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Our team consists of enthusiastic students, postdocs, and research assistants working on a diverse range of topics in conservation science. Past team members have gone on to work on exciting projects in a range of institutions around the world! We welcome new students and postdocs keen to join our team – please contact Carissa at to discuss 👩‍🔬

Carissa Klein

A/ Prof Carissa Klein is an ARC Future Fellow at The University of Queensland, working in the field of conservation science. She leads a group of students and post-doctoral researchers in partnership with numerous non-government organisations (e.g. Wildlife Conservation Society) and government departments (e.g., Sabah Parks in Borneo) around the world.

Carissa has degrees in Chemistry (BA, 2000), Environmental Science (BA, 2000), Environmental Science and Management (MS, 2006) and Conservation Science (PhD, 2010). Her postgraduate studies were at The University of California, Santa Barbara and The University of Queensland. She has received numerous competitive awards, including two that acknowledge her achievements in setting up successful and lasting international collaborations: The Asia Pacific Economic Corporation Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) and the American Australia Association Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship.

Dr Amelia Wegner

Amelia was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She completed her B.A. in Biology at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. Seeking warmer weather, she moved to Townsville to complete her Graduate Diploma and PhD at The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Amelia’s PhD research focused on the effects of suspended sediment on early life history stages of coral reef fish.  During this time, Amelia also worked as a water quality scientist for the Marine Monitoring Program at TropWater.

Dr Nathalie Butt

My research is at the interface of ecosystem and climate scienceclimate-biodiversity interaction and ecosystem dynamics are key themes. Much of my work is concerned with landscape-scale patterns and processes, and the impact on biodiversity of various threats, from global change to human land use, and resource exploitation. Recent results have global significance for conservation planning and consequences for biodiversity, ranging from, future marine turtle habitat to tropical forest protected areas. My focus on human-nature interactions, including how we manage our natural resources, aims to inform protection of people and livelihoods.

Dr Leslie Roberson


I grew up in Seattle, Washington State, which has given me a soft spot for water, self-righteous greenies, and fancy coffee. I have a Bachelors in Environmental Studies from Yale University and a Masters in Applied Marine Science from the University of Cape Town. I’ve been lucky to work on with several conservation and resource management projects in Latin America and Africa.

I’m passionate about all things fisheries except actually fishing, which I find excruciatingly boring because I can never catch anything. I’m also one of the few surfers who wants to see more sharks in the water. My PhD (completed June 2021, supervised by Carissa) was inspired by a need to bridge fisheries management and marine conservation, and I’m excited to continue this work as a postdoc with the Ocean Conservation Team. Ultimately, my interest is improving the environmental and socioeconomic sustainability of fishing and seafood.

Dr Vicki Martin

Vicki is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UQ. As an environmental social scientist, she studies the human side of environmental issues to understand how to improve engagement and communication with the public about environmental solutions. Vicki completed her PhD in 2016 on marine science communication, which focussed on marine citizen science in Australia. In 2017, she was selected as the first social scientist in the Rose Postdoctoral Program at the Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University in the U.S.A., where she continues to hold a Visiting Fellow position. 

Her love of the marine environment started very young on family sailing adventures off Fremantle in Western Australia, which lead to her research career beginning on the Great Barrier Reef in the mid-1990s. Since then, Vicki has had the good fortune to continue working on a wide range of environmental issues including protected and natural area management, stewardship and citizen science, birds, climate change, energy and waste. The majority of her work has been within interdisciplinary teams in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S.A., and Chile.

Dr Rich Cottrell

Dr Rich Cottrell is a Research Fellow in Aquaculture Sustainability at the University of Tasmania and Honorary Research Fellow with the Ocean Conservation Team at the University of Queensland. His research interests broadly revolve around how to feed the growing and increasingly affluent human population while maintaining the integrity of Earth’s natural systems. His current research focuses on how we can better support sustainable aquaculture growth through advanced understanding of the social-ecological implications of feed sourcing and use. His interests also concern how land-sea connectivity and ‘shock’ events pose challenges for food system sustainability.

Madeline Davey

Madeline is a PhD candidate in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at The University of Queensland under the supervision of Prof. Hugh Possingham, Dr. Carissa Klein, Dr. Chris Roelfsema and Prof. Peter Mumby. Madeline’s research is focusing on the condition of coral reef ecosystems – how we can measure their health and how this can be included into conservation decisions ranging from marine protected area design to targeted restoration. Prior to her PhD, Madeline was working in the Philippines for the National Government, updating the national marine policy. She also worked in a rights-based environmental NGO in Manila, where she helped establish marine protected areas with fisher folk groups across the archipelago.

