Global Water Institute Research

In profile: Kingsley Griffin, PhD Candidate

Impacts from human activities such as land use, urbanisation and marine infrastructure are affecting habitat within marine environments all over the world—including reefs within Sydney Harbour. To sustainably manage these critical systems, we need to be able to understand the complex ecological interactions taking place within these environments.

Kingsley Griffin, a PhD candidate within the UNSW’s School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, is helping us do just that. After completing his BSc Honours in 2012, Kingsley worked in environmental consulting for a top international firm for around two years. It was while in this position that Kingsley identified a grave need for improved marine mapping that could more accurately reflect intricate ecological patterns to aid informed decision-making.

Imagine drawing a line around a forest and calling it all the same habitat. I found myself thinking ‘there must be a better way.’

Kingsley Griffin, PhD Candidate

Kingsley says that while marine ecosystems look complex, heterogeneous, and chaotic, currently most marine habitat mapping tends to homogenise everything.

“Imagine drawing a line around a forest and calling it all the same habitat," says Kingsley. “We know these kinds of maps don’t represent the patchy, complex ecological reality, but it’s just how we do it. I found myself thinking ‘there must be a better way.’”

Kingsley began his PhD in 2014 under the supervision of Dr Emma Johnston, incoming Dean of Science at UNSW and a key member of the Global Water Institute leadership team. He recommends that anybody who is considering embarking on a PhD journey should ensure that their project supports the skills they want to develop, and provides a pathway for a range of future opportunities.

Samuel Burrell studying the declining, endangered seagrass Posidonia australis at Manly Cove. Image: Kingsley Griffin

“I’d absolutely take a career in academia if I can be competitive—but I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point,” says Kingsley.

“Thankfully, the PhD program and programs in the wider school have helped me develop skills I never thought I would—including coding and statistical modelling—some of which may prepare me well for other career paths.”

In the immediate future, Kingsley hopes to stay on in the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology laboratory to see out some unfinished projects and to see his research become more widely adopted. He hopes his work will prompt others to look at developing new, innovative systems rather than persevering with existing tools and processes.

“I’m hoping that my research can demonstrate that it’s not so hard to change our ways, and there’s great value from a management perspective in the alternatives,” said Kingsley.

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