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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. The committee’s work helps to ensure the Basin Plan is confidently implemented with the support of robust methodology, science and knowledge.

ACSEES delivers advice on Basin Plan implementation and the broader scientific context of the MDBA’s work, including environmental watering, adaptive management, climate change and the monitoring and evaluation of Basin Plan outcomes. The communication of science-related matters within academic, community and industry networks is also an important part of the committee’s role.

The committee’s seven members bring an impressive depth of understanding to the MDBA’s work, and have high standing in the fields of economics, hydrology, ecology and resilience, water governance and law, sociology and sustainable systems.

The MDBA established the advisory committee under Section 203 of the Water Act 2007, 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 from the Australian National University in fluvial geomorphology.  After leading the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology then CSIRO’s Land and Water Division, he joined the Bureau of Meteorology where he served as the Bureau’s CEO and represented Australia at the World Meteorological Organization.

Professor Vertessy currently conducts research on climate change and water security as an enterprise professor with the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering, and chairs the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering’s water forum.

Environmental intelligence is the focus of Professor Vertessy’s consulting company, which has taken him to Asia on behalf of the Australian Water Partnership and the Commonwealth Government to share Australia’s water reform experience. He chairs a number of state and Commonwealth technical committees concerned with climate and water matters.

Professor Michael Stewardson

Michael Stewardson leads the Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources Group in the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

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 enviornmental management of rivers and understanding the benefits to stream health of harvesting urban stormwater.

Professor Stewardson is a member of the European Geophysical Union, the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research and the Society for Freshwater Science. 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 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, and 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.

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. Dr Nelson holds an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (2018–2020), which aims to analyse and evaluate laws regulating cumulative environmental effects in the USA, European Union, Canada and Australia. From 2010–2014, 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 USA 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 Masters in law (Stanford) and Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) and Bachelor of Laws (University of Melbourne). Dr Nelson formerly worked as a lawyer at the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and in private practice in Australia.

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 global agricultural production and trading.

Professor Stone is currently the Director of the Centre for Applied Climate Sciences at the University of Southern Queensland. He also holds senior positions in the United Nation’s Integrated Drought Management Program and the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction Program, and is President of the the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation Commission for Agricultural Meteorology.

Seasonal climate forecasting and climate change issues have been the subject of presentations by Professor Stone to farmers, producers and scientific and policy communities in Australia and internationally.

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, and she is leading several projects through the Australian Research Council and the Commonwealth’s National Environmental Science Program, and is a co-convenor of Waterfuture’s environmental flows working group.

Professor Jackson is a member of several state and Commonwealth technical advisory panels, including those for Kakadu National Park, the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management.

Dr Neil Byron

A PhD graduate in resource economics from the University of British Columbia, Neil Byron is recognized 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 is currently an assistant commissioner with the NSW Natural Resources Commission, a trustee of the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of NSW and adjunct professor for the University of Canberra’s Murray–Darling Basin Futures Collaborative Research Network. He has also worked with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder advising on options to improve environmental watering outcomes.

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 was engaged in the inquiry into barriers to adaptation to climate change, the challenge of which is an area of ongoing interest.

ACSEES Communique 15–16 September 2020 [ PDF 357 KB ] - [Word 126 KB ] 

ACSEES Communique 28–29 April 2020 [ PDF 278 KB ] - [Word 128 KB ] 

ACSEES media release 12 May 2020 [ PDF 262 KB ] - [Word 126 KB ] 

ACSEES Communique 17-18 September 2019 [ PDF 498 KB ] - [Word 129 KB ] 

ACSEES Communique 16-17 April 2019 [ PDF 503 KB ] - [Word 132 KB ] 

ACSEES Communique 23-24 October 2018 [ PDF 503 KB ] - [Word 13 0KB ]

Updated: 02 Oct 2020