Researcher biography

Michelle has worked for several years on sustainable development in Turkey, Qatar and South Africa. She has a Masters in Environmental Management majoring in Conservation Biology from the University of Queensland. Her masters research focused on valuing ecosystem services to align environmental management with the Sustainable Development Goals in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area.

Michelle am now completing her Ph.D. with Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Professor Hugh Possingham and Professor James Watson. Her research broadly focuses on applied conservation research that is linked directly to on the ground actions. More specifically, her research centres on combining economic instruments with systematic conservation planning to achieve the best solutions for threatened species. In doing so, she has developed novel methods for cost-effective prioritisation of biodiversity in order to maximise the protection of all threatened flora and fauna. Michelle is also interested in the effectiveness of environmental legislation in mitigating threats, and developing insights and strategies for improving such regulatory frameworks. 

She is currently working on a plausible framework, method, and case study for developing an action plan for threatened species in Australia. This research is cross-disciplinary, linking methods from ecological modelling, economics, remote sensing, and political science. In the near future, she hopes to examine the complex interactions of threats, in regard to the impacts and trade-offs of management design.
She volunteers for Wildcare Australia, predominately rescuing and rehabilitating native, orphaned mammals. She is also an IUCN WCPA Commission Member and am working closely with the Green List Specialist Group, President for the Society of Conservation Biology (Brisbane chapter), and research assistant for the National Environmental Science Programme.


Ward, M., Simmonds, J., Reside, A., Watson, J, Rhodes, J., Possingham, H., Trezise, J., File, L., Fletcher, R., Taylor, M. (2019). Lots of loss with little scrutiny: the attrition of habitat critical for threatened species in Australia. Conservation Science and Practice, doi:10.1111/csp2.117.

Sonter, L., Gordon, A., Archibald, C., Simmonds, J., Ward, M., Metzger, J., Rhodes, J., Maron, M. (2019). Offsetting impacts of development on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Ambio, doi: 10.1007/ s13280-019-01245-3.

Ward, M., Possingham, H., Rhodes, J. and Mumby, P. (2018) Food, money and lobsters: Valuing ecosystem services to align environmental management with Sustainable Development Goals. Ecosystem Services, vol. 29, pp. 56-69.

Ward, M., et al. (2019). Environment laws have failed to tackle the extinction emergency. Here's the proof. The Conversation.

Ward, M., et al. (2019). Election by electorate. Australian Conservation Foundation, Australia.

Ward, M., et al. (2019). 2020 Post-Aichi targets. Australian International Union Conservation for Nature, Australia.

Ward, M., et al. (2018). Fast Tracking Extinction: Australia’s national environmental law. Australian Conservation Foundation Report, Australia.

Ward, M., et al. (2018). Expert comment: Vegetation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. Queensland Government, Australia.

Ward, M., et al. (2018). Expert comment: Australia’s strategy for nature 2018-2030. Australian Government, Australia.

Watson, J., Reside, A., Williams, B., Possingham, H., Maron, M., Ward, M., Fuller, R., Atkinson, S., Kearney, S. (2017). Just ten MPs represent more than 600 threatened species in their electorates. The Conversation.