Owen came to the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires (CERMB) at the University of Wollongong in 2007, a year after its formation, following 15 years working in wildlife research for the Northern Territory Government. He grew up in the UK, where he completed a degree in Biology and MSc in Information Technology and worked in the Zoology Department of Cambridge University, before moving to Darwin in 1992 where he completed his PhD in 1998 in the conservation of fruit-eating birds.
His has had a major role at CERMB, helping to grow it from its modest origin with 2 staff to its zenith this year with 8 staff and 11 PhD students. He has pioneered empirical (spatial and statistical) analysis of bushfire behaviour, impact and management and along the way he has published over 100 journal papers. He has also worked on several international collaborations, especially with researchers in California.