In Australia, private biodiversity conservation organisations use revolving-fund programs to achieve conservation goals. Using a fixed amount of capital, land is purchased, protected via conservation covenants, and then re-sold for a profit. The revolving-fund managers then move on to a new property.
To achieve long-term success, revolving-fund managers need to ensure that the properties they purchase:
- contain important biodiversity values
- can be resold at close to or greater than the purchase price (adjusted for inflation), and
- can be resold in an appropriately short amount of time.
To achieve efficient outcomes, these managers also need to manage their portfolios of properties and capital investments.
Decision-theory methods from mathematics can help make these decisions, but there is currently a lack of effective tools for this particular conservation activity. The goal of this project is to develop such tools.
Students will be working with mathematical researchers in the School of Mathematical Sciences, with conservation scientists from RMIT university, and with revolving-fund managers in Australia to develop decision-support tools to help make effective decisions about when and where to acquire land, and about how to manage their portfolio of assets (properties, capital, alternative financial investments).
The project will require the application of dynamic programming tools under uncertainty. These tools will be parameterised through discussions with Australian conservation organisations. The work will span operations research, stochastic scheduling, risk analysis, and modern portfolio theory.
The outcomes of this project will be decision support tools that can be used by conservation managers when making purchasing decisions for revolving-funds.
Skills and experience
A suitable candidate would have some mathematical training, and experience with writing computer code in Matlab, Python, or an equivalent language. They would also have an interest in biodiversity conservation and environmentalism.
You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.
Contact the supervisor for more information.