The Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year is awarded to scientists at early or mid-career investigation stages in their careers. It’s recognition
of the contribution Australian scientists make on the global stage to ecology and environmental sciences and this year was won by Australian Research
Council Future Fellow and Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson. Kerrie is also Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence
for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and works with the TSR Hub on Project 6.4. We spoke with Kerrie about the news.
Q: What does the Fenner prize mean to you?
A: The award is open to all disciplines in the life sciences from biomedical research through to ecology. The fact that ecologists, Jane Elith in 2015 and myself in 2016, have taken the award two years in a row is quite incredible. The fact that we are women in science and have worked part-time for much of our careers reveals a greater acceptance of diversity in the sciences and of the multiple pathways that can lead to successful and fulfilling careers.
Q: Why is it important to conservation science?
A: It reflects not only our significant contribution to Australia’s goals for demonstrating scientific excellence but also our contribution to delivering innovative solutions to addressing the loss of biodiversity.”
Q: How can this recognition affect conservation science?
A: Australia boasts roughly 10% of the world’s biodiversity, and also a large proportion of global intellectual capacity in the discipline. Conservation science is by definition an interdisciplinary pursuit and the profile afforded by this award will enhance its reputation and open new opportunities for collaboration.
Photo: Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year winner, Kerrie Wilson.
Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa (KJ) Rangers in the Martu Determination have collaborated with Threatened Species Recovery Hub scientists to design a monitoring program for mankarr (the greater bilby). Martu people identified priorities for the bilby monitoring program, then worked with Dr Anja Skroblin from The University of Melbourne to co-develop a monitoring method which brings together Martu knowledge and practice with Western conservation science.
I am a proud Murri from the Kamilaroi Nation in north-west New South Wales. I grew up in western Sydney on Darug land and now live in Canberra on Ngunnawal land.
A new project is aiming to increase city kids’ connections with nature, threatened species conservation and Indigenous culture. Dr Georgia Garrard from RMIT University talks about this project, which will see Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Traditional Owners working with kids at Carlton North Primary School in Melbourne and Gunditjmara Traditional Owners working with kids at Heywood Consolidated School in western Victoria.
For the Larrakia Land and Sea Rangers, the sight of a shell midden in coastal saltpans tells a long history of culture and how their ancestors are connected with the intertidal and mangrove environment. Through a different lens, the Larrakia Rangers also see these shell middens as areas where their culture overlaps with the habitat used by the Critically Endangered migratory shorebird the far eastern curlew.
Threatened species on Indigenous land may be of prime interest to scientists and ecologists, but they are often not the species of greatest importance to the Indigenous landowners. Understanding local priorities for biodiversity is an essential step in ensuring that conservation projects are locally beneficial and supported. Researcher Tom Duncan from Charles Darwin University has been collaborating with the Tiwi Land Council and Tiwi Land Rangers to explore this issue on the Tiwi Islands.