Land-sea Conservation Assessment for Papua New Guinea

imageWe are honored that UNDP PNG is featuring our land-sea conservation assessment on their publications site and it will be permanently housed in their publication library.  The assessment was authored by myself, Hugh Possingham, and Viv Tulloch with important contributions from James Allan, Caitie Kuempel, and collaborators at TNC, Macquarie, and Tel Aviv University.

The assessment was the culmination of work completed between 2014 – 2016 (and also built off of a marine assessment conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland).  With a permanent home on the UNDP website- it’s our hope that this assessment has the real potential to influence conservation investment in this global hotspot.

Launching a global conservation planning database

It’s been a long time coming (since my PhD days with my esteemed co-authors and good friends) but I am pleased to announce the launch of a global conservation planning database. We demonstrate its value in learning from existing plans in our paper published in Biological Conservation.

Given international policy targets and growing recognition of a biodiversity crisis, the number and total extent of protected areas is set to increase significantly in the next few decades. To ensure this planned expansion is effective in halting biodiversity loss, it is critical that new protected areas (and other conservation actions) are well designed and effectively implemented.

Systematic conservation planning (SCP), which takes into account ecological and socioeconomic aspects of conservation, is regarded as best practice for identifying conservation priorities and has been widely used to design protected area systems. Applications of SCP cover terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms, including planning initiatives in developed and developing countries across the world.

Over the last three decades, hundreds of SCP studies have been produced, yet there is no structured or reliable way of finding information on SCP methods, trends, and progress. This rapid growth in SCP literature inhibits distillation of best practices and understanding of trends in methods and applications. Furthermore, bridging the well-recognized gap between SCP research and implementation requires systematic and continuous monitoring of plan development and implementation.

The Conservation Planning Database project aims to create a global database to help track the development, implementation, and impact of SCP applications, and improve scholarship in the field. Consolidating a global database can play a critical role in advancing SCP theory and practice, thus facilitating more effective area-based conservation initiatives with real benefits for biodiversity and human well-being.

TEDx Talk: Bridging the Gap between Planning and Implementation

Ensuring my research is translated into on ground action and impact is a personal motivator.  It’s not always successful, but it’s always a goal.  In this TEDx Talk I reflect on my journey trying to bridge the gap between knowing and doing and provide some lessons learned.

TEDx abstract:

Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge. But, when it comes to translating science into policy, knowing doesn’t naturally translate into doing. Inspiring action requires answering the question ‘why’? Closing the gap between knowledge and wisdom starts here, but requires answering one more question, ‘who?’. Through her journeys across northern Australia, Vanessa will talk about how to identify the who and their why to ensure that the best-laid plans translate into action. Vanessa is a lecturer in Conservation Biology at Macquarie University. Vanessa was raised in New Mexico but currently calls Australia home. She has worked in a variety of roles ranging from actuarial analyst for global consulting firm Mercer HR to research scientist at universities. Her varied training and work background influences her research approach and questions which focus on how to design and implement effective biodiversity conservation. She partners with relevant government agencies and NGOs to ensure that her research is relevant to policy makers and is positioned to influence on-ground conservation. Vanessa’s objective throughout her work is to improve the environment and the communities it supports in real and measurable ways. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Student projects

I am actively recruiting competitive students to my lab at University of Tasmania.  I am available to supervise Honours, Masters, and PhD research projects on conservation planning, threatened species management, environmental policy, conservation impact evaluation, natural resource management, and related fields. I have a current student project advertised on policy impact analysis. If you are interested in this project or have a project of your own you’d like to propose please get in touch to discuss ideas.