Dr. Obura was born in Kenya in 1966 and his work has been focused on the ecology and dynamics of natural systems under the combined influence of climate change and impacts of human interactions with the environment. Since 1999, Dr. Obura has been the founding Director of CORDIO. In addition, his other positions and commitments include: Chair of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Working Group on Climate Change and Coral Reefs, Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences (Centre for Marine Studies) at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and Chief Scientist with the Phoenix Islands Conservation Project, Kiribati. Dr. Obura’s Research and professional focal areas are on Ecology and climate (Coral life history strategies, ecological resilience and climate change impacts. His research focuses on coral bleaching responses and long-term recovery dynamics, the role and assessment of ecological resilience, and how ecological systems respond and adapt to a changing climate.
A growing focus is to use this knowledge to predict hazards related to short term climate variability and build adaptive capacity to possible climatic changes that affect vulnerable ecosystems and the people that depend on them.) Evolution and biogeography (Understanding the evolution and maintenance of coral reef biogeographic patterns in the western Indian Ocean, as a basis for regional scale planning for marine conservation and sustainable use of marine natural resources.) Livelihoods and Adaptation (Through support to and coordination of projects focused on fishing communities on coral reefs, his objectives are to understand how users perceive their environment and make decisions, in order to foster more sustainable practices and improve peoples’ welfare. The approach focuses on understanding people-environment interdependencies, building capacity for participatory monitoring, research and management to empower people in decision-making, and working towards strategies for adaptation of livelihoods to climate change.) Building capacity (Through networking, communication, publication and capacity building in science, to build capacity to identify solutions to environmental problems, and through engaging in stakeholder, policy and management circles, to put solutions into practice. For people dependent on natural resources, to develop opportunities for further education to empower them to independently improve their livelihood security, and take advantage productively of opportunities offered in their wider socio-economic and political setting.)
Dr. Obura is credited with raising over a million dollars as personal research and institutional grants since 1997 from Rockefeller Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Geographic Society, IUCN, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the International Coral Reef Action Network (INCRAN), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sida /SAREC and WIOMSA. CORDIO has been Dr. Obura’s vehicle for disbursing funds to other scientists and for training. His most significant contributions have been in developing his own research programme in coral bleaching and regional reef resilience, developing CORDIO as a home-grown capacity building and research vehicle in the region, promoting the development of research in artisanal fisheries, socio-economic monitoring and issues in global marine research and conservation forums.
He has produced over 100 publications, many of them in peer reviewed journals and others as secondary literature, conference contributions and workshop outputs. He has also edited a number of books.