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Mr Ian Watson

Group Leader


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Ian’s research interests can be broadly described as exploring the scale of opportunity for the development of northern Australia and the social, economic, cultural and ecological risks which attend that opportunity. An example of one such project, working in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland was the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment (NAWRA - which won CSIRO's Collaboration Award, and the Australian Water Association's R&D Excellence Award in 2020.

In 2007, Ian joined CSIRO Townsville in Queensland as Program Leader of the Rangelands and Savannas Program and subsequently the Tropical and Arid Systems Program, which had staff at multiple sites across Australia. He was a Group Leader within the Agriculture and Food Business Unit from 2011 to 2020. He was also appointed, in its final stages (2014 to 2017) as Director of the African Food Security Initiative in west, central and east Africa. He is currently Group Leader of the Footprints & Credentials Group within the Sustainability Program of CSIRO Agriculture and Food.

Prior to joining CSIRO, Ian was with the Department of Agriculture Western Australia for more than 20 years working with the extensive grazing industry. He has a background in rangeland management and pastoral management, principally in the arid zone. He managed the Western Australian Rangeland Monitoring System (WARMS), inspected pastoral lease conditions and tried to better understand how climate variability and drought affected both the rangeland environment and those people managing the rangelands.

In 2009, Ian shared the Ecological Society of America's 'Sustainability Science Award' for his role in co-authoring a paper that drew lessons from episodes of degradation and recovery in Australian rangelands. He has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Sydney and a Doctor of Philosophy from Macquarie University. His doctoral studies focused on arid zone ecology.

Other Interests

Ian kitefoils in the warm waters off Townsville.

Current Roles

  • 2021 - current
    Member, JCU-CSIRO Collaborative Agreement Operations Committee

Academic Qualifications

  • 1983

    BSc in Agr.
    University of Sydney

  • 1996

    Macquarie University

Professional Experiences

  • 2023-2024

    Group Leader
    CSIRO Agriculture and Food

  • 2011-2020

    Group Leader
    CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences then CSIRO Agriculture and Food

  • 2017-2021

    Agriculture and Food Business Unit representative
    CSIRO's Indigenous Engagement Implementation Committee

  • 2010-2019

    Site Leader, Townsville Site

  • 2010-2020

    Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture (JCU-CSIRO)

  • 2014-2017

    African Food Security Initiative

  • 2007-2011

    Research Program Leader
    CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems then CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

  • 1985-2007

    Rangeland Advisor
    Department of Agriculture Western Australia

Achievements and Awards

  • 2023-2023

    Reconciliation Action Plan
    CSIRO Agriculture and Food Director's Awards 2023

  • 2020-2020

    The CSIRO Collaboration Medal (Seminal contribution)

  • 2020-2020

    Australian Water Association
    National Water Awards, R&D Excellence (for NAWRA)

  • 2015-2015

    Agriculture Director's Awards - Integrity

  • 2009-2009

    Sustainability Science Award (shared)
    Ecological Society of America