Young ecologists awarded for their outstanding research outreach

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Ecological Society of Australia have joined forces to award 6 early career researchers doing an exceptional job of communicating ecological research to the public, and inspiring other ecologists to get involved in outreach.

Young scientists with magnifying glasses

The prizes will be awarded at this year’s Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

The Ecological Society of Australia is the peak group of ecologists in Australia, with over 1500 members from all states and territories. The Ecological Society of Australia has an impressive 50 year history supporting ecologists, promoting ecology and ecological research.

Each of the winners will establish a partnership with a school class to gather and analyse data as part of a year-long research project, with the aim of producing a publishable paper with the students.

Meet the 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award winners:

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient Nathan EmeryNathan Emery

Australian PlantBank

Nathan is a scientific officer at the Australian PlantBank. He currently works on plant conservation research programs involving several Persoonia species. This work involves examining the ecology of species, and specifically their pollination systems and seed biology.

Nathan is an active participant in scientific outreach to raise awareness in seed biology and plant conservation in the scientific and public communities. Nathan also engages schools, organisations and communities on Australian cicada diversity and ecology. He started the grass-roots “The Great Cicada Blitz” citizen science project, and has produced a cicada photo guide book.

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient Anna GracaninAna Gracanin

University of Wollongong

Ana is a fourth-year Honours student studying conservation biology. Ana spends a lot of time chasing after quolls in the bush, and climbing up trees to study arboreal marsupials; from sugar gliders to greater gliders, and from pygmy possums to brushtail possums. Besides being an avid camera trapper seeking to find and study these threatened species, Ana also spends time volunteering and working in environmental education and outreach.

Ana is passionate about raising awareness for wildlife conservation, and engaging younger generations with the natural world. She volunteers with the scientist in schools program, and is the social media and events manager for the conservation research organisation, Team Quoll Illawarra & Southern Highlands. Ana also works as a UOW Science Mentor, helping students as they undertake scientific investigations for Australia’s largest science fair.

As an Education Officer at the Australian Botanic Gardens, Ana teaches preschool, primary and high school students, to learn and connect with nature through a range of programs.

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient Andrew KatsisAndrew Katsis

Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria

Andrew is a behavioural ecologist and PhD candidate at Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria. His research is exploring prenatal communication in a small Australian songbird, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Specifically, he is interested in how an embryo’s acoustic environment inside the egg affects its behaviour and cognition later in life. Andrew is also a keen science communicator, and has contributed to online news, magazine articles, radio and podcasts.

He is currently Life Science editor for Lateral, a magazine written and edited by early-career scientists (

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient Joanne OrockJoanne Ocock

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Joanne is an environmental scientist with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage in the Water and Wetlands Team. Working on the Environmental Water program, she uses scientific research to provide advice to managers and communities about wetlands in the Murray Darling Basin and the animals that live in them. This information helps evaluate the management of water allocated to improving health of rivers and their floodplains, and helps inform planning for long-term water use.

Joanne has published widely on frogs and wetlands, including articles for scientific journals and books, technical reports, and plain English summaries and identification guides for community groups. She is passionate about her research, fieldwork and data, and takes every chance she gets to share her enthusiasm and knowledge to help conserve our wetland animals.

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient James O'HanlonJames O’Hanlon

University of New England, Armidale

James O'Hanlon is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New England, Armidale. He studies animal communication and behaviour in animals such as praying mantises, ants, stick insects and spiders, and is particularly interested in how the transmission of information between animals affects their ecological interactions.

He is also a passionate science communicator and hosts the fortnightly podcast In Situ Science.

Ecological Society of Australia 2017 Outstanding Outreach Award recipient Luke O'LoughlinLuke O’Loughlin

Australian National University, ACT

Luke is a conservation biologist at the Australian National University researching how exotic plants, invertebrates and animals invade and impact our ecosystems. His current research focusses on best more accurately measuring the ‘overall’ ecological impacts of invasive species, where invasive species are useful indicators of ecological condition, and how this information informs decisions and triggers management actions.

Further to his ongoing research, Luke enjoys experimenting with alternative forms of science communication which includes publishing a comic strip that uses pop-culture references to make big topics in ecology more accessible.