Esteemed ecology group honours ARI Director

Headshot of Professor Stuart Bunn, Director of Griffith University's Australian Rivers Institute
ARI Director Professor Stuart Bunn

The Director of Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, Professor Stuart Bunn, is to receive a major international honour for his contribution to ecology.

Professor Bunn will travel to the US in August to accept the Ecological Society of America (ESA) Honorary Membership Award.

The annual award is presented to a distinguished ecologist who has made exceptional contributions to ecology and whose principal residence and site of ecological research are outside of North America.

“It’s a great honour because the ESA is the largest professional group for ecologists in North America and it publishes a suite of high end, peer reviewed journals that for many years have informed and enhanced understanding of ecological issues,” says Professor Bunn.

This year’s award also comes as the ESA celebrates its centenary.

One of Australia’s leading freshwater scientists, Professor Bunn has earned national and international recognition for his work in water research and management. His research has covered a broad range of systems across Australia, from small forest streams to large floodplain rivers in the arid zone and, more recently, the wet-dry tropics of the north.

His findings have resulted in more than 250 technical publications and he fulfils formal advisory roles with leading agencies on water resource strategy and administration.

In 2007, Professor Bunn was awarded the Australian Society for Limnology Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to research and management of Australia’s inland waters.

Lately he has been working in Papua New Guinea, assisting an advisory committee overseeing mining operations in the Watut River Basin, south-west of Lae, the country’s second largest city.

“This is a mineral-rich area and the river is impacted by mining as well as a range of other factors, including forestry and natural landslides. Our aim is to synthesise available data to prepare a report card on the health of the river to present to government and the broader community,” says Professor Bunn.

Elsewhere, the rapid pace of China’s population growth, urbanisation and industrial development is commanding the attention of international ecologists, including Professor Bunn and particularly with regard to water quality.

“Water quality is a very challenging issue in China and the level of environmental awareness and expertise there is still developing,” says Professor Bunn.

“However, the Chinese are making massive investments to address the issue over the next 10-15 years. That’s extremely encouraging.”

Professor Bunn will receive the Honorary Membership Award at the ESA’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. He says it reflects well on Griffith University’s core commitment to sustainability.

“Griffith was founded on environmental principles and these, including a strong and ongoing capability in the science to underpin water management through groups such as the Australian Rivers Institute, remain fundamental to the University’s operation and philosophy.”