Dr Kerrie Wilson ... revolutionising approaches to conservation spending
Dr Kerrie Wilson ... revolutionising approaches to conservation spending
6 September 2013

Smart, targeted spending provides more “bang for the buck” in protecting threatened species, research by The University of Queensland’s Dr Kerrie Wilson has shown.

Dr Wilson this week won the 2013 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Young Researcher.

Her insights are helping to prioritise conservation efforts in Borneo and elsewhere in a way that balances competing land-use demands and the protection of forests to offset greenhouse gas emissions.

“Over the past five years, Dr Wilson has revolutionised approaches to conservation spending,” said Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum, which runs the Eureka Prizes.

“She’s combined her ecological background with theory and computing to create new tools for conservation planning.”

UQ President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj, congratulated Dr Wilson on the well-deserved recognition of her ambitious, practical and novel approach to conservation.

“Dr Wilson illustrates how public and private funding of high-quality research is a great investment for the environment and society,” he said.

“Her work has revealed how hundreds of millions of dollars of private and public funding can be saved by changing the decision-making framework for biodiversity protection and habitat restoration.

“It has informed government and non-government conservation spending at global, national, and local levels,” Professor Høj said.

Dr Wilson said that in the past, many environmental science problems were “neither rigorously defined, nor solved”.

“The transparent frameworks and methodologies that we have developed, and continue to develop as part of my Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, incorporate complex issues that previously were seen as important but were not explicitly accounted for.

“This includes taking account of socio-economic context, habitat dynamics and ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and sequestration of carbon dioxide.

“This Eureka Prize is a great endorsement of the innovative investment models that are resulting from collaborative research into global conservation challenges,” she said.

“I am thrilled to be able to bring conservation issues to light in this way.”

Eureka judging criteria includes originality, scientific rigour and potential impacts.

Dr Wilson, from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, is chief investigator and UQ Node Director of the Environmental Decisions Hub (a National Environmental Research Centre, funded with $12 million over four years) and of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions ($12 million over seven years).

From 2009 to 2012, Dr Wilson was chief investigator on an Australian Research Council project involving three of Australia's largest non-government conservation organisations: The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society and Greening Australia.

Her research has been published in journals including Nature, Science, PLoS Biology, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

She has won Australian Academy of Science awards, a European Commission fellowship, a Norman Wettenhall Foundation Grant, a Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Fellowship, an Australian Postgraduate Award and Post-doctoral Fellowship, an Australian Bicentennial Scholarship (Menzies Centre of Australian Studies, London) and a UQ University Medal and Dean's Commendation.

Dr Wilson’s $10,000 Outstanding Young Researcher Eureka Prize is sponsored by Macquarie University.

Another Eureka Prize, for Infectious Diseases Research – is sponsored by the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, which is based at UQ and the Queensland Institute for Medical Research.

A short video on Dr Wilson’s work is here.
Contact: Dr Kerrie Wilson, k.wilson2@uq.edu.au, ph +61 7 336 52829, +61 432 844 079. Karen Gillow, ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, k.gillow@uq.edu.au, +61 402 674 409.