Science and Technology

University’s stars take home Eureka Prize

A University of Tasmania project won an Australian Museum Eureka Prize – the nation’s pre-eminent awards for excellence in science – at a gala dinner in Sydney.

Distinguished Professor of Economic Geology Ross Large, from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits (CODES), led the successful team.

Professor Large fostered a collaborative team, including local geologists and palaeontologists from South Australia’s Flinders University – together with a group of international researchers – which has revealed the critical role of the trace element selenium in the cycle of life and death in the oceans over the last 600 million years.

The team – including Professor Leonid Danyushevsky, Dr Jacqui Halpin and Dr Jeffrey Steadman – won the UNSW Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research.

Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) Associate Professor Gretta Pecl and the Redmap Australia team – including national coordinator Dr Jemina Stuart-Smith, communications officer Yvette Barry and senior technical advisor Peter Walsh – were shortlisted for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

Redmap (Range Extension Database and Mapping) encourages citizen scientists around Australia to upload photos and sightings of marine life not commonly found at their local fishing, diving and swimming spots. These community observations help scientists track which species may be moving away from their usual home range in response to warming seas.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Brigid Heywood said the University of Tasmania’s recognition at the awards illustrated the University’s commitment to research excellence through its world-class facilities, talent and international collaboration across a range of disciplines.

“The breadth and quality of our research and our first-rate research infrastructure are globally renowned, and set us apart as one of Australia’s premier research institutions,” Professor Heywood said.

“This recognition is further evidence of that research excellence, and demonstrates we are conducting critical research of both local and global significance. It also highlights the commitment of our researchers to the communication and dissemination of their research and the wider knowledge transfer agenda.”

Professor Large said the award was welcome recognition for the efforts of the multi-disciplinary and international group, combining geology, chemistry and evolutionary biology and including collaborators in the US, UK, Russia and Asia.

“When we started the project I had no concept of what we would achieve in four short years, and especially that we would be a Eureka winner,” Professor Large said.

“I am very proud to have led such an exciting project, which has enabled us to add a missing piece to Darwin’s evolutionary puzzle.”

The University of Tasmania has previously won Eureka Prizes in 2011, 2013 and 2014 for devil research, dingo research and Reef Life Survey projects respectively.

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