flagship, Dr Beth Fulton.

Marine ecosystem modeller, Dr Beth Fulton, has received a 2010 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. (CSIRO)

Dr Fulton will use the $US150,000 Fellowship to develop models for assessing how marine biodiversity is affected by pressures such as overfishing and climate change.

Existing models of marine ecosystems used in support of management and conservation do not represent or evaluate changes in biodiversity, Dr Fulton says.

Rather, they group species according to their niche in the ecosystem for example, by similarities in diet, growth, reproduction and habitat use and cannot simulate changes in species composition.

The biodiversity models will add this capability by drawing on long-term datasets of fish, plankton and seabed biodiversity, as well as field observations designed to fill existing information gaps.

The models will focus on marine systems in Antarctica and Indonesia.

The greatest pressures of global change are likely to be manifested first in polar and tropical regions and these changes are likely to foretell later changes in temperate systems, Dr Fulton says.

Marine systems in the tropics and poles are under threat from fishing, pollution, and climate-induced changes including temperature, rainfall patterns and ocean acidification.

They are facing significant and rapid changes in habitat distributions and this vulnerability makes them ideal test systems for applying new modelling approaches that include biodiversity.

Dr Fulton anticipates the new modelling techniques will be adapted to guide environmental management decisions and reduce threats to biodiversity worldwide.

Only five Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation are presented each year from a candidate pool of about 40 applications.

Dr Fulton is the developer of Atlantis, one of worlds most successful models in the relatively young field of whole-of-ecosystem modelling for the marine environment.

Marine ecosystem modelling supports management that seeks to balance sensible development and resource use with the conservation of biodiversity and functioning marine ecosystems.