Phoebe Stewart-Sinclair

Phoebe Stewart-Sinclair is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland (Biology) and the University of Exeter (Economics). She has a BSc in Zoology and Ecology, an Honours in Conservation Biology, and a Master of Zoology from Massey University, NZ. Her Honours and Masters research investigated the population biology of the New Zealand falcon and New Zealand sea lion respectively. During this time, Phoebe also became involved in agricultural research spanning climate change, forage improvement, and animal production emissions. She then used this broad base to attain a lecturing position in Environmental Management and Marine Studies at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, NZ. From there, Phoebe moved to the Scottish Association for Marine Science, where she modelled the global vulnerability of shellfish to climate change.

Phoebe’s PhD research specifically focuses on restoration of marine coastal environments for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Her research aims to:
1. draw on natural capital approaches to assess the nature and value of the ecosystem services generated by successful restoration activities, and
2. identify marine restoration actions that will maximise the return-on-investment for both climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Ama Ravindi Wakwella

Ama is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Ama has completed a Bachelor of Advanced Science focusing on marine ecology. During her degree she investigated the impacts of sedimentation and over-fishing on coral reef recovery, sparking a passion for land-sea relationships and management of coral reef health. Ama’s PhD project draws upon conservation planning, marine science, public health, and restoration ecology to investigate and develop a watershed management framework in Fiji. By using a cross-sectoral approach, Ama hopes the watershed management framework will deliver improvements in water safety, disease prevention and marine ecosystem health. Ama’s goal is to help develop focused management to deliver co-benifits for human and ecosystem health.

Mercedes McLean

Mercedes McLean is an HDR PhD candidate in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland (UQ). Mercedes completed the Master of Conservation Science program at UQ, where her research focused on advancing conservation decision-making practice using Indigenous knowledge and scientific data to inform Marine Protected Area designation within Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat. Mercedes’ current research is a collaboration with Ocean Networks Canada, an initiative of the University of Victoria, and coastal Indigenous Communities in British Columbia. The aim of this research is to advance global ocean policy by developing a novel approach and methodology for using Indigenous knowledge to inform the understanding of migratory species and connectivity in the marine environment.

Emma Dugan

Emma is an undergraduate Zoology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She studied for a year abroad at the University of Queensland where Emma started interning in Dr. Carissa Klein’s lab. Emma’s has done past research in coastal ecology and entomology as well as assessing the bycatch risk of marine organisms. She is currently working on Dr. Klein’s joint project with NCEAS mapping marine species vulnerability to human activities. Emma is passionate about the conservation of all endangered species and ecosystems, and hopes to do work in the future to protect marine megafauna.

Bridey Crowe

Bridey is currently completing her Masters in Conservation Science at the University of Queensland under the supervision of Dr. Carissa Klein and Dr. Vicki Martin. Prior to commencing her Masters, Bridey completed a BA/BSc in Archaeology and Zoology at UQ. Her research is focusing on mapping important ecosystems and recreational boat use in Moreton Bay, with the aim of determining how people use and value the bay to inform the upcoming rezoning of the marine park. Bridey is particularly interested in conservation planning and prioritisation, marine science, and community conservation projects.

Tia Vella

Tia is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Queensland studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science, and is completing her honours year under the supervision of Dr Carissa Klein. Originally from Melbourne, Tia grew up next to a marine sanctuary and fell in love with all things marine. Her project focuses on the accessibility of sustainable seafood around South East Queensland, from a consumer perspective.

Rosa Mar Dominguez-Martinez

I’m a PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland. Although I grew up in the mountains in Spain, I had the privilege to travel to warmer and sunnier parts with my studies and fell in love with the ocean. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Conservation Biology and Management at the University of Stirling (Scotland – not so sunny, and Hawai’i – very sunny) and an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems (including Malaysia – the sunniest). In my PhD I am investigating the implications that international trade has on the environmental and socioeconomic sustainability of seafood globally, and the sustainability and resilience of seafood supply chains in Australia.

I am passionate about conservation and the ocean, and finding novel strategies to promote the environmental and socioeconomic sustainability of the seafood we consume.


