Eureka! Tasmanian devil researchers recognised with top science prize
A researcher with the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is a key member a top scientific team awarded the prestigious Sherman Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.
Based at DPIPWE’s Mt Pleasant laboratories, Anne-Maree Pearse is working collaboratively on devil facial tumour disease with scientists from the University of Tasmania, the Menzies Research Institute, Griffith University and the University of Sydney.
The Devils’ Advocates team received their $10,000 Sherman Eureka Prize in Sydney on the eve of Threatened Species Day.
Anne-Maree, a cytogeneticist, is no stranger to awards. Her work on devil facial tumour disease was recognised internationally this year by the Prince Hitachi Prize for Comparative Oncology.
Tasmanian Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister Brian Wightman paid special tribute to the team’s Tasmanian scientists for their outstanding work: Anne-Maree Pearse; University of Tasmania zoologist Dr Menna Jones; and Associate Professor Greg Woods from the Menzies Institute.
He said the award not only demonstrated the extremely high calibre of Tasmanian scientists but was a testament to their commitment to the conservation of the State’s unique fauna.
The other members of the team area Professor Hamish McCallum of Griffith University and associate professor Kathy Belov from the University of Sydney.
The Devils' Advocates have focused on a three-pronged approach to managing devil facial tumour disease: developing an ‘insurance' population of devils that is disease-free and which can withstand being returned to the wild; examining the viability of a vaccine for the disease; and investigating genetic disease tolerance and genetic restoration.
The award citation acknowledged the ground-breaking work done by the team.
It said: “The brilliance and tireless dedication of a team of researchers has the potential to save the devils - renowned for their eerie screeching and bad temper - from Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, or DFTD. In so doing, they would simultaneously protect the island state's biodiversity and ecosystems.”
The Sherman Eureka Prize for Environmental Research highlights research which leads to the resolution of an environmental problem or the improvement of our natural environment.
It is part of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, arguably the most coveted science awards in the country. Receiving a “Eureka” is regarded as a pinnacle achievement for any Australian scientist.
Caption: Anne-Maree Pearse is working collaboratively on devil facial tumour disease with scientists from the University of Tasmania, the Menzies Research Institute, Griffith University and the University of Sydney