Margaret Byrne
DBCA (WA Government)

Margaret-Byrne bio photoDr Margaret Byrne

Executive director, biodiversity and conservation science, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

See Dr Byrne’s full research profile here.

Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making

As an applied scientist and science leader, Dr Byrne’s full research is directed towards scientific excellence to support policy, management and evidence-based decision-making. This applied research is published in international journals and is well-cited, providing scientific credibility for policy and management decisions.

  • Dr Byrne’s research on population genetics, phylogeography and evolutionary patterns of Australian plants and animals has led to a significantly broader knowledge of the evolution of the flora and the genetic complexity in plant and animal systems, giving a deeper understanding of the impacts on current species distributions and responses to future change. This work has led to the incorporation of genetics into strategic conservation management in Western Australia, international recognition of the practical value of conservation genetics in management, and a new concept where persistence of the biota in localised refugia is a major response to historical climatic fluctuations.
  • Dr Byrne’s research on fragmentation has contributed to international research that identifies the importance of gene flow in landscape-scale population processes, and has direct relevance to design, management and success of restoration programs aiming to maintain landscape processes and provide environmental services. Her complementary work in risk assessment produced a genetic risk assessment protocol that has attracted international attention, and a weed risk management framework for implementation within plant breeding programs. These frameworks were adopted as policy in the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre. This first post-border weed-risk framework for any Australian breeding program has led to significant cultural change in southern Australian breeding programs and is being implemented in a major pastoral development program in northern Australia.
  • More recent research is contributing to international strategies for climate-change adaptation, particularly identification of refugia and understanding adaptive variation to maximise population resilience and assisted migration. Dr Byrne has recently led the first investigations of adaptation to climate along environmental gradients in eucalypts through a combination of genome-wide scans with ecophysiological trait and common garden analysis, an innovative approach leading to development of a restoration seed-sourcing strategy to improve resilience to changing climate that has attracted international attention. This work has informed the climate adaptation strategy in the WA forest management plan 2014–2023.

Current academic employment and positions

  • executive director, biodiversity and conservation science, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Perth
  • adjunct associate professor, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia
  • adjunct professor, School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Curtin University.

Highest qualification

  • 1991: PhD, The University of Western Australia.

Major prizes, medals and honours 

  • 1986: W.E. Blackall Prize in Botany.

Roles on government or regional organisation committees

  • 2019–present: advisory board member, School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Curtin University
  • 2017–present: member, stakeholder reference group, National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Recovery Hub
  • 2016–present: board member, Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute
  • 2013–2020: board member, Western Australian Marine Science Institution
  • 2011–present: board member, Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
  • 2015–2018: board member, Centre of Excellence in Environmental Decisions
  • 2017–present: deputy chair, science advisory committee, Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
  • 2013–present: member, committee on ecology, evolution and conservation, Australian National Academy of Sciences
  • 2018–present: steering committee member, Genomics for Australian Plants
  • 2016–present: steering committee member, OzMammals Genomics consortium
  • 2020–present: steering committee member, Australian Amphibian and Reptile Genomics consortium.

Links with non-government groups or networks

  • regular engagement with a range of non-government organisations including Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Bush Heritage Australia, World Wildlife Fund, Pew Charitable Trusts, Greening Australia, Gondwana Link, and with 7 WA natural resource management groups, and the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute.

My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present