Hugh Possingham

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Hugh Phillip Possingham, FAA (born 21 July 1962, in Adelaide, Australia), is an ARC Laureate Fellow [1] in the Department of Mathematics, and the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland. He is best known for his work in Conservation Biology, and is currently Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions,[2] and the National Environmental Research Hub for Environmental Decisions.[3]


Possingham received his Bachelor's degree with Honours in 1984, from the department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Adelaide. He completed his D.Phil. at Oxford University under Michael Bulmer in 1987, on a Rhodes Scholarship. His thesis focused on optimal foraging theory.[4]


Possingham's first postdoctoral project was with Joan Roughgarden at Stanford University, working on the recruitment dynamics of intertidal communities. He then returned to Australia on a QEII Fellowship at the Australian National University, and undertook research on applications of population viability analysis to conservation biology. He moved to the University of Adelaide, first as a lecturer, then in 1995 as a Professor.[5]

In 2000 Possingham moved to a chair in the departments of Mathematics and Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. In 2001 he became the director of The Ecology Centre, where he has remained since as both an ARC Professorial Fellow and an ARC Federation Fellow. He was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 2005[6]

During his academic career, Possingham has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers, and supervised 35 doctoral students. He co-developed the Marxan software for systematic conservation planning, which is considered "the most significant contribution to conservation biology to emerge from Australia's research community".[7] It has been used to plan terrestrial and marine protected area networks for 5% of the Earth's surface, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.[8]

He has won the Australian Mathematical Society Medal,[9] the inaugural Fenner medal for plant and animal biology from the Australian Academy of Sciences,[10] and the 1999 and 2009 Eureka Prizes for Environmental Research.[11] In 2016 he was elected as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences.[12]

Public Roles[edit]

Possingham is a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, chaired the Australian Government's committees on Biodiversity Hotspots, and on Biological Diversity,[13] the Queensland Government's Smart State Council,[14] and the Wilderness Society's Wild Country Science Council[15]

Possingham co-authored "The Brigalow Declaration"[16] with Dr Barry Traill, used by Queensland Premier Beattie to support an end to land-clearing in Queensland. Land clearance in Queensland was removing 500,000 hectares of native vegetation each year, and was responsible for 10% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions; its cessation enabled Australia to meet its Kyoto Protocol target.[17] In 2009 he proposed devoting a proportionate fraction of gambling revenues to saving an endangered species, to be selected by a random drawing shown on television before the Melbourne Cup.[18]


  1. ^ Australian Research Council "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), accessed 26 July 2013.
  2. ^ Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, CEED, accessed 10 October 2012.
  3. ^ Research Hub for Environmental Decisions, RHED, accessed 10 October 2012.
  4. ^ Oxford University Electronic Library, WorldCat Library, accessed 11 February 2012.
  5. ^ Biography by the Australian Society for Operations Research. [1], accessed 11 February 2012.
  6. ^ Australian Academy of Sciences fellowship list. [2]. accessed 10 October 2012.
  7. ^ Eureka Prize summary [3]. accessed 10 October 2012.
  8. ^ Fernandes et al. (2005) Establishing representative no-take areas in the Great Barrier Reef: large-scale implementation of theory on marine protected areas, Conservation Biology, 19(6), 1733–1744.
  9. ^ Australian Mathematical Society Medal citation [4], Accessed 10 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Inaugural award for population ecologist", University of Adelaide 17 March 2000.
  11. ^ "'ALEX' model wins Eureka Prize", Adelaidian 17 May 1999.
  12. ^ National Academy of Sciences Members and Foreign Associates Elected, News from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, 3 May 2016, retrieved 14 May 2016.
  13. ^ Biological Diversity Advisory Committee, [5]. accessed 10 October 2012.
  14. ^ Queensland Smart State Council Members
  15. ^ Wild Country Science Council members. [6]. Accessed 10 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ Crikey, Australia's Kyoto Target is a Croc
  18. ^ Game, E.T. "An Endangered Species…Lottery?", The Nature Conservancy blog, 1 December 2009.

External links[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Biodiversity – turning up the heat on hotspots. Possingham, H. P. and K. A. Wilson, Nature (2005) 436:919-920.
  • Recruitment dynamics in complex life cycles. Roughgarden, J., Gaines, S.D. and Possingham, H.P., Science (1988) 241:1460-1466.
  • The distribution and abundance of resources encountered by a forager. Possingham HP. The American Naturalist (1989) 133:42-60.
  • Spatial population dynamics of a marine organism with a complex life cycle. Possingham HP & Roughgarden J. Ecology 71:973-985.
  • Limits to the use of threatened species lists. Possingham HP. et al. (2002) Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17:503-507.
  • Prioritising global conservation efforts. Wilson KA, McBride M, Bode M & Possingham HP. Nature (2006) 440:337-340.