Dr Caitie Kuempel

Caitie completed her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2018. Her research focused on evaluating trade-offs of quantitative and qualitative protected area objectives under the umbrella of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 11. Currently, she is quantifying, mapping and comparing the environmental impacts of major food systems across the land and sea as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (UC Santa Barbara). She is interested in finding ways to meet the needs of the growing human population while minimizing impacts on the environment – particularly in the world’s oceans. Her expertise lies at the nexus of spatial conservation planning and sustainable food production.

Dr Kendall Jones

Kendall Jones is a conservation planning specialist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, working on land and sea-use planning projects worldwide. Kendall undertook his PhD at the University of Queensland in Australia, supervised by James Watson, Carissa Klein and Hugh Possingham. His PhD looked at improving marine conservation planning by incorporating the full range of human stressors to the ocean: ocean-based impacts, land-based impacts, and climate change. He is passionate about all aspects of conservation biology, but particularly interested in developing and applying conservation planning techniques which incorporate key drivers of biodiversity decline (e.g. climate change, economic development) to develop spatially explicit scenarios for biodiversity conservation and responsible environmental resource management.

Dr Vivitskaia Tulloch

I am a conservation decision-maker interested in managing the direct and indirect impacts of human-associated pressures upon marine environments and biodiversity, as well as integrated and sustainable natural resource management across land and sea systems. The ecology, conservation and management of threatened megafauna and how they interact within complex dynamic systems are of particular interest to me. I completed a PhD with Prof Hugh Possingham at the University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and Dr Eva Plaganyi at CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere in 2016, focusing on understanding multiple threats to marine ecosystem. I used a combination of spatial conservation planning and ecosystem modelling to find cost-effective and efficient solutions to managing marine and terrestrial resources. This allowed me to build expertise in tropical coral reef ecology and conservation, sustainable oil palm plantation development and land-sea runoff modelling, as well as foraging ecology of baleen whales and modelling predator-prey interactions with krill given climate change. In 2016 I started as a Research Fellow with Prof Rob Harcourt in the Marine Predator Research Group at Macquarie University, working on understanding cetacean entanglements in fishing gear across Australia, and finding optimal cost-effective management solutions. I have also worked on understanding and mapping pressures to threatened marine species in the North Marine Bioregion of Australia. I am currently involved in a Lenfest Forage Fish project with Dr Eva Plaganyi-Lloyd and Dr Beth Fulton at CSIRO, working on developing indicators and guideline for practical Ecosystem Based Fishery Management (EBFM) using ecosystem models.It is important to me that my research is applicable and accessible to agencies and stakeholders involved in making conservation decisions, and I collaborate with governments and non-government organisations as much as possible, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, and CSIRO.

Dr Jennifer McGowan

Jennifer is the Spatial Planning Technical Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy based in Washington, DC, USA. Jennifer’s work focuses on the development and uptake of tailored decision-support tools for conservation prioritization and planning.

Jennifer has spent the last five years helping countries and NGOs around the world integrate decision-support tools into their biodiversity and conservation strategies.  She advised the spatial planning process which delivered the Coral Triangle’s largest multi-use marine park, Tun Mustapha Park in Malaysian Borneo, and has worked on a diverse range of prioritization problems from the highly contested waters of the Adriatic Sea to the remote seascapes of Papua New Guinea.

She has also invested a significant amount of time into teaching spatial planning theory and advancing the technical capacity of conservation practitioners. She has trained over 600 scientists and policy-makers across 15 countries in the world’s leading spatial planning decision-support tool, Marxan.  

Jennifer received her PhD in spatial conservation prioritization and decision science from the University of Queensland, Australia. She also holds an MA from San Francisco State University in Environmental Planning and Resource Management.

Dr Azusa Makino

Azusa was a PhD Student who successfully graduated in 2014. She is interested in developing integrated planning. She is now working on marine conservation projects that consider land-sea connectivity in Fiji and also in her home country, Japan.

Azusa has worked with local NGO In Fiji on a marine zoning project which involved her presenting her results at the stakeholder’s meeting.

Azusa is also involved in a project in Japan, focusing on how climate change would affect priority selection for conservation.

Dr Megan Saunders

My research focuses on the effects of environmental factors, human stressors, and management actions on marine ecosystems. At present I focus primarily on the impacts of land use change on downstream marine ecosystems. 

I employ a combination of modelling, field and laboratory approaches in my research, which I use to help identify management and policy recommendations to mitigate negative impacts of human stressors on marine ecosystems. My research has been funded in part through a number of competitive fellowships and awards.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are a foundation of my research program, and to this end I work closely with ecologists, engineers, economists, geographers, conservation planners and lawyers.

