The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a major conservation organization based in Arlington, Virginia, has recruited a chief scientist from the other side of the world. Hugh Possingham, an Australian mathematical ecologist at the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, in Brisbane will take over the role in November. Possingham, 53, led a group that developed conservation planning software, called Marxan, that has been used in more than 150 countries for designing nature reserves, zoning plans, and other purposes. The Australian government relied on the software when it rezoned the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2004, greatly expanding and diversifying the protected areas. Possingham also has advised the Australian government on other conservation issues, such as reducing the amount of forest converted to pasture, which has several negative effects including destroying koala habitat and emitting greenhouse gases.
TNC has about 3500 staff, including more than 600 with Ph.D.s, although the number of active researchers is much smaller. Although most well-known for its work purchasing land in the United States, the organization is active in many other countries. Possingham takes over from Peter Kareiva, who now heads the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. Kareiva has been an iconoclast in the conservation community, emphasizing the resiliency of nature, arguing for the role of business and economic development in conservation.