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Personal profile

Personal profile

Prof Max Finlayson is a renown wetland ecologist with extensive experience nationally and internationally in the science and management responses to water pollution, mining and agricultural impacts, invasive species, climate change, and human well-being and wetlands.

Director of the Institute for Land, Water and Society from 2008 - October 2019 when he retired.  He remains an Adjunct Professor with ILWS.

He has participated in global assessments such as those conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Global Environment Outlook, and Water Management in Agriculture, and since the early 1990s he has been a technical adviser to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. He has been actively involved in environmental NGOs and science organisations and has worked with government, community-based organisations and industry to investigate the causes of ecosystem change and management responses, including restoration and the participation of local communities. Underlying these activities is a concerted effort to improve the collection of evidence for addressing complex ecological issues and providing guidance to managers and policy makers recognising that social, economic and ecological issues are inter-dependent and operate across multiple scales, particularly when dealing with regional sustainable development.

Professor Finlayson has worked extensively on the inventory, assessment and monitoring of wetlands, in particular in wet tropical, wet-dry tropical and sub-tropical climatic regimes covering pollution, invasive species and climate change. His current research interests/projects including the following:

  • Interactions between human well-being and wetland health in the face of anthropogenic change, including global change and the onset of the Anthropocenic era
  • Vulnerability and adaptation of wetlands/rivers to climate change, including changing values and trade-offs between uses and users, considering uncertainty and complexity
  • Integration of ecologic, economic and social requirements and trade-offs between users of wetlands with an emphasis on developing policy guidance and institutional changes
  • Environment and agriculture interactions and policy responses/outcomes, and collaboration between stakeholders and policy-makers
  • Wetland restoration and construction, including the use of artificial wetlands for waste water treatment and the generation of multiple values
  • Landscape change involving wetlands/rivers and land use (agriculture and mining) and implications for wetland ecosystem services and benefits for local people.

Research Interests

  • Human well-being and wetland health
  • Vulnerability and adaptation of wetlands/rivers to climate change
  • Wetland restoration and management
  • Wetland ecosystem services

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Global wetland loss reconstruction over 1700-2020

    Fluet-Chouinard, E. (Creator), Stocker, B. D. (Creator), Zhang, Z. (Creator), Malhotra, A. (Creator), Melton, J. R. (Creator), Poulter, B. (Creator), Kaplan, J. O. (Creator), Goldewijk, K. K. (Creator), Siebert, S. (Creator), Minayeva, T. (Creator), Hugelius, G. (Creator), Joosten, H. (Creator), Barthelmes, A. (Creator), Prigent, C. (Creator), Aires, F. (Creator), Hoyt, A. M. (Creator), Davidson, N. (Creator), Finlayson, M. (Creator), Lehner, B. (Creator), Jackson, R. B. (Creator) & McIntyre, P. B. (Creator), Zenodo, 2023