People > Professor Melanie Austen

Professor Melanie Austen

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


Professor Melanie Austen was Head of Science at PML and lead the Sea and Society area of science. She is a member of the UK Government’s Natural Capital Committee and of its Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Chair of the Partnership of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in North Devon, and a member of the Board of Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe2). She served a 3 year term as the first Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK's Marine Management Organisation.

For the past 20 years Mel has been leading and delivering a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research projects and programmes in a marine context within the UK, EU and internationally. Her research Integrates natural, economic, social, and public health sciences to examine and quantify societal consequences and policy relevance of changes to the marine environment and its ecosystems. She currently leads UKRI GCRF funded research (£6.6m) in support of coastal communities of developing countries in SE Asia (, and has a leadership role in UKRI NERC funded SWEEP which creates impact from research in support of the economy and environment of SW England ( 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 (€16m, 38 partners).

Originally a marine ecology scientist, for more than 20 years Mel’s research has addressed the multiple and interacting sectors of the blue economy and its impact on the broader marine ecosystem services and natural capital. This includes the natural science underpinning marine natural capital, the socio-economic importance of benefits from marine ecosystem services, the impacts of exploitation of ecosystem goods and services, as well as marine policy, management and regulation. Her research integrates (inter alia) marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem modelling, marine ecosystem services, environmental economics, human health implications and other social sciences and aims to support policy development and management for sustainable ecosystems in the UK and internationally.

Professor Melanie Austen has published more than 100 peer reviewed research papers and book chapters.


GCRF Blue Communities

GCRF Blue Communities

Contact: Professor Melanie Austen

GCRF Blue Communities is a 4 year research capacity-building programme for marine planning in East and South-East (E/SE) Asia, funded by UK...

South West Partnership for Environment & Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)

South West Partnership for Environment & Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)

Contact: Professor Melanie Austen

SWEEP is a new initiative that will help deliver economic and community benefits to the South West, whilst also protecting and enhancing the area...

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Other 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)'

Selected key publications

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, 16(4), 669-683. doi: 10.1111/faf.12086

Fleming LE, McDonough N, Austen MC, Mee Laurence M, Moore, MN, Depledge MH, White M, Phillippart K, Bradbrook P, Smalley A. 2014. Oceans and Human Health: A Rising Tide of Challenges and Opportunities for Europe. Marine Environmental Research 99, 16-19.  doi:10.1016/j.marenvres.2014.05.010

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

Other activities

Member of Expert Advisory Group for the Foresight Future of the Sea project (2016- )

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