One of Griffith University’s brightest minds in ecology has been awarded a prestigious award to mark a lifetime of achievement in biological diversity research discoveries.

Emeritus Professor Roger Kitching AM was awarded the Gregor Johann Mendel Medal for the Advancement of Biological Sciences by Czech Academy of Sciences. This is the highest award in biology offered by the Academy. Previous awardees have included Nobel laureates and distinguished biologists from around the world. Professor Kitching traveled to Prague to receive the award.

The award honours Professor Kitching’s international reputation and distinguished career in ecology, in which his research on food webs and the ecological factors that define the amount of biological diversity sustained by ecosystems are among his most noted achievements.

Credit: Jáchimová foto

“It’s great recognition for my work with students and colleagues, especially coming from a distinguished academy overseas,” Professor Kitching said.

“Our research work has changed the way we look at the complexities of nature and the way in which understand how ecosystems work. In particular we now recognise the central role played by the millions of insect species on the planet.”

Professor Kitching began his teaching career at Griffith in the 1970s and returned there in 1992 to take up the Chair of Ecology in the School of Environment. He began his ecological studies at Imperial College London and Oxford University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Colombia, a research entomologist with the CSIRO, and, for a period, Chair of Ecosystem Management at the University of New England.

Professor Kitching’s lab has had long-standing collaborations with many Czech-based biologists based on mutual interests in tropical rainforests in Papua New Guinea, northern Australia and south-east Asia.

Credit: Jáchimová foto

The Kitching laboratory has focused most recently on the likely impacts of climate change on the ecology of forests.

“Understanding the ecological impacts of a changing climate and the development of ways of coping with these inevitable changes is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the next generation of ecologists,” Professor Kitching said.

This and other projects are ongoing and Professor Kitching preceded his visit to Prague with a four-week period of field work on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion — sponsored by the National Geographical Society.

Professor Kitching’s tireless research work has seen him publish more than 250 papers, author or co-author five books including Butterflies of Australia, and train 34 PhD students. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2010 for ‘services to rainforest ecology and conservation through research and teaching, and ecosystem management.