Featured News Research leader wins top science honour

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Mon, 23 May 2016

Research leader wins top science honour

Distinguished Professor David Bellwood
Australian Academy of Science Fellow, Distinguished Professor David Bellwood. Photo: Richard Davis, JCU Media.

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

The Academy today 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.

Raw videos, edited short videos and photos of Prof Bellwood are available at:


Award information:

  • 21 new Fellows have elected for significant contributions to science.
  • The Academy now has a total of 511 Fellows and corresponding (foreign) members.
  • The biggest single state grouping of new Fellows is from Queensland, with eight new Fellows.
  • Fellows will be admitted during a formal ceremony in Canberra on the afternoon of Monday 23rd of May, during which they will sign the Academy’s Charter Book (alongside names such as Douglas Mawson, Mark Oliphant, Elizabeth Blackwell, Frank Fenner, Suzanne Cory, Brian Schmidt, Peter Doherty, and Ian Frazer).
  • Fellows will make presentations of their work at ‘Science at the Shine Dome’ on Tuesday 24 May.
  • Election to the Fellowship of the Academy is a lengthy and rigorous process, and Fellows are chosen because they are found to be eminent for their scientific attainments and research in natural science, which has advanced the sum of knowledge.
  • The Australian Academy of Science is a not-for-profit organisation of individuals elected for their outstanding contributions to science and research.

To arrange interviews with Professor Bellwood please contact:

Richard Davis

Head of Media and Communications, JCU

0413 451 475