August was a huge month for AMRI as science took centre stage at the museum.
Between a lifetime Achievement Award, the Sydney Science Festival, the Australian Museum Science Festival, Night Talks and the Eureka Prizes, AMRI celebrated during an exciting and educational four weeks as August brought a mountain of recognition to museum science.
The 2018 AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award launched Science Month at the AM (although it was technically held in July!), with the award being presented to Catherine Livingstone AO, for her significant and far-reaching contribution to the profile of AM science and STEM education more broadly. This was especially evident during her tenure as the AM Trust President (2012-2017), where she was responsible for the establishment of AMRI and provided a huge amount of advocacy for the development and promotion of museum science. As Catherine is the first solo female recipient of the award, the theme of Women in Science was also a focus, and we also took the opportunity to recognise one of our own Director of science, Dr Rebecca Johnson, for her work in leading the Koala Genome Project.
The Australian Museum Science Festival (part of the Sydney Science Festival) took over the museum in August. During those wonderfully hectic two weeks, the AM played host to 6,234 primary and high school students, as well as 546 teachers, who spent time learning from many of our own science staff about Australian geological history, how past societies lived, the biodiversity of Australian fauna and how AMRI science feeds into conservation of many ecologically important species.
We were privileged to hear not one but two AMRI seminars during the month! Le Thi Thuy Duong, an amphibian researcher visiting from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, was the recipient of the 2018/19 AMF/AMRI Visiting Research Fellowship and used the funds to come and visit her AM mentor and collaborator, Dr Jodi Rowley. Duong is currently undertaking her PhD in Vietnam and managed to fit in a fantastic and informative talk while here at the museum, detailing the plight of amphibian populations in the forests of Vietnam, which are currently under serious threat from habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade and a general poor understanding of their fragile biodiversity. We wish Duong the best of luck as she heads back to Vietnam with more skills and knowledge to bring to Vietnamese amphibian research. Dr Rebecca Johnson also gave an AMRI seminar and an AM Night Talk in August, giving audiences an insight into what it is like to lead 54 scientists over five years in the highly innovative and complex collaboration that was the Koala Genome Project.
Dr Rebecca Johnson was also honoured at the Australian Museum Eureka prizes, where she was awarded the AMRI Medal. The medal is presented to an individual staff member, senior fellow or team from the Australian Museum for outstanding science and communication of their research outcomes. Rebecca was recognised for her contribution to Australian wildlife forensics research and for her work in the conservation and evolutionary genomics of Australian mammals, in particular the koala.
The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes rounded out a fantastic month for not only museum science but all science as many researchers, teams and projects were recognized on the night that is the ‘Oscars of Australian Science’. Congratulations to all finalists and winners, we now count down the next 12 months in anticipation for what August 2019 will bring.
Alexandra Durham, AMRI & External Partnerships Coordinator