Qld chief scientist Hugh Possingham to ‘hang up the boots’

James Riley
Editorial Director

Queensland chief scientist Professor Hugh Possingham, one of the nation’s most distinguished scientific minds, has retired from the role from Wednesday after being a driving force for the sector during COVID.

Prof Possingham, who was appointed to the role in 2020, has had a long career developing mathematical and economic tools for solving nature conservation challenges – such as where to place protected areas and determining the most efficient actions for saving threatened species.

Acknowledging his decision to “hang up his boots on August 31”, Queensland Minister for Science Meaghan Scanlon said Prof Possingham had been instrumental in shaping key policies, programs and investments in areas ranging from crocodile management, marine parks and threatened species, disaster management and university-industry partnerships.

Queensland Science Minister Meaghan Scanlon with chief scientist Professor Hugh Possingham

“In all, he led and participated in close to 30 committees or advisory boards covering a broad range of endeavours from university research, energy, climate, reef, and biodiversity and other environmental issues as well as advice to government,” Ms Scanlon said in a statement.

“Professor Possingham has especially devoted time and energy to ensure young Queenslanders are inspired to continue their studies in STEM,” she said.

Prof Possingham’s scientific career started at the University of Adelaide where he completed a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics with Honours, which was followed by a doctorate in ecological modelling from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

He joined the University of Queensland as chair of the Department of Mathematics and Biological Sciences where he has led several research centres and has also held Australian Research Council Professorial, Laureate and Federation Fellowships.

Ms Scanlon said Prof Possingham would continue his role as the independent Chair of the state’s Native Vegetation Scientific Expert Panel, and would maintain his part-time role with UQ as the vice-chancellor’s senior research fellow at the School of Biological Sciences.

The Minister will now appoint an interim Queensland Chief Scientist while recruitment process is undertaken for the permanent role.

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