Ralph Slatyer medal presentation and public lecture: Mark Westoby

Presented by ANU College of Health & Medicine

Please join us for an evening with the inaugural winner of the Ralph Slatyer medal - Professor Mark Westoby, from Macquarie University.

'How different plant species make a living' lecture will be presented by ARC Laureate Professor Mark Westoby and will focus on species traits and ecosystem structures.

Measurable quantitative traits make it possible to array species within a common framework even when they don't occur together in nature. Over the past 20 years, such arrays have built up to cover tens of thousands of species. This has been a notably cooperative and international activity, which Slatyer might probably have liked. It is a research style that asks a question complementary to ecological physiology - not just what trade-offs exist, but which of them account for most variation across the world's species? Yet meanwhile, rather little progress has been made with assembly rules for competitive communities. For plants on land, the continuing issue is that they all use similar resources, so it remains unclear how coexistence works and what sets limits to it. Recent models have promising features. In particular, they predict the trait-mixture not just the number of species.

About the speaker

Professor Westoby is an ecologist, just as Ralph Slatyer was. With close to 300 papers published, and an h-index of 96, Professor Westoby is internationally renowned for his research. He is a member of the Australian Academy of Science and the 2014 NSW Scientist of the Year. In 2016, he was honoured by the Editors of the Journal of Ecology, who compiled a collection of his most influential papers. Importantly, Professor Westoby is also a strong mentor of early career researchers, and through his efforts at his home institution and at academic societies including the Ecological Society of Australia, has been instrumental in the establishment of programs that provide opportunities for networking and advancement.

About the Ralph Slatyer medal

The Research School of Biology established the Ralph Slatyer medal for outstanding research in the field of biology, including biomedical science, in honour of emeritus Professor Ralph Slatyer AO, FAA, FRS. Professor Slatyer was a distinguished scientist, a former Director of the RSB and the first Chief Scientist of Australia (1989 - 1992).

The medal is awarded annually, to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to biological science and is an Australian citizen, or Australian resident, or whose work has significant relevance to Australia. It may be awarded for either a major discovery or for a lifetime's achievement.

This is the first time the medal has been awarded, and will be the first major event in our 50th anniversary year. The medal was designed by Steven Holland, who was Artist in Residence at RSB, in 2015, under the ANU Vice-Chancellor's College Artist Fellowship Scheme. The design features Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora) leaves collected from the Snowy Mountains, both tree and location having special meaning to Professor Slatyer. The centre of the design represents the sun, and the inner wavy lines represent plant-water relations and photosynthesis.