Professor Melanie Austen

Head of Science - Sea and Society

Dr Melanie Austen

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)

Professor Melanie Austen is Head of Science at PML leading the Sea and Society area of science. She has recently completed a 3 year term as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Marine Management Organisation. In PML, Mel leads a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research projects from the socio-economics of marine ecosystems and their services through to environment and human health, and marine biodiscovery. Mel has led and participated in several EU projects including the scientific co-ordinator of the interdisciplinary EU FP7 project VECTORS - Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors.

Mel was originally a benthic ecologist specialising in meiofauna research, but in the last fifteen years she has been developing and leading UK and EU funded collaborative marine research that directly interfaces marine ecology and ecosystem modelling with environmental economics to support policy development and management for sustainable ecosystems. This research encompasses the environmental benefits and costs of a diversity of human activity in the seas such as renewable energy extraction, shipping, tourism and recreation, fishing and conservation.

Mel’s wide-ranging research interests include: links between marine biodiversity, ecosystem function and ecosystem services and the socio-economic value of the services; natural and human impacts on provision of marine ecosystem goods and services and their socio-economic values; impact of renewable energy, aquaculture and fishing on marine ecosystem processes, biodiversity and goods and services; benthic-pelagic coupling; field and experimental benthic ecology in coastal habitats and nematode taxonomy using traditional, molecular and computer-based techniques. Professor Melanie Austen has written over 80 peer reviewed research papers and book chapters.

Key Projects

VECTORS - Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (FP7)

Marine Ecosystems Research Programme (MERP)

UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) - Energy & Environment Phase II (UKERC)

DEVOTES - DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status (EC FP7)

QBEX - Quantifying benefits and impacts of fishing exclusion zones around Marine Renewable Energy Installations (NERC)

SPLICE Sustainable Pathways to Low Carbon Energy (DEFRA)

NERC Knowledge Exchange - Novel knowledge exchange approaches for sustainable food production

UK's Science and Innovation Network (SIN, jointly funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Research theme 'Socio-economic importance of biodiversity’ within the EU funded Network of Excellence Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (MarBEF) (2003-2009)

Management tools - policy proposals workpackage within the EU funded Framework 6 project 'European Marine Protected Areas as tools for Fisheries management and conservation (EMPAFish)'

Other Activities

Chair of European Marine Board Working Group (2013-2015)

Chief Scientific Advisor of the Marine Management Organisation (2009-2013)

Member of EU Expert Group on Marine Research Infrastructure (2009-2011)

Member of Expert Panel for the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) (2009-2011)

Member of the North Sea Review Panel for the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (2009-2010)

Evaluator for the review of the DEFRA Marine Environment and Marine Biodiversity R&D Programmes (2008)

Member of NERC Peer Review College (2007-2010)

Member of British Ecological Society Marine Advisory Group (2007-)

Chair of Biodiversity Research Advisory Group (BRAG) Marine biodiversity and the provision of goods and services sub group (2007-2009)

Member of Biodiversity Research Advisory Group (BRAG) Management of Habitats and Ecosystems Sub-group (2004- )

Association memberships:

British Ecological Society

International Association of Meiobenthologists

Marine Biological Association of the UK



Jones A.C, Mead A, Austen M.C.V., et al (2014) Prioritisation  of knowledge -needs for sustainable aquaculture: a national and global perspective. Fish and Fisheries (In Press)

Fleming LE, McDonough N, Austen MC, Mee Laurence M, Moore, MN, Depledge MH, White M, Phillippart K, Bradbrook P, Smalley A. 2014 (In Press) Oceans and Human Health: A Rising Tide of Challenges and Opportunities for Europe. Marie Environmental Research 99, pp. 16-19 DOI:10.1016

Ingels J., Dashfield S.L., Somerfield P.J., Widdicombe S., Austen M.C. 2014 Interactions between multiple large macrofauna species and nematode communities - mechanisms for indirect impacts of trawling disturbance. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 456:41-49

Borger T., Beaumont N.J., Pendleton L., Boyle K.J., Cooper P., Fletcher S., Haab T., Hanemann M, Hooper T.L., Hussain S.S., Portela R., Sitithou M., Stockill J., Taylor T., Austen M.C., (2014) Incorporating Ecosystem Services in marine planning. The role of valuation. Marine Policy 46, 161-170.  

Hooper T., and Austen M. 2014 A methodology for the assessment of local-scale changes in marine environmental health benefits and its application. Ecosystem services 8, 65-74  

Rees SE, Attrill MJ, Austen MC, Mangi SC, Richards J, Rodwell LD. 2010. Is there a win-win scenario for marine nature conservation? A case study of Lyme Bay, England. Ocean and Coastal Management, 53, 135-145

Rees SE, Rodwell LD, Attrill MJ, Austen MC, Mangi SC. 2010. The value of marine biodiversity to the leisure and recreation industry and its application to marine spatial planning. Marine Policy, 34, 868-875

Bhadury P, Austen MC. 2010. Barcoding marine nematodes: an improved set of nematode 18S rRNA primers to overcome eukaryotic co-interference. Hydrobiologia, 641, 245–251

Beaumont NJ, Austen MC, Mangi SC, Townsend M. 2008. Economic valuation for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 56, 386-396 doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.11.013

Olsgard F, Schaanning MT, Widdicombe S, Kendall MA, Austen MC. 2008. Effects of bottom trawling on ecosystem functioning. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 366, 123-133

Mangi SC, Austen MC. 2008. Perceptions of stakeholders towards objectives and zoning of marine protected areas in southern Europe. Journal for Nature Conservation, 16, 271-280

Beaumont, NJ, Austen MC, Atkins J, Burdon D, Degraer S, Dentinho TP, Derous S, Holm P, Horton T, van Ierland E, Marboe AH, Starkey DJ, Townsend M, Zarzycki T. 2007. Identification, definition and quantification of goods and services provided by marine biodiversity: Implications for the Ecosystem Approach. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 54, 253-265

Austen MC, Widdicombe S. 2006. Comparison of the response of meio- and macrobenthos to disturbance and organic enrichment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 330, 96-104

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