One of the world’s most influential ecologists has taken out the State’s top prize for science. Professor Mark Westoby from Macquarie University was named Scientist of the Year at the 2014 NSW Science & Engineering Awards at Government House in Sydney.
Over the past two decades, Professor Westoby has pioneered ‘trait-based ecology’, in which the features of very large numbers of species across wide geographic ranges are used to categorise species into functional types, and explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance.
As well as helping understand the essential features of natural ecology over evolutionary timescales, such information is essential to understanding the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use with a growing human population.
The Patron of the Awards, NSW Governor His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), presented Professor Westoby his trophy during a gala ceremony this evening (Monday 20 October 2014). Professor Westoby also received $55,000 in prize money.
The NSW Science & Engineering Awards celebrate those whose cutting-edge work has generated economic, health, environmental or technological benefits for the State.
Trophies were handed out in eight categories – the winners each received $5,000:
Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry and Physics
Professor Kostya (Ken) Ostrikov, CSIRO
Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecology, environmental, agricultural and organismal)
Professor Benjamin Oldroyd, University of Sydney
Excellence in Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics)
Professor Nicholas Talley, University of Newcastle
Excellence in Engineering and Information and Comunications Technologies
Professor Salah Sukkarieh, University of Sydney
Associate Professor Andrea Morello, University of New South Wales
Renewable Energy Innovation
Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, University of Newcastle
Innovation in Public Sector Science and Engineering
Dr Peter Freewater, Greater Sydney Local Land Services
Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education
Ms Alice Leung, Merrylands High School
NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, said the Awards are a chance to recognise and reward those who are making tremendous contributions to science, engineering and research in NSW.
“These talented individuals – through their innovation, collaboration, resourcefulness and impact – are contributing to major advances in our well-being and economy,” Professor O’Kane said.
“They are exemplars of a State R&D sector that is known for posing hard problems and finding innovative ways to crack them. We all should feel inspired by their incredible accomplishments.”
Biographical details for each of the winners are available on the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer’s website.