UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Marie Longnecker

My research interests include biodiversity, sustainability and applied conservation in the face of global environmental change. To date, I have studied in three different countries (in addition to the United States, where I grew up) in order to familiarise myself with a variety of approaches to environmental and conservation policy. I completed my BSc Honours (Biology and Geography) at Queen’s University in Canada, studied abroad my junior year at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, completed my MSc in Environmental Science at University College Dublin in Ireland and I’ll start my PhD at UCL in September. 

Throughout my studies, I have maintained a focus particularly on biodiversity and conservation researching the methods and applications of biodiversity conservation and management for my undergraduate honour’s thesis and the impacts of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and water stress on plant communities for my master’s thesis project. Most recently, I have been volunteering with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the herbarium as part of their South East Asia team where I assist with research and other projects.

Research subject

Defining indicators for the sustainable use of biodiversity resources

I am hoping to develop and then, potentially, to establish in the policy domain an indicator that shows the environmental ‘sustainability gap’ (SGAP) between current and sustainable uses of natural resources such as biodiversity.

Biodiversity is essential to human existence and prosperity as it provides countless ecosystem services. However, anthropogenic changes to the environment are putting increasing pressure on this essential natural function. The challenge is to devise viable strategies to assess it while recognizing that knowledge of both pattern and process is incomplete, both natural and anthropogenic change to environmental systems is inevitable and that conflict between human society and biological diversity is and will continue to be unavoidable and must be reconciled through trade-offs and conservation prioritization of areas and organisms. By ensuring both the representation and persistence of biodiversity are preserved, however, the maintenance of fitness and the capacity for response to evolutionary change are also both preserved.

The evaluation of biodiversity targets depends on the use and development of accurate and robust indicators that can quantify changes in biodiversity over short time-spans and communicate this information to a policy audience. With adequate data and a model that incorporates multiple factors to accurately quantify biodiversity, it would be possible to assess the current state of biodiversity and derive a sustainability standard that defines the differences between present and sustainable use of biodiversity resources as well as the time it would take to reach a sustainable level.