Professor Selina Stead to lead Australian Institute of Marine Science

Professor Selina Stead, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment at the University, has been appointed to lead Australia’s tropical marine research agency as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Professor Stead will step down from the University at the end of January to join the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in February for an initial term of five years. Professor Alan Haywood will lead the faculty as Interim Executive Dean until a recruitment process can identify a permanent successor.

Tropical marine research

Based in Townsville, Queensland, close to the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Institute of Marine Science is a world leader in tropical marine research, providing unique insight into Australia’s tropical waters and knowledge to develop globally relevant and innovative research solutions. 

Professor Stead said: “Around 30 years ago, a visiting scientist from Townsville inspired me as an undergraduate to make a difference to ocean health, which has become a lifelong endeavour, and so I am delighted to have been appointed to AIMS to apply my research experience in protecting some of the most beautiful and endangered environments in the world. We are at a turning point in ocean health, and I will give all my energy to this role.

“Of course, I shall miss the many colleagues and friends at Leeds who have supported and inspired me during my time at the University and wish Alan every success in leading the faculty.”

Protection of precious marine habitats

Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hai-Sui Yu, said: “I am very pleased for Selina – she has secured a role where her research, skills and passion will be critical in the protection of such precious marine habitats. I will miss her as a colleague and thank her for her important contribution to the University – I wish her every success in her new role.

“I thank Professor Alan Haywood for stepping into the role of Interim Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment and look forward to him joining the University Executive Group.”  

Professor Haywood, who is currently Deputy Dean, joined the University as a climate scientist in 2007 from the British Antarctic Survey, where he led a five-year research programme understanding the evolution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

His research specialises in investigating the evolution of climate over geological time and what that can tell us about the future. An European Research Council (ERC) Fellow and Philip Leverhulme Prize winner, Professor Haywood has held several leadership roles within the School of Earth and Environment and the faculty. He currently sits on the University’s Research IT and REF2029 strategy groups.

Tackling complex problems

Professor Stead is a marine biologist and tropical scientist, specialising in environmental governance. She has expertise in coral reef ecosystems, fisheries, aquaculture, and marine protected areas and unites disciplines and sectors to tackle complex problems in biodiversity conservation, climate change and food insecurity. 

As well as her role at Leeds, Professor Stead is the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser for the Marine Management Organisation. Previously she served as Dean of Research and Public Orator at Newcastle University, UK. 

Her AIMS appointment was announced by the Australian Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, on 22 December 2023.