Science matters because it provides an ability to react to the world around us. An issue faced by scientists, however, was highlighted by the Guardian newspaper when it wrote “science is either considered august and reputable or something to be dismissed because it’s done by a bunch of boffins” (Guardian, 21/11/13).

A case in point is our Great Barrier Reef. Considerable scientific research appears to indicate that the Great Barrier Reef is declining and its resilience is low. Science has delivered a series of important scientific and technical reports that provide greater understanding of the status of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and its present and future threats.

In the light of extensive research and expert reports, the World Heritage Committee is about to consider whether the Great Barrier Reef should be put on its "in danger" list.

Our panel of scientists, all well experienced at working on the boundaries of science and policy, will take questions from the audience and explore how our researchers could have greater impact in politicised or controversial decisions. Read about our panellists.


Sophie Dove
Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences; Director of the Coral Reef Ecosystems Laboratory

Major cyclones and consecutive years of heavy flooding have taken a toll on the Great Barrier Reef, confounding research on parameters essential for coral reef growth. Sophie and her team of coral biologists have been exploring the interplay of factors such as temperature, carbon dioxide, acidification, seasonal changes and competitors to answer questions such as which organisms will be the winners in the future on the reef and will they be able to sustain the large biomass of primary and secondary consumers that currently exist on reefs.

Neal Menzies
Professor of Soil and Environmental Science
Dean of Agriculture, Head of UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences

Human-use factors such as agricultural run-off and siltration from onshore development have been longstanding concerns on the Reef. As a soil scientist, Professor Neal Menzies understands the agricultural systems draining to the reef, and the nitrogen and phosphorus outfall problems. Neal believes that scientists must go further than identifying where human activity is harming the environment: they must also deliver workable solutions to the problems.

Ian Lilley
Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

In June, the World Heritage Committee will consider whether the Great Barrier Reef should be put on its "in danger" list. As an ICOMOS World Heritage Assessor, Professor Ian Lilley will be attending that meeting, witnessing consideration by the Committee of the status of one of the world's greatest environmental assets with intergenerational value and reflecting on the long term significance of any decision to our sense of place and national identity.

Mary Garson
Professor of Chemistry

Mary has published widely on the chemistry and chemical ecology of bioactive metabolites from Great Barrier Reef marine invertebrates. Coral reefs are storehouses of genetic resources with dozens of promising products from marine organisms now being advanced. However, this is heightening concerns about the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources and the rights of local and indigenous communities. Mary’s work is recognised internationally, including the naming of a flatworm in her honour – the Maritigrella marygarsonae.

James Watson
Associate Professor, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management; Global President-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology

James chairs the climate change specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s first global environmental organisation, providing the knowledge, standards and tools for biodiversity conservation for governments, community, the UN and business. With extensive field work experience, James has published widely on how biodiversity is fundamental to addressing challenges facing our most iconic environments on a changing planet.


Ms Anne-Marie Birkill, OneVentures

No stranger to facilitating UQ Global Leadership discussions, Anne-Marie is an active member of the Queensland innovation community. She is an Industry Fellow with The UQ Business School, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Member of the Federal Government’s $200M Clean Technology Innovation Fund Committee and a Director for Springboard Australia.

Anne-Marie will facilitate discussion amongst the panellists, aided by questions from the audience, to ensure there is a lively consideration of why science isn’t always motivating action.

Global Leadership Series 2014, Can Science Save the Reef? from UQ Journalism & Communication on Vimeo.

About Global Leadership Series

The Global Leadership Series (GLS) is a lively program of events for alumni and community members. Join us for lectures and discussions with the best of the best UQ-related speakers on matters that impact your community and shape your ideas of the world.

The series is an opportunity for you to engage with great minds on global matters, participate in thought-provoking discussions and network with UQ alumni and community members. All alumni, parents, community members and friends are welcome to attend the Global Leadership Series events.

Listen to podcasts of previous GLS events click here


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