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.
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.
The silver-headed antechinus and black-tailed dusky antechinus are carnivorous marsupials found in high-elevation forests in parts of central-eastern and south-eastern Queensland. They were only described in the past six years, but they are already listed as Endangered. Knowing where they occur is essential for effective conservation, but current distribution knowledge is patchy. To address this, PhD candidate Stephane Batista in partnership with the Queensland Herbarium and Queensland Department of Environment and Science is modelling the habitat where these threatened species are likely to occur, and is using detection dogs to rapidly survey these sites.