Mel Austen has undertaken and led research across the multiple and interacting sectors of the blue economy (e.g. renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, recreation and leisure, pollution) and the broader regulatory ecosystem services including the natural science underpinning these, their socio-economic importance, the impacts of their exploitation, and management and regulatory options. Her research integrates marine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem modelling, marine ecosystem services, environmental economics and other social sciences. She was the coordinator and leader of the highly interdisciplinary EU project: Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (VECTORS), with 36 partner institutions from across Europe and a budget of €16.6 million. She has a degree and a PhD in marine biology and ecology and more than 100 peer reviewed publications spanning the different disciplinary areas that she has worked in.
Mel regularly provides policy advice at EU and UK level, for example she is currently a member of the UK Government’s Natural Capital Committee and of the UK Government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee. She was part-time Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Marine Management Organisation (2010-2013), which is responsible for marine planning and licencing, fisheries management, and marine protected area management and marine emergencies and was on the Expert Advisory Group for the Government Office for Science Foresight Future of the Sea project. Mel chairs the Partnership group for the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Mel moved to the University of Plymouth in July 2020. Previously she had worked for many years at Plymouth Marine Laboratory where she led PML’s Sea and Society area of science and its broad spectrum of interdisciplinary research projects from the socio-economics of marine ecosystems and their services through to environment and human health.