Harry Butler Institute

The co-existence of business and biodiversity

The Harry Butler Institute

The Harry Butler Institute champions a research space where community, business and biodiversity can co-exist; and where our efforts integrate and balance the needs and aspirations of all three sectors.

As experts in the area of sustainable development, we will enable industry to deliver maximum economic value to our community, whilst simultaneously safeguarding the environment.

We support high-quality research in the co-existence of business (human endeavour) and biodiversity, and are shaping the next generation of leaders in conservation and environmental management. Our research programs ensure the continuation of Harry Butler’s outstanding environmental outcomes, based on excellence in both scientific research and industry practice.

Key stakeholders and end users of research at the Institute will include industry partners from the energy, water, mining, health, land development, food and tourism sectors; the State Government of Western Australia, the Federal Government and the community sector.

Harry Butler Institute Logo

State-of-the-art environmental education

$25 million in Federal funding has been announced for the creation of a world-first facility to transform environmental education in Western Australia.

The Harry Butler Environmental Education Centre will bring together researchers, students, private industry and the wider community to learn and explore the benefits that economic development can deliver to protecting our natural environment.

See our ambitious plans in this architectural fly-through.

Photograph of Harry Butler
William Henry “Harry” Butler (1930 – 2015)

Harry Butler, the original wildlife warrior

Harry Butler became an Australian household name in the 1970s with his In the Wild with Harry Butler TV series on the ABC. He also spent ten years lecturing in biology and natural science in Australia, America and Canada before enjoying a successful career as an environmental consultant.

Harry believed in educating people on how to protect the ecosystem they were part of. He was an early advocate of environmental protection, and pioneered biosecurity and environmental management practices through decades of service to Western Australia's natural environment.

During his 50-year association with Chevron, Harry defined how industry could co-exist and actively conserve the natural world. His work to protect the unique environment of Barrow Island has created a benchmark for industry the world over.

Named Australian of the Year in 1979, Harry was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2012 and added to the National Trust of Australia's National Living Treasures.

Murdoch University and Chevron are proud to further uphold his legacy with the establishment of the Harry Butler Institute.

Our people

Professor Simon McKirdy

Professor Simon McKirdy

Director Harry Butler Institute and Professor in Biosecurity at Murdoch University

Professor Simon McKirdy has extensive experience covering corporate leadership, research management, policy development and the management of biosecurity operations within the government and private sectors.

He has international expertise in biosecurity and, in particular, plant biosecurity. He completed his PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Western Australia.

His career has included the roles of Quarantine Plant Pathologist for the State and Commonwealth governments; Program Manager at Plant Health Australia; eight years as CEO of the Australian Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre; and Biosecurity Science and Risk Manager at Chevron Australia.

He is Chairperson of the Western Australian Biosecurity Council that provides advice to the Western Australian government through the Minister for Agriculture.

The Hon Ian Campbell

The Hon Ian Campbell

Chairman of the Harry Butler Institute Board

Former Federal Minister for the Environment Ian Campbell was a Senator in the Australian Parliament in a range of portfolios in the Howard government from 1996 to 2007. As Minister for the Environment with responsibility for climate change, he represented Australia at all global climate change negotiations from 2004 to 2007.

He re-ignited global opposition to whaling and oversaw an historic expansion of Australia's Marine Protected areas including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. He initiated the construction of Australia's first runway in Antarctica to enable easier access for scientists. He led a substantial expansion in support for solar panels on homes, schools and cities; and ensured Australia was the first nation to ban incandescent light bulbs.

As Manager of Government Business in the Senate from 1996 to 2004, he was a member of the Budget Committee of Cabinet from 2004 to 2007 and responsible for a number of key reforms in the Australian economy.


Sustainable development doesn’t happen in isolation. We’re working in partnership towards shared goals.

Global energy producer Chevron Australia is a foundation partner in the Harry Butler Institute. It established the Chevron Harry Butler Chair in Biosecurity and Environmental Science. Chevron’s support also includes investment in research activities directly focussed on surveillance for terrestrial and aquatic non-indigenous species on Barrow Island, continuing Harry Butler’s work.

Our research themes and centres

Our research is clustered into themes and centres, each true to the value that business (human endeavour) and biodiversity can coexist.

Crocodile in water

Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems

Efforts to ensure healthy and productive freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems that support diverse societies within Australia are centralised within the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems.

The objective of the Centre is to produce new knowledge and innovative solutions to the challenges of maintaining ecosystem health, ensuring food security and developing the socio-economic health of people utilising aquatic environments.

Research areas span aquaculture and sustainable fisheries; marine megafauna; catchments to coastal health; and biological oceanography.

Find out more about this centre

Researchers studying tick on computer

Centre for Biosecurity and One Health

As the world grows smaller, a collaborative approach to research is crucial for the maintenance of unique ecosystems.

The Centre for One Health and Biosecurity recognises the linkages between health, biosecurity and the environment. It comprises research across themes including One Health, antimicrobial resistance, biosecurity of environmental and production systems, vector and water borne diseases, epidemiology, food safety and zoonotic diseases.

Policy, legislation and social science perspectives for each of these areas are a feature of our research outputs, with a transdisciplinary approach taken to address complex problems that relate to the health of animals, wildlife, plants, humans and eco-systems.

Key researchers in this area include:

Australian bush

Centre for Climate Impacted Terrestrial Ecosystems

Environmental science was a foundation area when Murdoch University was established in 1973, and now underpins our world-class environmental and conservation research.

Research in the Centre for Climate Impacted Terrestrial Ecosystems spans restoration ecology, wildlife biology and conservation, urban ecosystems, environmental science and sustainability spaces, climate change adaptation, nature-based tourism, forestry and threatening processes.

This provides fundamental information to regulators and managers for identifying biodiversity processes and threats, understanding conservation science, and protecting ecosystems through increased stewardship.

Key researchers in this area include:


Centre for Water, Energy and Waste

Supplies of water and energy are fundamental to modern life, as is the management of waste.

The Centre for Water, Energy and Waste conducts research in these three related areas, ensuring human endeavours can co-exist with biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems.

Research ranges from new wind and photovoltaic technologies, to wastewater treatment and desalination, to integrated water, energy and waste technologies that enable smart buildings, urban areas and rural communities.

Key researchers in this area include:

Mine truck

Minerals for energy

Murdoch has a number of research projects focused around the resources and mining sectors, key industries in Western Australia’s economy. 
Our experts specialise in extractive metallurgy, mining methods and mineral policy, including research on fluid-mineral interactions, mineral replacement reactions, metal extraction and recovery and storage of Carbon Monoxide in minerals. Current research is focused on developing more economical and sustainable processing methods for precious and base metals, uranium, rare earths and light metals.

Key researchers in this area include:

Contact us

Postal address
Harry Butler Institute
Murdoch University
Murdoch, Western Australia 6150

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