Professor Joe Baker AO OBE FTSE MSc PhD DSc FRACI C.Chem., – AMSA Patron


Dr Baker has persistently championed an holistic approach to sustainable natural resource management, advocating systematic processes to acquire knowledge for social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts of natural resource use. During his career, Dr Baker has worked to stimulate national and international awareness of Australia’s innovative research and to provide policy advice on issues of social, economic and environmental significance. He has been an inspirational leader on the Australian marine science scene and a wise and generous mentor to many key figures in Australian science, technology and industry.

Professor Baker, a world authority in natural resource management is also recognised as a pioneer of State of Environment reporting and of marine pharmacology. He has made significant impacts in the development of sustainable resource management for waterways and land in Queensland and at an international level. Professor Baker played rugby league for Brisbane and Queensland and was a founding board member of the Queensland Academy of Sport where he has assisted in the development of sports science and sports medicine services. Joe Baker continues to make a significant impact through his appointments which have included: Chief Scientist, Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries; Senior Fellow, Australian Institute of Marine Science; Chairman National Landcare Council; and Chairman, Australian Heritage Commission

At the 2007 annual conference in Melbourne, AMSA acknowledged Professor Joe Baker for his distinguished career and contribution to marine science by awarding him the prestigious honour of being the Australian Marine Sciences Association’s inaugural Patron. During his 40+ years in science, Prof. Baker has been an inspirational leader of the Australian marine science community, mentored many key figures in Australian science, and increased knowledge about the plants and animals living in Australia’s marine territory. Joe’s achievements, roles, contributions and accolades are too numerous to cover in detail however a taster follows that will hopefully illustrate the importance and lasting value of Joe’s work and influence.

After an academic career in chemistry at James Cook University, followed by leadership of the Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology, Prof. Baker founded aquaculture and marine biodiscovery research at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville. As a direct result, AIMS has contributed significantly to the growth of the prawn aquaculture industry in Queensland and has discovered two chemical compounds in sponges that are currently in pre-clinical trials as potential anti-cancer drugs from the sea. Joe was also instrumental in generating awareness and progress in the issues surrounding the ethical utilisation of biodiversity in biotechnology research, within the Asian Pacific region.  He helped underpin the landmark Manila Declaration in 1992, and the Malacca Accord in 1994, and also in 1994 co-authored the fundamental tome on the Australian regulatory situation.  This work laid the foundation for Australian regulatory reform and for AIMS to later become a world leader in resolving access and benefit sharing policy issues regarding marine biotechnology research.

Prof. Baker was honoured earlier this year for his outstanding contribution to marine biotechnology by AIMS when they dedicated their new biotechnology wing in his name. As quoted by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Jim Peacock, The Joe Baker Wing is a tribute both to Joe Baker’s advancement of marine biotechnology at AIMS and to the subsequent achievements in understanding the molecular biodiversity of Australia’s oceans.

Joe Baker has also been a tremendous environmental advocate for Australia and was instrumental in promoting acceptance of the concepts of sustainable resource use. He was one of the early scientific pioneers to value the sustainable management of tropical ecosystems and promote the use of entire resources of megabiodiverse systems. He brought together the scientific disciplines to study the interactions and interdependencies of different species and their habitats in order to really understand the application of sciences for conservation. He has been influential in Earthwatch, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Australian Heritage Committee, World Wildlife Fund Australia. A foundation member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Joe had the honour of appearing before the World Heritage Committee to nominate the Great Barrier Reef Region for inscription on the World Heritage list. Joe has persistently championed a holistic approach to sustainable resource management, advocating systematic processes to acquire knowledge for social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts of natural resource use. Joe is strongly dedicated to national and international cooperation.

Throughout his distinguished career Professor Joe Baker has received many honours, including the Order of the British Empire in 1982 for services to marine science, appointment as an officer in the Order of Australia in 2002 for his contribution to environmental studies and chemistry, and the Lifetime Clunies Ross award as a gifted contributor to his disciplines and a person of national and international repute. He has held many high level and prestigious positions, including being elected a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 1989, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. From 1993 to 2004 he was the Commissioner for the Environment of the Australian Capital Territory and pioneered state of the environment reporting for the region. In 1999 he became Chief Scientist of Queensland’s Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries – a position he still holds today. Both roles involve the provision of advice to government on strategic policy issues related to public research and sustainable development. A great communicator and public speaker, Joe is on the editorial board of several international marine journals; he has authored and been editor of several books, and has authored or co-authored over 50 scientific papers. For the past 25 or so years, Joe has been an invited speaker at an average of eight scientific/natural resource related conferences a year.

