Michael Burgass


Silwood Park Campus
Imperial College London
Buckhurst Road
Ascot, Berkshire


My interests are grounded in the use of Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) within marine environments. Humans are a fundamental part of ocean ecosystems and, as well as deriving a number of benefits, also have large impacts such as overfishing, climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.

It is critical that the marine environment is managed sustainably to allow humans to gain maximum benefit from their riches, while doing so with absolute minimal damage and ensuring these benefits are in place for future generations.


The Arctic Ocean as a purely natural system is extremely important - it is responsible for regulating global climate through North Atlantic Deep Water Formation, sea ice albedo and permafrost locking in CO2. Life here endures some of the greatest extremes in light and temperature known to our planet, but the Arctic Ocean contains a rich tapestry of benthos, fish, cnidarians, birds, and some of the most recognisable Arctic mammals such as cetaceans, pinnipeds and of course polar bears.

When considering human interests and activities in the Arctic on top of this, it becomes one of the most geo-politically important areas on the planet. The food web supports globally significant fisheries of pollock and cod, the seafloor is thought to contain approximately 13% and 30% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves respectively and companies are increasing shipping traffic year on year. Furthermore the Arctic is inhabited by roughly four million people of which approximately 400,000 are indigenous. Climate change is beginning to affect the Arctic Ocean with observations of range shifts as well as changes in abundance, growth/condition, behaviour/phenology and community/regime shifts of species. Sea ice reduction is also leading to a rush for new shipping routes, mineral resources and fishing grounds that have previously been inaccessible.

The state of the overall health of the Arctic Ocean is relatively unclear and potentially changing rapidly. There is a real need for a comprehensive and repeatable measure of the health of the ocean ecosystem, particularly within individual Arctic states, which can inform present and future policy making and EBM. My work therefore aims in the first instance to build an understanding of the current state of the overall Arctic Ocean by undertaking a regional assessment using the Ocean Health Index. The OHI assesses the ocean based on 10 widely-held public goals for a healthy ocean (including physical, biological, economic and social elements) and each goal expresses a broad, long-term purpose, optimizing a sustainable flow of benefits to people.

Find out about Mike's PhD research here

This PhD is supervised by Professor Ben Halpern and Prof. EJ Milner-Gulland and is funded by a Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Scholarship within the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment.


2014 – Present PhD Student, Imperial College London

2012 – 2014 Environmental Consultant, CH2M HILL

2011 – 2012 Environmental Consultant, RSK Environment Ltd

2010 – 2011 Researcher, Cone Snail IUCN Red List Assessment, The University of York

2010 - 2010 Research Assistant, Marine Research Foundation, Sabah, Borneo

2009 – 2010 MSc Marine Environmental Management (Distinction), The University of York

2006 – 2009 BSc Geography, The University of Manchester


Burgass, M.J., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Stewart Lowndes, J.S., O’Hara, C., Afflerbach, J.C. & Halpern, B.S. (2019). A pan-Arctic assessment of the status of marine social-ecological systems. Regional Environmental Change, 19, 293–308.

Arlidge, W.N.S., Bull, J.W., Addison, P.F.E., Burgass, M.J., Gianuca, D., Gorham, T.M., Jacob, C., Lloyd, S.P., Shumway, N., Watson, J.E.M., Wilcox, C., Milner-Gulland, E.J., 2018. A global mitigation hierarchy for nature conservation. Bioscience, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biy1029.

Burgass, M. J., Arlidge, W. N. S., Addison, P. F. E., 2018. Overstating the value of the IUCN red list for business decision‐making. Conservation Letters, https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12456.

BurgassM., Halpern, B., Nicholson, E., Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2017) Exposing and navigating uncertainty in composite indicators. Ecological Indicators75, 268-278