Marine ecologist awarded Australian Laureate Fellowship

31/05/2024 | 2 mins

A highly cited marine ecologist has been awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship for a research project that aims to secure the future of the Great Southern Reef.

Professor Thomas Wernberg, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences and Oceans Institute, was awarded more than $3.6 million for his project The Great Southern Reef: Surviving and Thriving in the Anthropocene.

Professor Thomas Wernberg

Professor Wernberg was one of 17 new Fellowships, announced by the Australian Research Council, who will share in $58.3 million of funding for their five-year research projects as part of the 2024 Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme.

Great Southern Reef is an interconnected system of temperate reefs hugging the bottom half of Australia and home to kelp forests that support the most unique temperate marine biodiversity on Earth.

The project will integrate long-term ecological field data with seascape genomics and novel breeding and stress experiments to better understand the functions, challenges, opportunities and trajectories for Australia's Great Southern Reef and its kelp forests.

“My fellowship will help secure a global biodiversity hotspot and one of the largest, most unique and valuable marine ecosystems in Australia,” Professor Wernberg said.

“This research will leave a strong legacy by generating new capacity to understand, predict and mitigate climate-driven changes in the world’s kelp forests.”

Professor Anna Nowak, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), congratulated Professor Wernberg and thanked him for his ongoing work to help secure the future of this important ecosystem.

“UWA research has been critical to the Great Southern Reef being recognised for the role it plays in biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate change mitigation,” Professor Nowak said.

“This project will ensure that the problems threatening the survival of the reef are documented and a solutions-oriented approach can be developed.”

The Australian Laureate Fellowship scheme supports world-class researchers to conduct research in Australia, forge strong local and international links across the research community, and train and mentor early-career researchers.

Media references

Annelies Gartner (UWA PR & Media Adviser) 6488 6876

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