Leading UNSW researchers in the areas of environmental science and engineering have been recognised at the 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, Australia's most high-profile science awards.
This year, the awards recognised 19 individuals and teams across the categories of Research & Innovation, Leadership, Science Engagement and School Science.
The NSW Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Applied Environmental Research went to the Waterbirds Aerial Survey Team at UNSW, led by Professor Richard Kingsford and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. The team has conducted one of the largest and longest-running wildlife surveys in the world.
As well as influencing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and nomination and management of Ramsar-listed wetlands, their data has contributed to the gazettal of three new national parks as well as conservation of waterbirds and freshwater ecosystems, including rivers.
"It's very exciting to win this Eureka Prize, particularly for our contribution to applied environmental science. This award reflects the importance of long-term environmental surveys and their impact on policy and management,” Prof. Kingsford said.
“We need to invest in more long-term monitoring because it delivers essential information needed for good decision-making. Our Waterbirds Aerial Survey Team has completed four decades of aerial surveys of Australia's waterbirds, continually informing Australians about the health of rivers and wetlands. We will keep doing it".
Scientia Professor Toby Walsh received the Celestino Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science, recognising his work communicating about Artificial Intelligence (AI) through the media, in books and at academic forums.
A world-renowned authority in artificial intelligence (AI), Prof. Walsh explores subjects such as self-driving cars and autonomous weapons. He leads public conversations about our AI-driven future: what it will look like, how we can prepare and what we should be wary of.
“AI, it seems, is never out of the news. Therefore, it’s vital that the public understands the benefits and risks it is bringing into our lives. I’m honoured to receive this award for my efforts to improve the public’s understanding of AI,” Prof. Walsh said.
Conjoint Associate Professor Jodi Rowley from UNSW Science was awarded the 2023 Australian Museum Research Institute Medal. A/Prof. Rowley is a biologist with a focus on amphibian diversity, ecology and conservation, and a passion for communicating biodiversity conservation.
She is the Curator of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum and UNSW, the first joint appointment between the institutions. An eminent herpetologist at the Australian Museum, A/Prof. Rowley has been recognised for her multi-disciplinary, innovative work at the forefront of biodiversity conservation.
“I’m passionate about biodiversity conservation and I’m so lucky that so many people across Australia have also taken on the fight to help better understand and conserve Australia’s unique frog species by using the FrogID app. It's a fantastic honour to be recognised by my colleagues - and a massive win for frogs,” A/Prof. Rowley said.
Australian Museum Director and CEO, Kim McKay AO, congratulated this year's winners and emphasised the importance of Australian scientific innovation in addressing global challenges.
“As the world faces unprecedented challenges such as accelerating climate change, Australian scientists continue to lead, innovate and inspire,” Ms McKay said.
“The 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes exemplify the breadth and depth of talent representing Australia on the international stage, showcasing remarkable achievements and innovations across various disciplines.
“With leaders in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to environmental conservation and infectious diseases research, this year’s winners demonstrate that Australian science is thriving and that our researchers are not only leading but also defining the fields they work in."