Carlo Heip Award winners
Prof. Graham Edgar
Prof. Graham Edgar is a globally pre-eminent marine field ecologist. He has lived and worked on five continents, and described ecological patterns ranging from the microscopic to the global scale. Although perhaps best known for his world-leading research on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Graham has an exceptional publication history spanning pioneering work on small invertebrates and secondary production in shallow marine systems, threatened species, human impacts, and macroecology – all based on field studies he has personally led. Permanently waterlogged, Graham possesses an unrivalled general knowledge of fishes and macrobenthic fauna. At local scales, he has described 20 new species of crustacean, fishes, cnidarians and macroalgae, while at the global scale, he has contributed to our understanding of the causes of latitudinal gradients in richness and abundance in 10 animal classes. It would be difficult to imagine another scientist with the combined academic accomplishments, extraordinary field experience, and intimate knowledge of marine life that Graham possesses.
Graham has investigated impacts on marine life from fisheries, introduced species, climate change, pollutants, infrastructure, and catchment outflows. His research on MPAs is particularly highly cited and globally influential. Graham was invited to discuss his research with Environment Ministers from OECD countries at their four-yearly meeting in Paris, 2016; his work was raised in the US Congress, and has been extensively applied by Australian national and state governments and international environmental organisations.
Greatly contributing to Graham’s capacity to tackle the most important questions for MPA managers has been his instigation and co-leadership of the Reef Life Survey program (RLS), seen by many as the citizen science gold standard. In contrast to other global citizen science programs, RLS divers collect quantitative abundance records for a range of phyla using standardised scientific methods, providing the richest ecological dataset of its kind available (also publicly accessible). Graham’s vision has not only facilitated the success of RLS, but he has also been the most prolific contributor of RLS data, undertaking over 2000 reef surveys in 27 countries and 6 continents.
The international policy relevance of Graham’s research can also be seen through his citation metrics. In 2019, Graham ranked as the world’s top author for citations per paper relating to UN Sustainability Goal 15 (“Life below water”), and 4th for total publications on this topic. As was also the case with Profs Carlo Heip and Carlos Duarte (the inaugural winner of this award), Graham is recognised in the top 0.1% of the world’s researchers, as a Web of Science ‘Highly Cited Researcher’.
Graham has a close association with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, including as assessor for over 150 species on the Red List, and leadership of marine input into criteria that identify globally-significant sites for biodiversity conservation (‘Key Biodiversity Areas’). The list of awards and experience in other aspects of marine biodiversity conservation is huge. There is no doubt that Graham’s contributions to science and management are unique, academically and on the ground. These achievements have been accomplished through a uniquely broad vision, and a deep passion for safeguarding marine life.