Ecology is non-linear – ESA Gold Medal winner Chris Dickman

Professor Chris Dickman from The University of Sydney has been awarded the ESA Gold Medal in recognition of his contributions to ecology.

Chris is one of Australia’s foremost ecologists. He is renowned for his groundbreaking work on the ecology and dynamics of arid ecosystems, mammalian ecology and conservation particularly long-term research in the Simpson Desert.

During his ESA Gold Medal presentation at the ESA Conference this week, Chris outlined how progress (and a career) in ecology is non-linear, it’s influenced by:

1.       Trends – such as those seen in competition theory over the years, from the innovation trigger, to the peak of inflated expections, through the trough of disillusionment, up the slope of enlightenment and onto the plateau of productivity (following the Gartner hype cycle)

2.      Chance discoveries – including his own, that agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis) were distinct from brown antechinus, (Antechinus stuartii)

3.      And serendipity – like the coming together of researchers in the field of arid ecology.

He told the conference that, “directions and discoveries often depend on forging partnerships with key collaborators and seizing opportunities as they arise.”

Chris has more than 476 peer-reviewed publications (and 16,000 citations on Google scholar). His h-index is within the top 1% for all researchers in the natural sciences.

Chris has also trained and mentored over 140 honours and postgraduate research students over the last 30 years and actively encouraged and help forge the careers of many successful early- to mid-career Australian ecologists including Peter Banks, Mathew Crowther, Tim Doherty, Al Glen, Aaron Greenville, Mike Letnic, Dale Nimmo, Thomas Newsome, Euan Ritchie, Ayesha Tulloch, and many others.

He has promoted the importance of ecology and conservation with the Australian public through awarding winning publications (e.g. A Fragile Balance, Secret Lives of Carnivorus Marsuipials) and extensive talks and media.

Chris has served as an associate editor for Austral Ecology (1996 – 2005) and on the editorial board of Ecological Management & Restoration (2009 – present) and has been a member of ESA since 1993.

“He’s a great mentor, great supervisor, and a great bloke,” said ESA President Don Driscoll in presenting the award.