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Dr Megan Saunders

Pronouns: she,her,hers

Senior Research Scientist


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Dr Megan Saunders is a coastal ecological modeller who's research examines environmental and human drivers of change in coastal marine ecosystems, including seagrass, mangroves, coral reefs, oyster reefs, saltmarsh and kelp forests. She works in the Sustainable Marine Futures Program at CSIRO Environment (formerly Oceans and Atmosphere) and is based in Hobart, Australia.

Dr Saunders' disciplinary expertise and leadership in coastal marine restoration is recognized through her co-leadership of the Australian Coastal Restoration Network, leadership of National Environmental Science Program (NESP) funded research on marine and coastal restoration Australia, and leadership of the CSIRO Marine restoration and nature-based solutions Community of Practice. She currently holds a Julius Career Award from CSIRO to conduct research into social and environmental drivers of restoration success in marine ecosystems.

Much of her current research uses Structured Decision Making as a framework to underpin research on restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems. This framework is useful as it is evidence-based and transparent, and it lends itself well to involving stakeholders in decision making processes and to focusing thinking and data collection for scientific applications.

Dr Saunders has contributed modelling expertise to a number of Blue Carbon research projects throughout the Indo-Pacific, including Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia. In particular, she has expertise is predictive modelling of seagrass ecosystems.

Dr Saunders has a formal background in marine ecology and oceanography. She has over two decades of research experience in a variety of coastal ecosystems, including empirical field based research (ship-based, scuba, and shallow coastal), ecological modelling and synthesis, and end-user engagement and elicitation.

For the past decade+ her research has included highly interdisciplinary collaborations aimed at addressing challenging coastal management issues. For instance: reconciling multiple objectives for coastal planning for sea-level rise; addressing whether land- or marine-based conservation interventions will best benefit coastal systems influenced by land-use change; examining how environmental policies related to biodiversity offsets influence marine ecosystems; examining interactions among multiple stressors of ecosystems; and working with end-users to understand restoration decision support needs.

Her modelling research commonly utilizes spatial data obtained from satellite remote sensing. These include spatial data of marine habitat distribution, water quality, elevation/bathymetry, oceanographic parameters such as wave height, and land uses. She therefore has a number of collaborations with geospatial and remote sensing experts. Her research has been published in highly regarded multidisciplinary and disciplinary journals, including Science, Nature, Nature Climate Change, Current Biology and PloS Biology.

Academic Qualifications

  • 2010

    PhD Oceanography
    Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada

  • 2002

    BSc Marine Biology
    Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada

Achievements and Awards

  • 2021-2025

    Julius Career Award

  • 2017-2019

    UQ Development Fellowship
    The University of Queensland

  • 2016-2016

    Tuition Scholarship
    National Excellence in Educational Leadership Initiative

  • 2015-2015

    Bommies Award for science communication video on impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef
    Great Barrier Reef Foundation

  • 2010-2010

    Nomination for best PhD thesis completed at Dalhousie University in 2009
    Dalhousie University

  • 2010-2010

    Nomination for the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies Distinguished Dissertation Award, for the thesis ranked 1st among Engineering, Medical & Science disciplines at Dalhousie University in 2009
    Dalhousie University

  • 2010-2010

    Selected participant to the Ecological Dissertations in Aquatic Sciences symposium
    America Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)

  • 2009-2010

    Endeavour Research Fellowship
    Australian Government

  • 2007-2009

    Canada Graduate Scholarship D-2
    Canadian National Sciences and Engineering Research Council

  • 2007-2008

    President’s Award
    Dalhousie University Faculty of Graduate Studies

  • 2007-2009

    Predoctoral Scholarship
    Izaak Walton Killam Foundation

  • 2007-2007

    Women Divers Hall of Fame

  • 2005-2006

    Postgraduate Scholarship MSc
    Canadian National Sciences and Engineering Research Council

  • 2005-2005

    Kathy Ellis Memorial Book Prize
    Dalhousie University Department of Oceanography

  • 2004-2005

    Canada Graduate Scholarship MSc
    Canadian National Sciences and Engineering Research Council

  • 2004-2009

    Dalhousie Faculty of Graduate Studies

Current Roles

  • Senior Research Scientist
    Coastal ecosystem modelling

  • Network Co-lead
    Australian Coastal Restoration Network

  • Project Leader
    NESP MAC Project 3.7 Identifying and overcoming barriers to marine and coastal restoration

  • Convenor
    CSIRO Marine Restoration Community of Practice


  • 2021-2026

    National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Marine and Coastal Hub

  • 2019-2022

    Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

  • 2016-2019

    National Environmental Science Programme Grant

  • 2016-2016

    National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Travel Grant

  • 2015-2015

    Advancing Women Researchers Grant

  • 2013-2013

    University of Western Australia-University of Queensland Grant

  • 2012-2014

    University of Queensland Early Career Research Grant

  • 2011-2012

    University of Queensland New Staff Grant

Professional Experiences

  • 2017-2019

    Senior Research Fellow / UQ Development Fellow
    School of Chemical Engineering, The University of Queensland

  • 2016-2017

    Research Fellow
    School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland

  • 2011-2014

    Research Fellow
    The Global Change Institute & Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, The University of Queensland

  • 2010-2010

    Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Associate
    Oceans Institute, The University of Western Australia

We have publications by Dr Megan Saunders