Sheep expert wins international medal

30 Jun 2021 | 3 mins (including 1 min video)

 

A retired scientist from The University of Western Australia has earned international recognition for his research that analyses the factors that determine sheep reproduction, and which could be used to improve human health.

Emeritus Professor Graeme Martin, from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment, was awarded the 2021 Marshall Medal by the UK-based Society for Reproduction and Fertility. 

The Marshall Medal was established in 1963 as the highest honour the Society awards in the field of reproduction and fertility.

“By closely studying sheep, we can develop a better understanding of how the human reproductive system is influenced by environmental factors.”

Emeritus Professor Graeme Martin

Emeritus Professor Martin, from Jolimont, said receiving the award was a great honour, as it acknowledged a lifetime of research in the field of reproductive biology.

“My research focuses on analysing how sheep recognise and measure the environment around them, and how this information influences their reproductive system,” Emeritus Professor Martin said.

“The sheep is an amazing and important farm animal, which also represents a valuable experimental model for human medicine research.

“By closely studying sheep, we can develop a better understanding of how the human reproductive system is influenced by environmental factors.”

Reproductive control systems in the brain measure the length of the night and the body reserves of energy to assesses the socio-sexual surroundings, before ‘deciding’ on a strategy for successful reproduction.

“I have studied all of these individual environmental factors, but my real contribution was to consider them all at once, the way a sheep does,” Emeritus Professor Martin said “The interaction between the factors is often more important than the individual factors themselves.”.

Emeritus Professor Martin said he’d always been fascinated by how the brain of sheep operated.

“A sheep can recognise more than 50 individual sheep faces for at least two years, with female sheep possessing the ability to recognise the distinct smell of an individual male and ovulating within days if the male is new to her.”

He said future research in this area would help develop a greater understanding of how animals responded to their environment.

“This will allow us to use the environment to influence and control the animal, which is the foundation of ‘clean, green, and ethical’ management.”

Media references

Nicholas Smith, UWA Media Officer, 08 6488 1888 / 0411 644 492

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