Scientists honoured for contributions to sustainability research

Professor Stuart Bunn and Professor Huijun Zhao.

Two Griffith University researchers dedicated to creating a more sustainable world have been recognised for their contributions as elected Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Bunn on the Amazon River. Image: Joe McMahon.

Australian Rivers Institute Director Professor Stuart Bunn and Centre for Catalysis and Clean Energy Director Professor Huijun Zhao join 20 other distinguished researchers from around the country awarded the honour in 2022.

Professor Bunn is internationally recognised for his research on the structure and function of freshwater ecosystems and in 2019 was named as an Earth Commissioner by international research organisation Future Earth.

“I have always been interested in natural history, but I knew in my first year as a zoology undergraduate student that this was the career I wanted to pursue,” Professor Bunn said.

“I started my career studying small forest streams in Western Australia and have since had the opportunity to visit and study river and wetland systems around the world.

“Freshwater systems are under increasing pressure from human activities and, like many of my colleagues, I am passionate about making a difference.”

Professor Bunn said he was both delighted and honoured to have his research recognised by the Academy.

“It provides a great opportunity to promote the need for a strong science base to underpin the management of Australia’s freshwater ecosystems.”

Professor Zhao has made significant contributions to the development of clean energy and described his election to the Academy as “humbling.”

“When I was young, it was the curiosity that brought me to study science,” he said.

“I pursued a scientific career because scientists create new knowledge and knowledge is power to change the world for better.”

“One of my research pursuits is to explore new means that can unlock the catalytic powers of cheap and plentiful nonprecious materials as high-performance catalysts for clean energy and environmental applications.

Professor Huijun Zhao.

“I love the challenges involved in this type of research and enjoy the joyful sensation when a challenge is resolved.”

When asked what advice they would give to aspiring scientists, the Fellows had the same answer — have fun!

“Science is meant to be fun — make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Take every opportunity to network and engage with your peers and see the world,” Professor Bunn said.

Following the 2022 election of the new Fellows, the Fellowship now stands at 590 Fellows.

The 2022 new Fellows will present their work and achievements at Science at the Shine Dome on 23 November.