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Director appointed for ANU Fenner school

The Australian National University (ANU) has appointed prominent ecologist Professor Saul Cunningham as the new Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society in the ANU College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC said Professor Cunningham has an outstanding record of research and leadership in the environmental area.

“As an international expert in biodiversity, and in the impact of humans on the natural environment, Saul is ideally placed to lead the Fenner School, with its focus on multidisciplinary approaches to important environmental issues,” Professor Schmidt said.

Formerly a Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Land and Water, Professor Cunningham’s research focuses on how biodiversity might best be maintained in landscapes that are modified by humans.

He is best known for his work on pollination ecology, from native plants to crops, and from wild pollinators to managed honeybees.

Professor Cunningham will take up the role in January 2017, succeeding Professor Steve Dovers, who is stepping down after two terms as Director of the Fenner School.

Professor Schmidt paid tribute to Professor Dovers, who has led the Fenner School since 2009.

“Steve Dovers has been an outstanding leader, establishing a culture of collegiality and interdisciplinary research that has helped the school establish a global reputation for its high-quality environmental research,” Professor Schmidt said.

Professor Cunningham was a Fulbright Scholar who gained his PhD in the United States, with field work in Costa Rica.

He worked at Macquarie University before joining CSIRO in Canberra as a research scientist.

He has a record of working with farming industry groups and local landholder groups, as well as international colleagues, particularly on research into bees and pollination and what a decline in bee populations could mean for food supplies.

In 2015, he was honoured with the Australian Ecology Research Award from the Ecological Society of Australia.
“Solving environmental problems always requires a diverse mix of different skills and knowledge,” Professor Cunningham said.

“The Fenner School is exciting because it brings together a mix of people from different disciplines, to train the next generation of problem solvers, and to do cutting edge research at the same time. I’m incredibly excited to be a part of it.”

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