Dr Beth Fulton

Dr Beth Fulton leads an ecosystem modelling group at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.

Dr Beth Fulton: 2007 Life Scientist of the Year

Dr Beth Fulton of the Wealth from Oceans Flagship was awarded the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year in September 2007.

  • 14 September 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

The award recognised Dr Fulton’s outstanding achievements and international recognition in marine ecosystem modelling, and her impact on regional marine planning, fisheries management, and understanding climate change.

Supporting ecosystem-based management

Dr Fulton leads an ecological and ecosystem modelling team at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart. She identifies new directions in marine-ecosystem modelling and drives model development and applications.

Her work has helped shape the new field of ecosystem-based management, including fisheries and multiple-use management, both in Australia and overseas.

Dr Fulton was the first person to systematically explore the effect of model complexity on model performance in relation to regional-scale ecosystem models. This is the key to striking a balance in such models between realism and tractability.

For example, she identified how much detail was needed in representing time and space, and the diversity of marine life and ecological processes.

World-best ecosystem model

In the process of exploring these issues, Dr Fulton developed the ‘whole-of-ecosystem model’ Atlantis.

Atlantis is used widely in marine ecosystem studies and fishery management. It is the first in the world to be used to assess a whole-of-fishery management plan from an ecosystem perspective.

A version of the model, Atlantis SE, is used to provide strategic advice to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority on management of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, which covers more than a third of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The model has also been used to address questions of climate change.

Dr Fulton’s work has had major impact on marine ecosystem science and is rapidly being adopted in Australia and internationally.

Dr Fulton is a co-developer of the InVitro modelling framework, a groundbreaking hybrid of modelling forms that allows simultaneous consideration of multiple uses of the marine environment.

InVitro is being used as part of Australia’s Oceans Policy to evaluate marine plans involving oil and gas, transport, tourism, and commercial and recreational fishing.

Impact on marine-ecosystem science

Dr Fulton’s work has had major impact on marine ecosystem science and is rapidly being adopted in fisheries management studies in Australia and internationally.

Atlantis was rated best in the world for strategic evaluation of marine management issues in a 2007 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report that reviewed the world’s leading 20 ecosystem modelling platforms. It has been applied to more than 15 ecosystems, in Australia and the United States.

Dr Fulton has been invited to attend numerous international meetings in an expert role, to join a Scientific Committee on Ocean Research working group on ecosystem indicators of fishing, and to attend an FAO meeting to set guidelines in best practice for ecosystem models.

International recognition

The success of Dr Fulton’s models has led to:

  • requests for collaboration and guidance from around the world (US, Canada, Italy, South Africa and Norway)
  • interest from Pacific Rim members of PICES for assistance to explore different management approaches within the region
  • interest from the US-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in investing in development of the Atlantis framework.

Read more about the Atlantis ecosystem model.