Environmental decision scientist lauded by Academy

11 Mar 2021
Associate Professor Eve McDonald-Madden
Associate Professor Eve McDonald-Madden

A University of Queensland conservation scientist has been recognised by Australia’s pre-eminent scientific body for her modelling work to protect nature whilst supporting sustainable development.

Associate Professor Eve McDonald-Madden has received an early-career honorific from the Australian Academy of Science, one of 24 future stars of science recognised by the Academy.

Dr McDonald-Madden’s research has primarily focused on improving environmental decision-making in complex systems, helping achieve realistic, global conservation outcomes.

“Creating a sustainable and prosperous world – as outlined by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – is the biggest thing we need to do as a society,” she said.

“But the significant trade-offs that exist between achieving these goals cannot be underestimated.

“We know that more agriculture could mean less nature, or that protecting land may diminish the livelihoods of communities.

“If we can’t grapple with this complexity we’re at risk of perverse outcomes from trying to reach any one sustainability goal.

“My work as an environmental decision scientist is all about using novel methods from disparate fields – embracing this complexity.

“I try to find feasible solutions at the nexus our needs as a society and the urgent need to protect the environment.”

The young researcher’s interest in conservation first blossomed growing up on a farm, where she discovered a love for nature.

“I was fascinated by nature, and first studied ecology to know more about it all,” Dr McDonald-Madden said.

“Eventually, during a period of working as an ecologist in government, I realised that in order to inform wise decision-making to protect nature I would need to learn the art of number crunching – skills like applied mathematics and operations research.

“That’s when I changed direction and studied applied mathematics, completing a PhD at UQ on optimisation for conservation with UQ researcher and now-Queensland-Chief-Scientist, Professor Hugh Possingham.

“That redirection honestly completely changed my career, in a great way.”

Dr McDonald Madden said she’s both honoured and astounded to receive such prestigious recognition.

“Receiving this honour is truly astonishing, and I’m so grateful to all the people I have worked with who have been a part of shaping my career – my mentors, my close colleagues, and the amazing group of people in my lab,” she said.

“And the fact you can win a medal for science… that’s so cool.”

UQ alumnus Professor Cheryl Praeger AM was also recognised by the Australian Academy of Science, receiving a premier honorific.

The full list of awardees is available on the Academy’s website.

Media: A/Prof. Eve McDonald Madden, e.mcdonaldmadden@uq.edu.au, +61 439 358 950; Dominic Jarvis, dominic.jarvis@uq.edu.au, +61 413 334 924.