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Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences

Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences

The Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES) is an important source of independent, strategic advice to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). The committee's work helps to ensure the Basin Plan is confidently implemented with the support of robust science and knowledge.

The ACSEES reviews and advises on the science that informs Basin Plan implementation and the broader scientific context of the MDBA’s work, including adaptation to future climates, environmental management, and the monitoring and evaluation of Basin health and Basin Plan outcomes. Fostering partnerships and the communication of Basin science within academic, community and industry networks are also important components of the committee's role.

The committee’s members bring an impressive depth of understanding to the MDBA’s work, and have high standing in the fields of hydrology, ecology and natural resource management, climate sciences, economics, social and cultural values and water governance and law.

The MDBA established the advisory committee under Section 203 of the Water Act 2007 (Cth), alongside other advisory bodies such as the Basin Community Committee.


Professor Rob Vertessy (Chair)

Rob Vertessy has led a distinguished career in water research since graduating with a PhD in fluvial geomorphology from the Australian National University. After leading the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology and then the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Land and Water Division, he joined the Bureau of Meteorology to lead the establishment of a new water information function and later serve as the Bureau’s CEO. In that capacity, Rob represented Australia at the World Meteorological Organization.

Rob is an Honorary Enterprise Professor in Water Resources with the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering and is an elected Fellow of Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. Rob’s other Board roles include Chair of the Murray–Darling Water and Environment Research Program, Chair of the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program and member of Watertrust Australia Pty Ltd.

Professor Nick Bond

Nick Bond is the Director of the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems at La Trobe University and has more than 20 years’ experience working on the ecology and hydrology of rivers and streams, with a focus on Australia’s water-stressed regions. His primary research interest is in modelling the effects of flow variability on stream biota and ecosystem processes. He has been involved in environmental flow research and monitoring in Australia, Asia and South America.

Professor Bond holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and is an adjunct professor at the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University. He has held leadership roles with several Cooperative Research Centres, helping to establish strong links between research and industry, and translating research to guide water management and policy. He currently sits on a number of scientific advisory panels for state and Commonwealth agencies. Professor Bond currently has a lead role in the Australian Governments’ Murray–Darling Water and Environment Research Program.

Dr Neil Byron

Neil Byron holds a PhD in resource economics from the University of British Columbia and is well recognised for his distinguished career in government and academic sectors, specialising in natural resource and environmental management. He has worked extensively around the globe in international research on social and economic aspects of land use and environmental conservation.

Dr Byron served for 12 years as a Productivity Commissioner, presiding over a range of national inquiries into economic, environmental and social issues. In this role, he led inquiries into the Murray–Darling Basin, drought policies and barriers to climate change adaptation, the challenge of which is an area of ongoing interest.

Dr Byron is currently an adjunct professor for the University of Canberra’s Centre for Applied Water Science, the Independent Chair of the Productivity Commission’s Audit and Risk Committee, and a non-executive Director of Alluvium group of companies.

Professor Sue Jackson

Sue Jackson is a cultural geographer with a PhD from Macquarie University and 25 years’ experience researching the social dimensions of natural resource management, currently with the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University. She has research interests in the social and cultural values associated with water, customary Indigenous resource rights, systems of resource governance, and Indigenous capacity building for improved participation in natural resource management and planning.

Professor Jackson’s expertise includes environmental flow assessment and qualitative research methods. She is leading several projects through the Australian Research Council and the Commonwealth’s National Environmental Science Program. Recently she was appointed to lead the Social, Economic and Cultural Outcomes theme of the Murray–Darling Water and Environment Research Program.

Professor Jackson is a member of several state and Commonwealth technical advisory panels, including the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum.

Dr Rebecca Nelson

Rebecca Nelson is an Associate Professor of Melbourne Law School. Her research focuses on environmental and natural resources law and policy, with an emphasis on empirical research and practical solutions.

From 2010 to 2014, she led the Comparative Groundwater Law and Policy Program, a collaborative initiative between Water in the West at Stanford University and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. The Program focused on undertaking empirical research and convening stakeholder workshops to improve groundwater sustainability in the western United States of America and Australia.

In 2014, she was named the Law Council of Australia's Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year for her contribution to water law and environmental law. Dr Nelson holds a Doctor of the Science of Law from Stanford University, where her dissertation focused on empirically assessing regulatory arrangements for protecting surface water and ecosystems from the impacts of pumping groundwater. She also holds a Master of Laws (Stanford) and Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) and Bachelor of Laws (University of Melbourne).

Professor Anne Poelina

Anne Poelina, Co-Chair of Indigenous Studies and Senior Research Fellow, Nulungu Institute, University of Notre Dame, is a Nyikina Warrwa Indigenous woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Chair of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council, Anne is an active community leader, human and earth rights advocate, poet, playwright and filmmaker. Professor Poelina is a leader in community cultural development, building individual and community capacity as Managing Director of Madjulla Incorporated in remote Aboriginal communities.

A respected academic researcher, she holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Indigenous Wellbeing), Doctor of Philosophy (First Law), Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Master of Education and Master of Arts (Indigenous Social Policy). Professor Poelina is signatory to the Redstone Statement 2010 she helped draft at the first International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy.

A Peter Cullen Fellow for Water Leadership, she was awarded a Laureate from the Women’s World Summit Foundation (Geneva, 2017). She holds membership to national and global think tanks. Professor Poelina is a Visiting Fellow with the Institute of Post-Colonial Studies (Melbourne), Institute of Northern Development at Charles Darwin University, and with the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, Canberra Australia Water Justice Hub.

Professor Michael Stewardson

Michael Stewardson leads the Water Environment and Agriculture program in the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne and is the Director of the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre. Professor Stewardson has significant expertise in the fields of water sharing and river basin management, river science and freshwater ecosystem management. He is currently involved in projects monitoring and evaluating environmental flows, improving evidence-based practice in environmental management of rivers and understanding the benefits to stream health of harvesting urban stormwater.

Professor Stewardson is a member of Ecohydraulics Committee for the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering. He was awarded the National Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation in 2011 and received the Award for Excellence for Building Knowledge across Disciplines in 2011.

Professor Roger Stone

Roger Stone’s career in both meteorological and climatological research extends over 35 years and has focused on research and development in climate systems, extreme drought preparedness and climate modelling targeted for disaster risk reduction, global agricultural production and commodity trading.

Professor Stone is currently Emeritus Professor in Climate Science at the University of Southern Queensland. He also holds the position of Vice President of the (United Nations) World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Services Commission for Weather, Climate, Water, and Related Environmental Services and Applications (SERCOM), and Chair of the Standing Committee for Agriculture in WMO (Geneva).

Seasonal to multi-year climate forecasting and climate change issues and management responses have been the subject of years of research and community presentations by Professor Stone to farmers, producers and scientific and policy communities in Australia and internationally.

Updated: 21 Mar 2022