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  • BS, Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide.
  • PhD, Oxford University


Hugh’s expertise is in ecology, applied mathematics, spatial planning, operations research and economic instruments for conservation outcomes. He has co-authored >600 refereed publications covered by the Web of Science. He has supervised >80 PhD students and >50 postdoctoral fellows. In 2016, Hugh was elected a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences. In 2016 Hugh became The Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). As the Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy Hugh guides and promotes the work of our >350 practicing scientists working in 72 countries. Hugh has contributed to innumerable boards and expert advisory committees over the past 30 years. For example, he was the inaugural chair of the Australian federal government Biological Diversity Advisory Committee.

The Possingham lab uses mathematics to formulate and solve problems for saving plants, animals and ecosystems. They developed the most widely used conservation planning software in the world.Marxan was used to underpin the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef and is currently used in >180 countries by >6000 users – from the UK and USA to Malaysia and Brazil – to build the world’s marine and terrestrial landscape plans. Marxan can be used to achieve conservation outcomes while maximizing development opportunities. Hugh and Dr Barry Traill wrote “The Brigalow Declaration”, used by Premier Beattie to more than halve land clearing in Queensland thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Australia by more than 5% per annum and saving one million acres per year from conversion which amounts to saving 20 million birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians per year.

He has one psychological disorder, a compulsive desire to watch birds.