Optimising portfolios of management for the Great Barrier Reef

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Kate Helmstedt
Research Fellow (DECRA)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


This project will involve adapting Modern Portfolio Theory to develop optimal management approaches to sustain the Great Barrier Reef. Modern Portfolio Theory is an integer programming approach that allocates resources in risky scenarios where investment options are correlated. It can accommodate significant and unavoidable uncertainties, stochasticity, and correlations between options. A diversified portfolio is less volatile than the sum of its parts, and therefore in order to ensure environmental benefits in the future we should invest in a diversity of new approaches. This is particularly useful in the context of climate change on the GBR where environmental futures are uncertain.

Research activities

The project will require developing an understanding of the MPT approach and adapting it mathematically and computationally to solve environmental management problems on the GBR.


The explicit aims of the project will depend on the level and background of the student. This project forms part of a larger GBR research project with other government and university collaborators and stakeholders, and could be used as a launching pad for further research with this group.

Skills and experience

  • Advanced quantitative skills, or a demonstrated interest in developing them
  • Programming skills (any language), or a demonstrated interest in developing them
  • Mathematics students with backgrounds in Operations Research, Applied & Comp Maths, Decision Science are particularly encouraged, as are students with a background in economics or computer science. However, this is not completely necessary.
  • Good interpersonal and written communication skills are necessary, as well as a willingness to meet with and collaborate with scientists outside of maths.


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.