David Lusseau tells us about his role in the School of Biological Sciences, as well as his work with the Aurora Network and his passion for the UN's sustainable development goals. 

Tell us about your role at the University.

I am part of the academic team in the School of Biological Sciences where I study behaviour and get to teach about what we find out to a wide diversity of students. I work at the intersection of life, formal, and social sciences to understand how individuals – humans and animals – make decisions and what the consequences of those decisions are for their health, social life, and demographic contributions.  Most of my work focusses on the way humans interact with nature and is driven by the need to find new management approaches to ensure that these interactions are sustainable. A lot of this work involves statistical and mathematical modelling, so in addition to teaching students about behaviour and marine mammals, I also teach statistics. I like people and I like talking, so I try to do a fair bit of public engagement too!

How do you usually start your day?

I usually have breakfast in front of emails catching up on what has happened with colleagues in different time zones. I tend to be somewhat civilised after the second coffee. Once we sorted out the schedule for the day in the family (including dog and cat), I take the train and walk to Uni.

What brought you to the University of Aberdeen?

Chance! I have moved around a fair bit (France, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK). My wife is a fisheries scientist so we were looking for a place in Europe where we could both work. We both had job offers in Aberdeen which is why we came. Now, more importantly, I am choosing to stay in Aberdeen because of the people that make up this university. I think we have a pretty special place, full of ingenious folks that are willing to converse and work across disciplines. There is a strong collective interest to focus our work to help others wherever we can. And, we value individuals that want to engage in both research and teaching, something I feel is becoming rarer in other institutions.  

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I like to solve problems: There is nothing more rewarding than spending time with my PhD students in front of a white board. I really enjoy working at the policy-science interface too. I get to spend time with national agencies and inter-governmental organisations to find new ways to make sure people can continue their activities without endangering the planet. I find this very fulfilling.

What are your work priorities at the moment?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals [find out more about the SDG here. They are the best developed plan yet to attempt and ‘recalibrate’ our relationship with our planet and the way we treat one another. I am particularly curious about wicked problems emerging from their interactions. So we borrow modelling and simulation approaches from a wide range of sciences to tackle governance question, most recently with wildlife tourism. 

I am also interested in making sure that we not only tell others how to achieve the SDG, but also ensure that we are the change we want to see happening! So I have taken on the responsibility to convene the Sustainability theme for Aurora [find out more about Aurora here: https://aurora-network.global]. I had a chance to talk with quite a few people about this already, but if you are curious and want to participate, don’t hesitate to come and see me or email. 

The first line of action is the Global Action Day for the SDGs on September 25th.  I want to showcase all the amazing work everyone is doing at Aberdeen and our Aurora partners every day to achieve the SDGs. Contact me if you want to get involved.

I will use this to shamelessly plug some other wok we do: a few years back we started the Aberdeen Information Club (AIC, pun intended) which brings people from all disciplines (the founders are from Biology, Computer Science and Philosophy) together to chat about the nature of Information. Get in touch with me if you want to join; all welcomed.

How do you like to relax outside work?

I cook and whenever I get a chance I am in the water (you might find me attached to a dive buoy from times to times along the coastline!).