Dr Mark Stafford Smith: Science Director, Climate Adaptation Flagship
Dr Mark Stafford Smith has worked on the impacts of climate variability in desert areas around the world since 1975, and is now playing a key role in the CSIRO Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship.
2 February 2011 | Updated 22 April 2013
Dr Mark Stafford Smith is the Science Director of the Climate Adaptation Flagship. He monitors the science being undertaken across the Flagship research themes, helping to ensure that the Flagship produces more than the sum of its parts.
Dr Stafford Smith works with research theme leaders and external research partners to deliver strategies and tools that will allow Australia to minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities resulting from climate change.
Dr Stafford Smith continues a small amount of activity on the science of desert living and sustainable management of outback environments.
Dr Stafford Smith joined CSIRO in 1984 as a Research Scientist at the Centre for Arid Zone Research in Alice Springs. Over the following 18 years, he worked on national issues relating to rangelands management in a range of roles.
Dr Stafford Smith’s research steadily broadened from rangelands ecological functioning … to regional development and now climate change adaptation.
Dr Stafford Smith’s early research focused on plant responses to climate variability and soil conditions.
He then worked on the development and delivery of a series of computer-based decision-support tools for sustainable pastoral management.
This led Dr Stafford Smith to focus increasingly on the economics of the industry and decision-making in the face of climatic variability, including the impacts of various policy instruments on those decisions.
His work steadily broadened to integrate first plant and animal biology in rangelands ecological functioning, then economics and social issues in sustainable pastoral management, then policy and land use mixes in regional development outcomes. In 1996 he also took on the Program Leadership of CSIRO in Alice Springs.
In 2003, Dr Stafford Smith was appointed inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, a seven-year partnership of 28 organisations he had been instrumental in establishing. From this emerged the concept of a Science of Desert Living.
Dr Stafford Smith stepped down from this role in January 2006 to resume his research with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, and was appointed to his current position in 2008.
Over this time, Dr Stafford Smith also worked widely on the world stage. In the early 1990s, he was co-Task Leader for rangelands modelling under the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) for understanding global change worldwide. He has been a contributing author and reviewer for various IPCC and GEO global assessments.
In 2003 he was appointed to IGBP's Scientific Committee, becoming vice-chair until 2009. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Global Change and Food Systems international project of the Earth System Science Partnership.
He has provided expert contributions to the design of monitoring approaches for the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification.
He is now co-chairing a major global conference Planet under Pressure in London in March 2012 in the lead up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
Dr Stafford Smith holds the following qualifications:
- Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Cambridge University, United Kingdom (UK), in 1979
- Master of Arts (Cantab) also from Cambridge University, in 1983
- Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University, Australia, in 1984.
Dr Stafford Smith has published over 130 peer reviewed publications to his name, as well as his recent book with Mr Julian Cribb, Dry Times: Blueprint for a Red Land.
Dr Stafford Smith has been an ICSU-appointed member and vice-chair of the Scientific Committee of International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). He is now co-chairing the major global conference Planet under Pressure in London in March 2012.
Dr Stafford Smith has been a member of the Department of Climate Change’s High-level Expert Working Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel to the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum.
Find out more about the Climate Adaptation Flagship.