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Fellows Directory

Robert Pressey

Robert Pressey

Professor Robert Pressey FRS


Elected: 2022





Robert (Bob) Pressey had an unconventional scientific career, starting by turning down a PhD scholarship to travel, undertaking a degree as a Master of Environmental Studies, consulting on freshwater wetlands for about seven years, followed by 19 years with the New South Wales National Parks and wildlife service, during which he established the emerging field of systematic conservation planning, then taking a position with the Australian Research Council Centre for Coral Reef Studies. His research spanned freshwater, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems and has been heavily invested in engagement with practitioners.

A driving force for all of Pressey's research was the contribution of science to real-world decisions. That contribution included software development to facilitate negotiation in conflicts between nature conservation and extractive uses, but also covered critiques of environmental decisions by governments and non-government organisations. Pressey's later focus was on demonstrating the 'residual' nature of protected areas, meaning the tendency for reservation to gravitate to areas in least need of protection, and explaining the causes and consequences of this bias, with the goal of formulating policy responses.

Professor Robert Pressey FRS died on 5 July 2023.

Professional positions

Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cooke University

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Computer sciences
    • Numerical computing
  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Agricultural and forest science, Environmental biology, Evolution
  • Health and human sciences
    • Human Geography
  • Other
    • Science policy
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