A keen sportsman, Joe was a Queensland rugby League player and a rugby coach for many, many years. He is a foundation and continuing member of the board of the Queensland Academy of Sport and chairs many of their committees to this day. Joe is also a dedicated family man, and with his wife Val, has four children (now adults) and nine grandchildren.

But most of all, to those who know him personally, Joe is an absolute inspiration – his tireless and selfless determination to make a difference to marine science, the environment, and sustainable resource use have certainly paid off. Both the Australian and international communities owe a lot to Joe’s initiative, drive and achievements, not to mention his keen ability for strategic advice. Joe is an Honorary Life Member of AMSA and his service as Past President, National Council member and ordinary member have also greatly enhanced the association. On behalf of all of AMSA’s members, past and present, it is truly a delight and privilege to honour Joe Baker as the Australian Marine Sciences Association’s inaugural Patron.

Dr Gina Newton, AMSA Past President (2004-2006)

Professional Appointments

1961-1973: Lecturer in Chemistry (Foundation appointment); Senior Lecturer; Associate Professor, University College of Townsville. (now James Cook University)

1974-1981: Director, Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology, Sydney

1976 June-1981: Director of Research, Roche Australia, Medical, Agrochemical, Veterinary and Marine Areas

1981-1985: Director, Sir George Fisher Centre for Tropical Marine Studies, James Cook University

1985-Nov 1992: Director, Australian Institute of Marine Science

Nov 1992: Senior Fellow, Australian Institute of Marine Science

1993-2004: Commissioner for the Environment (A.C.T.)

June 1999- July 2004: Chief Scientist, D.P.I. Queensland

July 2004 -2011: Chief Scientific Adviser, DPI&F

Academic Achievements and Honours

Publications include: 3 Books, 42 State of the Environment Reports, more than 100 scientific publications, more than 100 papers at scientific conferences.

Honours include:

  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), 1982
  • Elected as Fellow, Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering (ATSE) 1989
  • Leighton Medallist (RACI) 1993 [RACI =Royal Australian Chemical Institute]
  • Inaugural “Queensland Great”/ “Living Legend” 2001
  • Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) 2002
  • Bertram Dillon Steel Lecturer 2003 [UofQ]
  • Centenary Medal 2003
  • ATSE Clunies Ross Lifetime Achievement Award 2005
  • Honorary Life Membership AMSA 2005 [AMSA=Australian Marine Sciences Association]
  • Honorary Patron AMSA 2007 –
  • Research Wing at AIMS named “the Joe Baker wing”, 2007.[AIMS = Australian institute of Marine Science]
  • Research Laboratory at Queensland Academy of Sport named “the Joe Baker Sport Science Facility” 2010
  • Brisbane Street named “Joe Baker Street” in new Science Precinct, at Dutton Park, 2010
  • Main Football Oval at James Cook University named “Joe Baker Field”, 2011


MSc UQ – on “Essential Oils from Australian Eucalypts”

PhD  UQ- “Studies on Tyrian Purple & its Precursors from Australian Molluscs”. This study brought me to “your region”, and to many other parts of coastal NSW and Queensland – wherever rocky headlands existed.

Post-Doctoral – Bioactive substances from marine and terrestrial plants and animals


Lecturer to Professor – James Cook University;

Director, Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology

Director, Australian Institute of Marine Science

Commissioner for the Environment, ACT

Chief Scientist, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Forestry and Fisheries

Relevant (mainly past) Committee appointments:

Inaugural member of the 3-person Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority;

Member and then President of the Australian Museum Trust;

Inaugural Chairman, National Landcare Advisory Committee;

President (and now Patron) Australian Marine Sciences Association;

President, Australian Heritage Commission;

Vice-Chairman, Australian Special programme Committee for the World heritage Convention;

Chairman, Gulf of Carpentaria Fisheries Management Advisory Committee;

Chairman, Cardwell-Hinchinbrook Coastal Zone Management Advisory Committee;

Executive Committee Member, International Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE)

Executive Committee Member, International Seaweeds Association

Board Member, International Marine Biotechnology Association

* for more detail, see “Who’s Who in Australia” or Google “Dr/Prof Joe Baker AO OBE” or “ask Joe”[]

3. Research undertaken in our region

The “Research” is of 3 types, for 3 different reasons, and do not cover the full Region:

