Scientific Advisory Committee 

Scientific Advisory Committee members are appointed by the Wet Tropics Management Authority's Board.

Committee members advise the Wet Tropics Management Authority’s Board on scientific research that contributes to the protection, conservation and scientific developments relevant to the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area.

The committee comprises of individuals with scientific expertise or knowledge relevant to the biophysical, bio-cultural, economic or sciences, including the nature-based tourism/recreation sciences. 


2020-2023 Scientific Advisory Committee Members

Professor Stephen Williams, WTMA Board Member and committee Chair

Prof Stephen (Steve) Williams is a Professor in the College of Marine and Environmental Science, James Cook University, Australia. His research has focussed on field-based ecology, understanding biodiversity, assessing the resilience of natural ecosystems to environmental change and using this knowledge to maximize the positive benefits of conservation management and adaptation. Steve was one of the first to identify global climate change as a severe threatening process to biodiversity in the tropics, especially in mountain ecosystems. In 2006, he started the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change at James Cook University and was the inaugural Director for the first six years. He was lead author of the Australian National Adaptation Research Plan for Natural Ecosystems and was the Director of the Australian Adaptation Network for Natural Ecosystems (marine, terrestrial, freshwater) within the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). He has over 130 publications and, with more than 25,000 peer review citations, is one of the most-cited global change biologists.


John Herbohn
Photographer: WTMA

Ms Mellissa Brown

Ms Mellissa Brown is the founding Director and Principal Ecologist of 4 Elements Consulting, a specialised environmental consultancy based in Cairns. Mellissa’s expertise is in vertebrate fauna assessment and identification, assessment of terrestrial habitats, wildlife management, biodiversity planning, environmental impact assessments and ecological monitoring; project management, training and facilitation. Mellissa undertakes specialist consultancy work for species recovery planning and significant species management for both government and the private sector. Current projects include predicting and managing construction impacts to fauna species, detection dogs and radiotracking of threatened fauna, northern quoll population monitoring; and magnificent brood frog ecology and management.


Susan Laurance

Dr Susan Laurance

Dr Susan Laurance is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and a Tropical Leader and Associate Professor at JCU. Susan grew up in Cairns and returned in 2010 after 14 years living and working in tropical forests around the world.Susan is a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama and Brazil’s National Institute for Amazonian Research, and is Past President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. Her research focuses on the impacts of human land use and climate change on tropical diversity and function.She currently leads a unique experiment exploring the effects of drought on tropical forests at the Daintree. Prior to her post-graduate training, Susan spent seven years working in conservation management at QNPWS and WTMA.


John Locke
Photographer: WTMA

Mr John Locke

Mr John Locke is the Co-Founder, Director & Biocultural Strategist | Biocultural ConsultingDeveloping a systems approach to his consultancies, John focuses on the importance of cultural DNA (biological, linguistic and cultural strands) that fuse and sustain Indigenous peoples, their living landscapes, and the significance of Indigenous science.His expertise is grounded in Aboriginal Studies (UniSA), and over a decade in corporate office management positions with the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Environment Resource Management, focusing on strategic and on-ground Indigenous engagement and collaborative partnerships.In 2014, achieved a collaborative National Banksia Award (Indigenous Leadership for Sustainability), and in 2016, an inaugural Indigenous Science Panellist – World Science Festival (Brisbane).


Suzanne Long

Professor Emeritus Carla Catterall

Prof. Emer. Carla Catterall is an ecologist who has spent several decades investigating how plants and animals in the wild respond to environmental changes, Carla Catterall is Professor Emeritus in environmental sciences at Griffith University, Brisbane. Much of her work during the past 20 years has been focused on gaining an improved understanding of ecological processes involved in rainforest restoration in Queensland's Wet Tropics, and the outcomes of different techniques.More generally, she works with colleagues and students to discover what approaches and actions could enable a diverse flora and fauna to persist within landscapes used by people. The findings have been communicated in about 200 publications, in both scientific journals and other formats for land managers and the wider community. Carla has also taught many University courses in ecology and environmental management.She is a previous president of the Ecological Society of Australia, and she received the 2009 Serventy Medal for ornithological research.


Bruce Prideaux

Professor Bruce Prideaux

Professor Bruce Prideaux is the Director of the Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities at the Cairns campus of Central Queensland University and is the program director of the Masters of Sustainable Tourism Management.He has a wide range of research interests including tourism in rainforest areas, coral reef tourism, protected area tourism, rural tourism, remote area tourism, indigenous tourism, urban tourism and climate change.He has authored over 300 journal articles, book chapters and conference papers on a range tourism related issue. His most recent book is: Prideaux, B. (2014) Rainforest Tourism, Conservation and Management: challenges for sustainable development. Routledge, New York, NY, USA. Pp.1 -320.Dr


Joann Schmider

Dr. Liz Ota

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of the Sunshine CoastLiz Ota is a member of the Tropical Forests and People Research Centre. Her research is focused on forest and landscape restoration for environmental and socioeconomic benefits in the tropics. Her undergraduate degree was in Forestry as well as her PhD.Liz is currently involved in two ACIAR-funded projects in the Philippines and Vanuatu. Liz is also involved in an ambitious project to re-establish a permanent plot network in the Wet Tropics formerly managed by the Queensland Forestry Department, which is likely to be one of the oldest and most detailed sets of data in tropical rainforests in the world.


Lea Sherl

Dr Leah Talbot

Dr Leah Talbot is the Projects Manager with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and prior to this was with CSIRO as an Indigenous science researcher for the last 7 years.She is a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji People from the Bloomfield River area. Leah has a Doctorate in Indigenous governance in Protected Area Management and has worked within the conservation and research sector for many years. Leah has experience in environmental management, high-level Indigenous negotiations and developing, participatory planning with Indigenous communities in Indigenous land management.As an Indigenous science researcher, her experiences included the developed of Indigenous-led projects along with collaborative Indigenous research methodologies. Leah has been a Director on the Wet Tropics Authority Board for the past 7 years and is also a member of the Indigenous Advisory Committee to the Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture, Water and the Environment.



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