Emerging Indigenous women scientists recognised with Academy award

PhD candidate and Bidjara descendent Michelle Hobbs.

An emerging scientist within Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute has been recognised as a recipient of the 2023 Australian Academy of Science Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scientist Award.

The award recognises research by outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander PhD students and early- and mid-career scientists.

Michelle Hobbs, a PhD candidate and associate lecturer at Griffith who is a Bidjara descendent, will use the award to provide new insights into the management of Australian freshwater ecosystems and freshwater mussels.

Hobbs said freshwater mussels were one of the most imperilled groups of animals.

“Extinctions or population declines of mussels are likely to disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples who use them, yet relatively little has been published about mussels from Indigenous perspectives or regarding the cultural values of mussels,” Hobbs said.

“Current risk assessment methods and natural resource management tend to limit Indigenous involvement to cultural heritage objects or artefacts, while cultural values or uses of biota or landscapes are not explicitly addressed, despite their clear importance to Indigenous peoples.

“I hope this project will fill in some of the knowledge gaps in this area, within the broader context of my PhD research.”

Hobbs will travel to Canada later this year to meet with First Nations researchers and discuss Indigenous uses and management of mussels, and the role of Indigenous values and communities in water management.

Established in 2018, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scientist Award recognises research in the physical and biological sciences, allowing interdisciplinary and sociocultural research straddling the social sciences and humanities.

It aims to support research and the growth of research networks and international knowledge exchange through visits to relevant international centres of research. Awards include up to $20,000, with additional support provided to attend the Academy’s annual Science at the Shine Dome event.

The award is also part of the Academy’s work to champion diversity and inclusion in the sciences and empower the next generation of scientists. This will strengthen the voice of science and support scientific excellence.

Michelle is being supported by supervisors Professor Fran Sheldon, Professor Sue Jackson and Professor Mark Kennard at the Australian Rivers Institute.