Pioneering Australian ecologist wins 2019 Australian Museum Research Institute Lifetime Achievement

Professor Lesley Hughes honoured for work on climate change

Sydney, 1 August, 2019: Renowned climate change scientist and communicator Professor Lesley Hughes was awarded the 2019 Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI) Lifetime Achievement Award at a dinner last night at the Australian Museum (AM). Professor Hughes was honoured for her significant and life-long contribution to climate change research and its impact on the conservation of species and ecosystems.

Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at Macquarie University, and an Australian representative on the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), Professor Hughes has been a leading figure in international climate change research over the past 25 years.

Kim McKay AO, Director & CEO of the AM said Professor Hughes is being recognised for her research into the environmental impacts of climate change, specifically on Australian plants and animals, as well as for her outstanding communication of the science of climate change and how it will affect the future.

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time, affecting all life on the planet, and for the past 25 years Professor Hughes has dedicated herself to the advancement of our understanding of climate change. Her research into tracking the way plants and animals across our continent are responding to the changes in climate provides long-term historical context for assessing climate variability and extremes,” Ms McKay said.

The Macquarie University ecologist has been honoured at a time when the Australian Museum is increasing its commitment to raising awareness and research around impacts of climate change.

“It is a pivotal time for Australian species and our planet. The effects of climate change are already being seen in Australia, from the extinction of our native species; earlier and longer bushfire seasons; to more coral bleaching events – these impacts are now only growing in frequency and intensity,” Professor Hughes said.

“I think real change in Australia won’t happen until there’s real political will, until there’s a realistic price put on carbon and until we seriously embrace renewable energy.

“However, in this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of people landing on the Moon, it is clear we have the technology and the knowledge. We are all capable of amazing feats, and once we start, we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated,” she added.

Professor Hughes is a passionate public communicator, who believes in active engagement with policy makers and the wider community.

“Professor Hughes’ research combined with her steadfast commitment to fostering collaboration within the community and government to take positive action together to solve these issues make Professor Hughes the perfect recipient of the 2019 AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award,” Ms McKay said.

About Professor Lesley Hughes

Professor Lesley Hughes is an ecologist by training. She was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Integrity and Development at Macquarie University in 2014, the same year she was awarded the prestigious Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science Research.

She has been a leading figure in climate change research and served as one of six Commissioners in the Federal Government’s Climate Commission from 2011 to 2013. Following the abolition of the Commission, she became a founding Councillor in the publicly funded Climate Council of Australia.

Professor Hughes was a Lead Author in the UN’s IPCC Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports; is a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists; and Director of WWF-Australia.

About the AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award

The AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2014 to acknowledge those who have played a significant part in science at the AM across the decades.

Previous recipients of the award have included Mr Robyn Williams AM for his contribution to science communications and bringing museum science to the attention of the general public; Professor Tim Flannery for his career-long dedication to the AM and his tireless work as an advocate for the environment; Professor Frank Talbot AM for his life-long contribution to museum science; the 1971 Lord Howe Island Environmental Survey Group for their influence in the establishment of Lord Howe Island as a World Heritage Listed site; and Ms Catherine Livingstone for her far-reaching contribution and advocacy of museum science and education.

/Public Release.