Lian Pin Koh

Lian Pin Koh

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences


I am Adjunct Professor and Chair of Applied Ecology and Conservation in the School of Biological Sciences, at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

(Download updated Biosketch and Curriculum Vitae.)

I am an applied ecologist and environmental scientist. My research focuses on developing the Science and science-based decision support tools to help reconcile society’s growing consumptive needs with environmental protection. I address this challenge through field studies and experiments, computer simulations and modelling, as well as by co-opting emerging technologies for use in environmental research and applications. Geographically my research is focused on the developing tropics where population growth is most rapid, the people are poorest, and biodiversity is richest and yet most threatened globally.

My research group is considered a world leader in cross-disciplinary environmental science. I strongly believe in the virtues of collegial and collaborative research. My group has partnered with nongovernmental organisations, policymakers, industry players, social scientists, environmental economists, computer engineers and software developers. I have co-authored publications with >100 colleagues from >20 nations, and from top research institutions, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford University, Cambridge University, ETH Zurich, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In particular, my group’s research on the impacts of industrial agriculture has spurred significant interest and advancement in this field. Our findings on the environmental and socioeconomic repercussions of an aggressively developing oil-palm industry in Southeast Asia has been published in high impact journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USANature, ScienceConservation Letters, and Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Our research also extends to the development of cutting-edge tools to evaluate the consequences and trade-offs of alternative land-use planning scenarios. We often do so through evidence-based modelling of the impacts of land-use change by taking account of a wide range of societal priorities, including food security, human livelihoods, forest preservation, carbon conservation and economic development. Our models have been applied to support policymaking in various contexts, including the trajectories and impacts of agricultural development in Asia and South America.

My group is also a pioneer in the use of emerging technologies for environmental applications. I started using unmanned aircraft (or ‘drones’) for surveying orangutans in the rainforests of Sumatra in 2012. Our work on conservation drones has not only received international public interest and resulted in well-cited publications, but it has also led to the widespread adoption of this transformative technology in the environmental sciences.

Although a big part of my work is concerned with translational research, as exemplified above, I have also made significant contributions to the Science that underpins such applications. For example, my research on matrix-calibrated species-area models helps to improve our understanding and prediction of how land-use change affects biodiversity. Not only has my work on these theoretical models and their applications received significant attention from colleagues, but it has also laid the foundation for new research by students in my group and elsewhere.

I am deeply passionate about the communication of Science to the general public, as evidenced by numerous and regular features on the work of my group by international media, including the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, NewScientist, Public Radio International, Time Magazine, the Telegraph, Wikipedia, among others.

My group has secured significant research funding from a diverse portfolio of international, national and local granting bodies:

ARC Research Support

  • 2016-19: ARC Linkage Project (LP160100937), Ecology and management of the Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat, Value: $270,000, CIs: B Ostendorf, M Lewis, LP Koh, R Wells, G Kerr, P Clements, D Shultz, E Sparrow
  • 2016-19: ARC Linkage Project (LP160101177), Airborne spatial tracking to save endangered species, Value: $181,194, CIs: D Ranasinghe, LP Koh, K Falkner, B Ostendorf, G Puddy
  • 2014-18: ARC Future Fellowship Level II (FT140100670), Balancing Societies’ Priorities in addressing Emerging National and Global Environmental Challenges, Value: $879,112, CI: LP Koh

Other Sources

  • 2016-18: Conservation International Strategic Fellows Program, USA, Value: USD$200,000 (~$270,000), CI: LP Koh
  • 2016: Morgan Family Foundation, USA, Value: USD$40,000 (~$55,000), CI: LP Koh
  • 2016-17: Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources SA (DEWNR), Value: $25,000, CI: LP Koh
  • 2016-17: Australian Plant Phenomics Facility - The Plant Accelerator, Value: $93,500, CIs: LP Koh, R Raja Segaran
  • 2016-19: Ian Potter Foundation Grant, Value: $400,000, CIs: Bush Heritage Australia, Arid Recovery, ConservationDrones.org (LP Koh)
  • 2015-16: Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), Value: $100,000, CI: LP Koh
  • 2015-16: SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Value: $11,000, CI: LP Koh
  • 2015-16: Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources SA (DEWNR), Value: ~$90,000, CI: LP Koh
  • 2015: SA Water Corporation, Value: $10,000, CI: LP Koh
  • 2013-14: WWF International Project Development Grant, Value: USD$160,000 (~$220,000), CI: LP Koh
  • 2011-15: Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship, Value: ~CHF1.1 million (~$1.6 million), CI: LP Koh
  • 2011-14: Mercator Foundation Grant, Germany, Value: USD$195,000 (~$265,000), CIs: LP Koh and J Ghazoul
  • 2011: National Geographic Society/Waitt Foundation Grant, USA, Value: USD$15,000 (~$20,000), CIs: LP Koh, S Wich
  • 2009-12: Swiss National Science Foundation Project Grant, Value: ~CHF172,000 (~$240,000), CIs: LP Koh, J Ghazoul, L Rist
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2016 - 2018 Member Board of Directors Conservation International Singapore Singapore
    2012 - ongoing Founder Board of Directors ConservationDrones.org United States
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Editor Scientific Reports United Kingdom
    2015 - ongoing Editor PeerJ United States
    2014 - ongoing Editor-In-chief Cogent Environmental Science United Kingdom
    2011 - ongoing Editor Biological Conservation Netherlands

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