New expertise for leadership team

Janet Stephenson and Conrad Pilditch have joined the Science Leadership Team

We are pleased to announce that Conrad Pilditch and Janet Stephenson have joined the Science Leadership Team, bringing both continuity and new blood.

Conrad Pilditch is the new leader of Dynamic Seas, our research theme focused on using biophysical science to investigate how ecosystems work and providing the data required for effective ecosystem based management (EBM). Janet Stephenson is filling a new position as leader for our Cross-Programme projects. These include a project focused on how EBM fits into New Zealand’s legislative and policy frameworks, and an EBM case study we are trialling in Tasman and Golden Bays.

They each bring valuable expertise that complements the rest of the Science Leadership Team (SLT). Sustainable Seas has researchers from many academic disciplines and is working with many groups and sectors, so having a variety of backgrounds and experience within SLT is critical.

“I’m really pleased to welcome Janet and Conrad onto the team,” says Julie Hall, Director. “We’ve got the best of both worlds – continuity and new blood. Conrad has been closely involved in Dynamic Seas since the beginning, which is fantastic as his deep understanding of the research projects and existing relationships with the researchers make for a smooth transition.”

“Janet brings fresh insights and valuable extra expertise to the team. She has a strong policy background, which is much needed to help ensure that the results of our research are incorporated into New Zealand’s policy.”

What is EBM?

Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is a holistic and inclusive way to manage marine environments – and the competing uses for, demands on, and ways New Zealanders value them. There are 6 elements:

Collective decision-making – Māori, public, regulators, industry, and other interested parties all participate

Sustainable – Marine environments, and their values and uses, are safeguarded for future generations

Human activities – All activities, from industry to recreation to conservation, are included as part of the ecosystem

Adapts – to new knowledge, changing priorities and environmental events

Knowledge-based – Founded on best available* science and mātauranga Māori (*marine ecosystems are extremely complex, so we will never know everything)

Tailored – Ecosystems have different species and communities, and are valued and used differently, so need to be individually managed


Conrad Pilditch is a Professor of Marine Science at the University of Waikato. His research interests focus on the dynamics of marine soft sediment ecosystems. He has worked in both coastal and deep-sea environments, and has extensive experience of national and international multi-disciplinary collaborations.

He has assisted iwi with developing monitoring programs; worked with regional councils, port companies and others; and contributed to government (regional and central) marine management, conservation and policy initiatives.

Janet Stephenson is Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago. Her academic background includes sociology, planning and human geography. She has worked as a planner and hearings commissioner for district and regional councils, and has led several interdisciplinary research teams on sustainability research.

Her research includes the governance, planning, and management of coastal mahinga kai (customary food-gathering places); cultural values in landscapes; tools and techniques for communicating Māori values and concerns in the resource management process under the RMA; and valuation frameworks for marine decision-making.

Science Leadership Team

The SLT is responsible for Sustainable Seas’ strategic direction, science quality, activities and management.