Professor of Biodiversity, The University of Western Australia, Albany WA

Born in Bangalow NSW in 1951, and moving to Perth in 1965, today I am a field biologist, avid bibliophile, beach comber, photographer, part-time musician and family man. Previously, following PhD studies, I have worked in conservation research and management in the Western Australian Government (1977-1992), and been chief executive (Director) of two world-class botanic gardens (Kings Park WA 1992-2004, and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK 2006-2012). I now work in a 0.6FTE appointment as Professor of Biodiversity at The University of Western Australia, Albany (2012 to present) and as a strategic consultant.

My research and teaching interests include specialist expertise in natural history, eucalypts, kangaroo paws, orchids, plants of granite outcrops, endangered plants, cross-cultural biodiversity research with Noongar Aboriginal people, old climatically-buffered infertile landscapes (Ocbils), pollination of plants by birds and mammals, and botanic garden management. I am an author of 338 scientific publications, 155 peer-reviewed, with 139 sole-authored, and 14 books and monographs.  My field research has extended across Australia and New Zealand (since 1972), the USA (since 1990), South Africa (since 1997), and the UK and western Europe (since 2001).

I joined as Director the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, a World Heritage tourist site and global plant science powerhouse of 800 staff, in 2006, and led the organization through celebrations of its 250th anniversary in 2009, before returning to UWA in 2012. As a CEO, Chief Scientist and manager, I have seen Kings Park and Botanic Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew through substantial organizational change, without industrial disputation, in challenging economic circumstances, delivering much improved revenues and world-class improvements to services, facilities and science outputs in both cases.

Currently, I am focused on helping devise ways for people to live sustainably with biodiversity, especially on Ocbils, and in collaboration with Noongar people, postgraduate students and other scientists worldwide.

In 2012 I was inducted into the Western Australian Science Hall of Fame. I was also awarded Australia’s highest civilian honour of Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), for ’eminent service as a global science leader in the field of plant conservation biology, particularly in the delivery of world class research programs contributing to the conservation of endangered species and ecosystems’.

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