Degree completed in 2019.

An evidence-based evaluation of systematic conservation planning



Academic Profile

Emma is undertaking a DPhil at Oxford University with Rich Grenyer, as a recipient of a General Sir John Monash Foundation Scholarship. At Oxford she has taught on the MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management, led the establishment of new forest monitoring plots in French Polynesia with the Oxford Ecosystems Laboratory, and coordinated events for the Oxford Biodiversity Network.

Emma has a Bachelor of Advanced Science (1st Class Honours, Uni Medal) from the University of Sydney, Australia. Before starting her DPhil, Emma was Science Convenor with the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership, coordinating the development and implementation of an annual ecosystem health report card in the Great Barrier Reef. She also worked with the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, giving science a voice in public policy debates, and with PrometheusWiki at CSIRO Publishing.

Current Research

Though her DPhil research Emma is exploring strategic approaches to biodiversity conservation and approaches to evaluating the effectiveness of conservation interventions. Globally we are faced with an extinction crisis and resources for biodiversity conservation must be carefully targeted. When tasked with prioritising areas of land and sea for protection, conservation planners must consider a wide range of biological, economic and socio-political factors if a plan is to be effective. Systematic conservation planning has gained popularity with policy makers worldwide, as a planning framework designed to provide transparency in value-laden decision making, and to bridge the 'knowledge-implementation divide'. However, there are few evaluations of the effect of systematic conservation planning approaches on conservation planning globally.

The central aim of this thesis is to outline the factors which influence the effectiveness of systematic conservation planning in terms of achieving biodiversity conservation outcomes alongside broader social and financial objectives. This consists of five primary research areas:

  • Development of a conceptual approach to defining and measuring conservation impact in relation to conservation planning. Emma and her co-authors discuss theories of change and causal pathways in an Annual Reviews article.
  • Characterise the extent and distribution of evidence on conservation outcomes of systematic conservation planning around the globe. Emma's systematic map reflects the collation and assessment of publications on the outcomes of systematic conservation planning and highlights a major evidence gap.
  • Technology can increasingly improve the quality and efficiency of systematic maps and reviews. Emma reviewed available software and has commented on emergent opportunities for tech innovations in the systematic review process.
  • Explore landmark Australian case studies in systematic conservation planning (rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef and forest agreements in NSW), including a range of perspectives on evidence and outcomes, and why detailed evaluations were not conducted.
  • To tie my thesis together, I conclude by examining barriers to evidence sharing in conservation planning and explore solutions to increase the transferability of lessons and experiences.



Journal Articles