JCU research leader wins top science honour

One of James Cook University’s top researchers has received Australia’s most prestigious science honour, the fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science.

JCU research leader wins top science honour
Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Distinguished Professor David Bellwood (Photo: Richard Davis, JCU Media)

The Academy announced the election of Distinguished Professor David Bellwood as Fellow for his sustained and significant contributions to Australian science.

Professor Bellwood is the fifth JCU professor to be elected to the Academy. He said it’s an honour to join the elite, 500-strong Fellowship.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m delighted to be part of a fellowship that includes so many people that I admire and respect. It’s an absolute treat!”

Professor Bellwood is a leading expert on the evolution and ecology of reef fishes. The central theme of his research is to understand the functional role that fishes play on coral reefs, and how reefs have changed through evolutionary time.

David Bellwood said he has always been fascinated by marine life.

“Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems in the world. In Australia they’re worth billions of dollars to our economy, and around the world millions of people rely on coral reefs for a source of nutrition and income.

“For me, I like to look at fishes as machines. I like to see the way they operate and this gives us a new understanding of how reefs are working.”

He said one of the best parts of his job is to teach the next generation of scientists.

“The world is changing and we’ve got a lot of environmental problems and coral reefs are particularly vulnerable. What we need to be able to do is to give the next generation the tools that they’re going to need to be able to cope with these changes.

“One of my main goals is to give future students, future researchers, the confidence to question and to think for themselves because we’re going to need to be innovative, imaginative and bold if we’re going to address the problems that we currently face,” Professor Bellwood said.

JCU College of Marine and Environmental Sciences

As part of the Division of Tropical Environments and Societies, the College of Marine and Environmental Sciences promotes, fosters, supports and administers quality teaching and research at JCU in the areas of marine biology, environment, geography and sustainability, aquaculture and fisheries, and terrestrial ecosystems.

Marine science is the interdisciplinary study of the marine environment bringing together elements of marine biology, oceanography, marine geoscience and environmental management. Marine scientists explore the make-up and dynamics of the world’s oceans and use their skills to investigate and manage human impacts on the marine environment; understand and utilise ocean resources; and manage and protect our marine reserves.

JCU’s location in the tropics allows students and research staff ready access to a wide variety of tropical marine systems including coral reefs, tropical estuaries, mangrove habitats and seagrass beds. Links between research and teaching programs ensure that students are at the cutting edge of marine research.

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