Dr Arthur Webb

Arthur Webb

Dr Arthur Webb’s career has been largely built in the Pacific Islands region where he has worked for over 20 years. Initially based in Kiribati in the Central Pacific he worked across 20 of the country's remote outer islands in development programs in agroforestry and environmental protection and was later posted in South Tarawa the capital of Kiribati with the UK Overseas Development Administration managing development programs again in agroforestry, food production and coastal vegetation preservation. Returning to Australia to complete his PhD in coastal management and near-shore sedimentary processes he then accepted a position within the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) based in Fiji serving some 14 Pacific Island Country governments. Within his capacity as Coastal Processes Advisor he provided coastal management and research advice and support across the member States and increasingly represented regional interests at regional and global climate change research and science forums, particularly in respect to sea level rise and the impacts of these phenomena within the region.

In 2007 he became Programme Manager of Ocean & Islands Programme of SOPAC and later Deputy Director where he was responsible for the management, reporting and on-going funding (95% project funded) of a 20 - 25 person research team delivering a multi-million dollar program of assistance across the member states of the region. These included a broad range of fields for example; geophysics, geomorphology, oceanography, coastal science, geodesy, deep sea minerals development, climate change science, sea level measurement, maritime boundary development and marine policy development.

During this time Arthur also maintained his research interests in shoreline dynamics of tropical reef mediated shoreline systems and had an ever increasing, international involvement in climate change science and the design and implementation of climate change adaptation projects in the Pacific Islands region. Arthur is presently a Lead Author on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 5th Assessment Report (Chapter 29 - Small Islands) and was a contributing author to the recently released comprehensive SPC study Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change as well as a co-author of the 2010 paper The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific. All work which has brought important  new understanding in respect to climate change impacts in small tropical islands.

Arthur has also had a strong involvement in Pacific regional marine policy development and personally led the SOPAC Regional Maritime Boundaries Project and team between 2007 and 2014. During this period the Pacific Islands region became one of the most active and progressive regions in the world in regards to the submission of Extended Continental Shelf claims, completion of shared boundary treaties and declaration of Pacific Island maritime boundary baselines and limits. The progressive and highly successful Pacific Islands Deep Sea Minerals Development Project and team was also managed by Arthur from 2010 - 2014 a project which saw significant regional advances made in the development of deep sea minerals legal frameworks to protect both Pacific Islands interests and the environment. 

Since leaving SOPAC in 2014 to work independently, Arthur has continued his research interests particularly in the potential interaction between climate change stress and the physical changes and impacts to small tropical islands, applying this work to both coastal management, coastal policy development and broader policy questions such as potential physical changes in maritime boundary baseline features in tropical reef mediated coastal systems. Presently Arthur is heavily involved in the development of coastal management and policy in the Pacific Island Countries and most recently co-authored the Dec 2013 document, Kosrae Shoreline Management Plan - Repositioning for resilience , a now Government endorsed plan outlining an island wide, staged retreat from coastal lowlands. In 2014 Arthur became a Senior Visiting Fellow with the University of Wollongong's Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) where he is continuing research and work in coastal management, dynamics and policy in tropical coastal environments.

Last reviewed: 15 March, 2016