A highly accomplished marine biologist from the United Kingdom has been appointed to lead Australia’s tropical marine research agency as its new Chief Executive Officer.
Professor Selina Stead joins the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) from the University of Leeds where she is currently the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment. She is also the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for the Marine Management Organisation.
AIMS Council Chair, Dr Beth Woods OAM, welcomed Professor Stead to the position for a term of five years.
“Selina joins the AIMS community at a time when tropical marine ecosystems in Australia and the world are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
“With her depth of experience in research and management she is a proven leader and high achiever in marine science with expertise in coral reef ecosystems, aquaculture and fisheries, and through her new appointment at AIMS, will deliver important science for the nation,” Dr Woods said.
“Around thirty years ago a visiting scientist from Townsville inspired me as an undergraduate to make a difference to ocean health,” Professor Stead said.
“I am thrilled to join the AIMS community at this pivotal moment and thank the AIMS Council for this exceptional opportunity. We are at a turning point in ocean health and I will give all my energy to this role.”
As President of the European Aquaculture Society for 12 years, Professor Stead was recognised with the EAS’s highest honour, the Distinguished Services Award, for research on solutions for climate-smart seafood and conservation.
She also has a strong background in environmental governance and science policy. She is a member of the Research Program Advisory Committee (RPAC) for Australia’s Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre and has served on the Scottish Government’s Science Advisory Board as Chair and Non-Executive Director. Previously she acted as a UK Ministerial Appointed Scientific Fisheries Advisor.
Professor Stead will take up her appointment in Townsville in February 2024 to succeed Mr Basil Ahyick who has been the interim CEO since the departure of Dr Paul Hardisty in July.
“In the short time that Basil has been CEO he has successfully managed a smooth leadership transition and progressed AIMS’ strategic and cultural direction during a critical period,” Dr Woods said.
“Through his highly engaged leadership, AIMS has maintained its focus and progress on key projects and initiatives, while the Council has been able to conduct a thorough global recruitment search to appoint a permanent CEO. The strong field of Australian and international applicants reflects AIMS’ solid reputation at the forefront of global coral reef science,” she said.
Mr Ahyick returns to his previous position as AIMS Chief Finance Officer and Corporate Services Manager.
Professor Stead is only the second woman to lead AIMS. In December 1992 Dr Meryl Williams was appointed the Director of AIMS and was in charge until February 1994.
Professor Stead’s appointment was approved by the Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP in December 2023.