Another year, another amazing scientist - or in this case a group of scientists!

On Wednesday 9 August 2017, we held our annual AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony. This award is designed to recognise eminent researchers and science communicators who have made outstanding contribution to science and biodiversity conservation. Previous winners of this prestigious award have included the likes of Professor Tim Flannery, Robyn Williams AM and ex-AM Director Professor Frank Talbot AM.

2017 AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award winners
The 2017 AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award winners (in attendance). From L to R: Dr Winston Ponder, Dr John Pickard, Professor Frank Talbot AM, Dr Doug Hoese, Dr Harry Recher and Dr John Paxton. Image: Tim Levy
© Australian Museum

Being our 190th year, we decided to award and outstanding group of people who each dedicated not only their career to biodiversity conservation but also provided a catalyst for significant change that has benefitted the environment ever since. This year, we awarded the AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award to the 1971 Lord Howe Island Environmental Survey Group led by ex-AM Ecologist, Dr Harry F. Recher.

Lord Howe Island has returned to the fore this year in more ways than one, with current AMRI scientists returning to the island to conduct a biodiversity assessment in March and April this year. However, not many people realise how far the AM and LHI go back. After its discovery in 1788, LHI had its first permanent settlement by 1834 and by the 1850’s was steadily visited by passing ships. In 1854 a ship’s surgeon named Denis Macdonald observed the island’s flora and fauna and wrote papers on zoology for the AM – our first affiliation with LHI. The AM then sent scientists to LHI in 1869 (our first official expedition) and again in 1882 as part of a team who travelled to LHI to make new discoveries, contributing significantly to the understanding of the Island’s natural history at the time and further cementing our connection with the Island.

It is because of this connection that in 1971 and 1972 the Australian Museum returned to Lord Howe Island at the request of the Island’s Board, for what would be a significant point in the LHI’s history. The aim of the expedition was to undertake a biological survey of the island to ascertain the status of its flora and fauna species and provide recommendations to ensure its preservation, including the control of pest species, reservation of natural vegetation and promoting the value of eco-tourism to the island.

A report was produced by the 1971 Lord Howe Island Environmental Survey Group from this expedition and was known as the Environmental Survey of Lord Howe Island. The report made profound recommendations on the preservation of the island’s wildlife, including the creation of protected reserves and exotic species control. The advanced ideas that burgeoned from this work changed the course of Lord Howe Island’s history and led to its establishment as a World Heritage Listed site to ensure that it’s unique biodiversity is maintained into the future.

For this reason, we honour the 1971 Lord Howe Island Environmental Survey Group led by Dr Harry F. Recher as AMRI Lifetime Achievement Awardees and highlight their impact in the environmental protection of Lord Howe Island and their contribution to biodiversity conservation.

Alexandra Nuttall, AMRI & External Partnerships Coordinator

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