Jutta Beher

Jutta is a spatial ecologist from Germany and has worked for more than 5 years as Research Assistant in environmental decision-making and spatial ecology at UQ and the University of Melbourne. She worked for Carissa on two projects that trialed transparent project prioritization of investments for the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. The work was done in close collaboration with regional government bodies, WWF and the Australian Marine Conservation Society. One project focused on the cost-effective reduction of sediment runoff from agricultural lands, and one project analysed the benefits and costs of different actions that aimed to influence population viability of Flatback turtles. Jutta developed a keen interest in the human aspect of decision-making during her time as RA: how does the way people communicate, engage in critical thinking, and frame available information during different decision-points in a decision-making process influence their choices between alternatives? To answer that question, she is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Melbourne and investigates how uncertainty and subjective value judgments made by individuals and groups can impact choices during decision processes in an environmental context.

Scott Atkinson

Scott finished his MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Queensland in 2012. His background includes research on Spanish orchids and soil chemistry, remote sensing techniques of coral reefs, modelling the impacts of interactions of multiple coral stressors on future coral reef composition, and mangrove ecosystem service evaluations in Fiji; he works often with Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Keila Stark

Keila was a research assistant in the Klein group. She worked on a project that aims to identify how social equity in the planning and execution of incentive-based conservation interventions influences human well-being. She is also broadly interested in optimizing ecosystem service provision (ie. fisheries) in vegetated coastal habitats such as mangroves and seagrasses. She grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and has a BSc Hons in Marine Biology and Political Science from the University of British Columbia.

Dr Isaac Antonio Brito Morales

Isaac is a quantitative marine biologist and a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland/CSIRO under the supervision of Prof. Anthony Richardson, Prof. David Schoeman, Dr Carissa Klein, Prof. Jorge Garcia Molinos, and Prof. Michael Burrows. The aim of his project is to investigate how the velocity of climate change might influence species’ distribution shifts at different ocean depths and how this phenomenon can inform conservation. He will explore the resultant implications of his analysis for the global marine protected area network (MPA), both currently and under future climate change. His work aims to evaluate how climate change metrics (e.g. the velocity of climate change) can be effectively integrated into marine spatial planning.

Nur Arafeh Dalmau

I am a marine community ecologist and Marine Spatial Planner, and currently a PhD candidate in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at The University of Queensland under the supervision of Hugh Possingham and Carissa Klein. My research will focus on exploring methods to incorporate ecological objectives into MPA design. My overall goal is to advance in the use of marine connectivity, climate change, and biomass potential (for focal species) metrics in marine spatial planning. Over the past years, I have been part of an ongoing collaborative network of researchers between Mexican and US institutions to jointly study and manage shared resources. I am also involved in kelp forest community research in Baja California and Marine Spatial Planning projects in the Mediterranean Sea.

Emma Arnett

Emma Arnett is currently studying a Masters of Environmental Management at the University of Queensland. Under the supervision of Dr Carissa Klein, Emma’s research project focuses on the inefficiencies of global seafood trade of like-for-like species.

Emma grew up on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and adores all things ocean! She completed her undergraduate degrees at the University of Queensland, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology Extended Major) and a Bachelor of Business Management (Business Economics Major). 

Upon graduation she interned for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Suva, Fiji, assisting in the mud crab fisheries, and understanding the role of women seafood vendors as income earning contributors in Fijian households. She then worked for an extended period on a coral restoration project in the Maldives, which included one of the largest midwater nursery projects in the country, before returning to Australia for her post-graduate studies.

Sergio Garcia Parrilla

Sergio is an international student from Barcelona, Spain, that came to Australia to learn English and couldn’t resist staying longer. He completed his undergraduate in Biology at the University of Girona with a major in ecology. Currently, he is doing a masters of conservation science at the University of Queensland along with a research project supervised by Dr Carissa Klein and Professor Cynthia Riginos. This project involves the DNA analysis and sequencing of seafood products linked to sustainable resources and species. The aim is to observe how useful much information can we reach with this analysis and what is the real truth behind the seafood market. Besides this, Sergio has been working at Sea World as a Water Quality Technician and developing skills as an aquarist. Sergio’s main interests are the marine ecology of all sort of biodiversity and especially the interactions between marine wildlife and humans.
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