– the first was associated with collection of different (Thais) gastropod molluscs, that yielded “the royal purple dye of antiquity”. The most common on the southern NSW Coast were the Cartrut shell, Dicathais orbita Gmelin and the Oyster borer or Mulberry whelk, Morula marginalba Blainville. This project introduced me to the expert staff of The Australian Museum;

– the second was as the Director of the Roche Research Institute of Marine Pharmacology (RRIMP) surveying coastal areas for potential marine sources of bioactive substances. We (RRIMP) established the practice that a type specimen of every species collected would be offered to the relevant Museum – in NSW The Australian Museum; in Queensland, The Queensland Museum, and so on;

– the third was (as Commissioner for the Environment, ACT), to collaborate with the relevant NSW LGAs, to gather data and information to prepare State of the Environment Reports for the individual LGAs and for the Australian Capital Region (ACR). (See Footnote 1 below).

For the first and second research activities and for some of the third, our principal Reference Book was WJ Dakin’s book “Australian Seashores” and then Isobel Bennett’s “The Fringe of the Sea” (See Footnote 2 below)


1. The Australian Capital Region (ACR) comprises the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the South Eastern Statistical Division (SD) and Tumut Shire (A) Statistical Local Area (SLA) of New South Wales (NSW).

SLAs are based on the boundaries of incorporated bodies of local government where these exist. These bodies are the Local Government Councils and the geographical areas which they administer are known as Local Government Areas (LGAs).

According to the 2005 edition of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (cat. no. 1216.0), the South Eastern SD includes the following LGAs – LGA names followed by (C) refer to Cities, while those followed by (A) refer to other Areas: Bega Valley (A), Bombala (A), Boorowa (A), Cooma-Monaro (A), Eurobodalla (A), Goulburn Mulwaree (A), Harden (A), Palerang (A), Queanbeyan (C), Snowy River (A), Upper Lachlan (A), Yass Valley (A) and Young (A).

The Canberra-Queanbeyan SD is an important urban planning area of the ACR. In the 2005 ASGC, this SD includes the ACT and NSW SLAs of Cooma-Monaro (A) – Pt A, Palerang (A) – Pt A, Queanbeyan (C) and Yass Valley (A) – Pt A.

The area shown as “your Atlas of Life Coastal Wilderness region” in your attached map includes part of the ACR – all of Bega Valley, some of Bombala, some of Cooma-Monaro and perhaps some of Eurobodalla.

2. “Australian Seashores” by William John Dakin, 1952.  “Despite a long illness, Dakin pressed on with a major book,Australian Seashores, for, as he wrote, ‘for over thirty years the study of the Australian seashores and seas has been my life work’. He received a large amount of help from his two long-term assistants Isobel Bennett and Elizabeth Pope, who saw the volume through to posthumous publication in 1952. Dakin died of cancer at his Turramurra home on 2 April 1950″. Both Isobel Bennett and Elizabeth Pope became eminent biologists in their own right. Isobel Bennett published “The Fringe of the Sea” in 1966 – revised in 1974.

She carried out surveys of the coastal rock platforms at Jervis Bay and Ulladulla in 1973, 1974 and 1977

“Elizabeth Pope spent her entire working life at the Australian Museum, where she eventually became Deputy-Director. She mapped large areas of the Australian coast, and did some of the earliest Australian ecological research. Pope co-authored several books on the seashore with Isobel Bennet and Dakin (her Zoology professor at the University of Sydney)”.

Title of the Presentation: From Science to Sustainability – Identifying and Fitting the Pieces to Build this Living Jig-saw Puzzle

My presentation would be more general than that suggested in the “pro-forma” and  I have summarised the “what” and the “why” in 3. above (the research undertaken)

 Personal objectives as regards science :

To achieve recognition that “Science” is not restricted to the physical and biological sciences, but includes the social, cultural, economic and environmental sciences, their interactions and their interdependencies. Science is the systematic enterprise of gathering information about the world, and, by human interaction, transforming that information into knowledge which can be used to develop testable laws and theories.

In that way, scientific knowledge is continuously evolving.

My perspective on science and its values to/for communities:

Because science is a systematic enterprise which can/should involve the whole community it should be the core of community development in harmony with all other aspects of nature – living and non-living, micro- and macro-.

A key factor is the difference between information and knowledge. Knowledge involves interpretation of information and as more information becomes available our knowledge may be greatly expanded.

Science is different from technology. technology is the application of scientific knowledge, most often for the perceived benefit of society.