Dr Maja Folkersen

Ecologists and natural scientists need to work more closely with resource economists, social scientists and people in the creative arts to improve awareness about the importance of marine ecosystems to the general public~ Maja Folkersen

Dr Maja Folkersen was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualification in 2019. She is currently working with the Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics in Griffith Business School and researching for the Griffith Climate Change Response Program. Dr Folkersen’s PhD focused on vulnerable marine ecosystems of the South Pacific region and she was recently acknowledged in The Australian Research Magazine ‘Top 40 Rising Stars’, who are Australia’s best early career researchers set to be leaders of the future. Dr Folkersen’s interests are in environmental economics, environmental law and climate change.


Profile Questions:

1. What was your PhD about and what was the catalyst or inspiration for your interest in environmental economics and law?

My PhD research was focused on the vulnerable marine ecosystems of the South Pacific, and how societies rely on these ecosystems for economic, social and environmental reasons.

My PhD focused specifically on the ecosystems of coral reefs and the deep sea, as both of these are highly vulnerable to climate change, but also of high interest (especially the deep sea, because of mining potential).

As such, the greatest contribution of my PhD is that it provides new information and policy advice regarding the resource use of the deep sea and coral reefs in the context of the South Pacific, and also more globally.

2. What was the key environmental issue or problem identified in your research degree?

The key problem facing policy-makers, legal institutions and decision making in general is that of resource conservation versus resource use and extraction. For example, the ecosystems of coral reefs and the deep sea provide tremendous and far-reaching benefits for people, economies and other ecosystems when preserved. However, an increasing global population and demographic changes require resource extraction from marine environments in order to create jobs, develop and prosper – for instances fisheries, tourism, minerals (the deep sea) etc. The constant dilemma between ecosystem conservation and ecosystem use is the greatest problem facing environmental policy and decision-making.

3. What was your ‘personal why’ for doing this research degree and what big picture are you aiming to achieve?

My personal reasons for choosing this topic is that I have always been fascinated with marine environments, particularly coral reefs. The interest in the deep sea emerged later (pardon the pun…) when I discovered that we know more about the moon than about the deep sea! The big picture I am aiming at achieving is that more multi-disciplinary research is required. That is, ecologists and scientists need to work more closely with resource economists, social scientists and people in the creative arts to increase and improve awareness about these ecosystems to the general public.

4. Are you currently working on any funded research and if yes, what is the project about and what is your involvement and the ultimate research aim?

I am currently working on two big projects on the ecosystems of boreal and tropical forests, respectively. The key aim is to build a large database on all previous literature that has estimated economic values of forests, according to forest biome, forest type, geographical location etc. This will allow us to identify the biggest gaps in the knowledge of the economic value of forest ecosystems, identify the drivers of the economic value of forests, and to inform future policies. These projects are collaborations between the Geos Institute, Woods Hole Research Centre and Griffith University.

5. Why did you choose Griffith University for your research degree, who were your supervisors and how did they assist your degree?

My PhD supervisors were Chris Fleming, Jim Smart and Fabrizio Carmignani. I was offered a tremendous opportunity to study my PhD at Griffith, and found the topic of the economic value of marine ecosystems particularly interesting.