Professor David Schoeman | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Professor David Schoeman

PhD, MSc (cum laude), BSc Hons (cum laude), BSc (cum laude), all from the University of Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela University), South Africa

  • Professor of Global-Change Ecology
  • School of Science, Technology and Engineering
+61 5456 5956
Office location
Sunshine Coast
David Schoeman

I am a quantitative ecologist who specialises in marine climate-change ecology and climate-smart marine conservation planning. Having worked professionally as a marine ecologist in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia, I have diverse interests that revolve around ecological responses to anthropogenic impacts in coastal and oceanic waters.


Throughout my career, I have worked in large, collaborative groups to facilitate or lead high-impact science in the field of climate-change ecology. In so doing, I have made fundamental contributions to the advancement of:

  • the detection and attribution of observed impacts of climate change on marine organisms and ecosystems,
  • the projection of future climate-change risks, and
  • the development of climate-smart systematic conservation planning approaches to mitigate these impacts and risks.

I have published the work underpinning these contributions in some of the world’s top journals, including Science (4 full papers and several items of correspondence), Nature (1 full paper and one News and Views piece), Nature Climate Change (6 full papers, plus items of correspondence), Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (1 paper), Trends in Ecology and Evolution (3 papers), One Earth (1 paper) and Global Change Ecology (5 papers).


My expertise in ecological analysis and synthesis culminated in my appointment to several leadership roles in the Fifth and Sixth Assessment Cycle of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the preeminent and authoritative international body across the domains of the Physical Science Basis, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, and Mitigation of Climate Change. The influence of the IPCC’s reports on setting policy, determining funding, and defining research programs is unrivalled on the global stage. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an institution, and the 197 countries that have ratified the Framework Agreement, act largely on the basis of the findings of the IPCC Working Groups.


My roles on the IPCC included serving as a Coordinating Lead Author for the ocean and coastal chapter of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6 Working Group II — 2019–2022), as a Review Editor on the IPCC Special Report on Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC — 2018–2019), as a delegate at Scoping Meetings for the IPCC AR6 (2017) and its Synthesis Report (2019), and as a Contributing Author to several other Chapters and Cross-Chapter Boxes within this cycle. As a result of my contributions, I was selected as a member of the Core Writing and Negotiation Team for the Approval Session of the Summary for Policymakers of the WGII Contribution to the IPCC AR6 (2020–2022). In this capacity, I served as lead writer for Near-term Risks and key author and negotiator for ocean systems. Negotiating the details of the report with representatives of the 197 signatory nations to the UNFCCC was among the most significant challenges I have encountered in my life. But being granted the opportunity to be a member of the team that negotiated approval of this document, which will directly guide global political responses to climate change over the coming decade, is undoubtedly the highlight of my career, so far.


Other career highlights include the opportunity to work with a wide range of outstanding HDR students. Although these collaborations have been hugely stimulating, have generated amazing ideas, and have resulted in excellent publications, one less traditional outcome stands out. Having worked with a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland to publish a high-impact paper (Chaudhary et al. 2021 PNAS), I was approached by award-winning Guardian Australia cartoonist First Dog on the Moon (Andrew Marlton) to develop cartoon based on its results. After several rounds of brainstorming, I was awarded a byline on the work when it was published (


A final career highlight relates to the intersection between teaching and research. On being appointed as a full-time academic at UniSC in 2013, I was afforded the opportunity to lead the design, accreditation, and delivery of Australia’s first Bachelor of Animal Ecology Degree Program. Completion of this task not only initiated one of the most successful and popular degree programs in the School of Science, Technology and Engineering, but also secured the recruitment of eight new members of staff. This significantly boosted both teaching and research capacity at the University of the Sunshine Coast and has underpinned the university’s identified research strengths in marine and coastal ecology and in climate-change research. In recognition of my achievements in academic leadership and delivery, I was awarded the Vice-Chancellor and President’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (2017).


While my research interests remain broad, I continue to work mainly on various aspects of marine climate-change ecology, with a growing focus on potential solutions. Areas of particular interest in this regard include forecasting and projecting future catches for fisheries and further advancing the field of climate-smart systematic conservation planning.


In terms of outreach, one of my favourite activities has been my collaboration with Professor Anthony Richardson (UQ/CSIRO) to deliver a series of annual workshops at the University of Queensland, at which we train HDRs, ECRs and researchers from various universities and State and Federal agencies in the use of the statistical programming environment, R. Having now run for more than a decade, and included involvement by Associate Professor Chris Brown (University of Tasmania), and Drs Christina Buelow (Griffith University) and Jason Everett (UQ), we have trained more 1,000 scientists in the practice of applied statistics. In so doing, we have built capacity and collaborations that will yield ongoing benefits across the region and nation.

Professional Memberships

  • Australian Marine Science Association (2020–)



  • Vice-Chancellor and President’s Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (2017)
Research Grants

Grant/project name


Funding body and AUD$ value


Focus of research grant

Do native invasions challenge Australian fisheries species? (DP170101722)

Ivan Nagelkerken & , Bronwyn Gillanders (U Adelaide), David Booth (UTS) and David Schoeman

ARC $ 374,500


Marine climate-change ecology

Future fisheries under climate change: the missing role of zooplankton (DP190102293)

Anthony Richardson (UQ/CSIRO), Julia Blanchard (U Tas), David Schoeman, Reginald Watson (U Tas), Iain Suthers (UNSW), Derek Tittensor (UNEP), Andrew Lenton (CSIRO)

ARC $ 493,000


Ecological modelling and fisheries

Zooplankton: the missing link in modelling the ocean carbon cycle (DP230102359)

Anthony Richardson (UQ/CSIRO), Kylie Scales (UniSC), David Schoeman, Matthew Holden (UQ), Ryan Heneghan (QUT/Griffith U), Evgeny Pakhomov (UBC, Canada), Colleen Petrik (UCSD, USA)

ARC $ 404,041


Ecological modelling and fisheries; marine climate change

Research areas

  • Marine climate-change ecology
  • General marine ecology
  • Marine systematic conservation planning
  • Climate-smart conservation
  • Quantitative ecology/ecological modelling
  • Beach ecology
  • General coastal ecology

Teaching areas

  • ANM203 Statistics with Teeth: Understanding Ecological Data
  • ANM302 Global Change Ecology
  • Program Coordinator | Bachelor of Animal Ecology (2015–2016)

David's area of expertise includes animal ecology, marine climate change ecology, quantitative ecology, sandy beach ecology, marine conservation ecology, ecological statistics.

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