Thursday, April 5, 2012

High old times in the rainforest lead on to stellar career for JCU academic

Prof. Bill Laurance
Last month JCU Distinguished Research Professor, William (Bill) Laurance was awarded the prestigious 2012 Heineken Prize for Environmental Science by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, in recognition of his research into the effects of habitat fragmentation, deforestation, hunting and fire on the Amazon region.

Professor Laurance has had an illustrious career as a researcher and science communicator in the United States and Australia, playing a major role in the debate over the future of South American rainforests. He is a worthy recipient of a prize previously awarded to figures such as James Lovelock, the originator of Gaia theory, and Paul Ehrlich, renowned population and evolutionary biologist. But arguably it all began right here in North Queensland where, in the mid-1980s, Bill spent “eighteen unforgettable months” doing field research for his PhD. It was a tumultuous time when moves to have the Wet Tropics placed on the World Heritage list saw communities torn apart and battles raging between greenies and loggers, and the Queensland and federal governments. Bill’s lively, engaging and often hilarious account of his experiences, as he tried to stay out of trouble while keeping his research on track, is told in his memoir, Stinging trees and wait-a-whiles: Confessions of a rainforest biologist, which is held in the North Queensland collection.

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