Environmental social scientist Australia’s nominee for international 2022 ASPIRE Prize

Dr Georgina Gurney from James Cook University has been nominated as Australia’s nominee for the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) Prize.

The prize, valued at US$25,000, recognises young scientists from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in innovation, research and education.

Dr Gurney’s research in conservation and sustainability science not only pushes the envelope scientifically but also has produced innovations that have advanced tropical marine sustainability across its three pillars of economy, society and environment. To ensure her work informs real-world management, she works closely with scientists, communities and other decision-makers from many APEC member economies.

Dr Gurney’s research on conservation’s social and ecological outcomes has led to the development of a social-ecological monitoring program that has been applied in over 150 coral reef sites in eight countries in the Pacific, Asia and Africa.

Co-developed with conservation scientists and practitioners, the framework combines ecological and social indicators – from coral cover and fisheries livelihood dependence to perceived decision-making fairness – to help ensure benefits for both people and nature from the conservation of coral reefs, one of the most at-risk ecosystems in the APEC region.

Dr Georgina Gurney was nominated for the award by the Australian Academy of Science and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

On being nominated Dr Gurney said she felt honoured to be chosen as Australia’s nominee.

“This recognition extends to my collaborators from across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. It’s exciting to see collaborative approaches that bring together diverse people being recognised as critical to the innovative and impactful research we need to address the world’s sustainability challenges.”

The winner of the 2022 ASPIRE Prize will be announced in August at an award ceremony at the APEC PPSTI meeting in Thailand.

The three previous Australian recipients of the prize are: CSIRO’s Dr Jessica Bogard (2021), for developing healthy and sustainable foods for vulnerable people in low- and middle-income countries; RMIT University’s Associate Professor Madhu Bhaskaran (2018) for her work on electronic devices and sensors; and Associate Professor Carissa Klein (2013) for her work on sustainable ocean development.

Two Australian runners-up for the 2022 APEC ASPIRE Prize nomination have also been recognised:

Dr Rebecca Runting, a spatial scientist at the University of Melbourne, is recognised for her work using innovative spatial planning methods to help reconcile economic, social and environmental goals on limited land areas.

Professor Qilin Wang, an expert in sewage treatment and bioenergy recovery at University of Technology Sydney, is recognised for his work using his patented technology to transform sewage treatment plants into carbon-neutral energy generators.

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