Featured News JCU shark physiologist wins prestigious QLD science prize

Media Releases

Fri, 13 Sep 2019

JCU shark physiologist wins prestigious QLD science prize

Two women and a man wearing casual clothes and standing outside underneath trees stand together and smile at the camera
L-R: Dr Stephanie Topp, Dr Jodie Rummer, Dr Andrew Hoey. Photo: Bethany Keats, JCU Media.

A James Cook University scientist who studies sharks has been awarded one of Queensland’s top science prizes - the Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year award.

All up, three JCU scientists have been recognised by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science at its annual Queensland awards ceremony.

Dr Jodie Rummer from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), based at JCU, has been named the Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year, with Dr Stephanie Topp from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM), and Dr Andrew Hoey from Coral CoE also recognised as Young Tall Poppies.

Dr Rummer studies environmental stressors on fish. She says it’s an honour to be recognised.

“I feel like my work is critical, today perhaps more than ever, in helping to identify issues that Australia and the rest of the world are facing with the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems,” she said.

“This award acknowledges that we must go beyond the great science that is being done, beyond the laboratory and lecture halls, and communicate our findings and the significance of our research to the next generation, to our communities, to those who can vote, to our politicians and decision makers, and to the rest of the world so that change can happen.”

Dr Topp says she is thrilled to receive a Tall Poppy Award.

“I see it is a fantastic platform from which to highlight the role of health policy and systems science in improving health services and health outcomes for vulnerable populations in Australia and globally,” she said.

Dr Hoey says the Tall Poppies are a great way of inspiring the next generation of scientists.

“Being named a Queensland Tall Poppy is a huge honour, not only for the recognition of my research but also to join such an outstanding group of previous recipients,” he said. “It provides a platform to celebrate science and inspire younger Australians to pursue a career in science.”

JCU Provost Professor Chris Cocklin has congratulated Dr Rummer, Dr Topp and Dr Hoey on their awards.

“It’s great to see these three researchers recognised for their achievements,” he said. “These awards reflect the high quality of research being conducted at JCU and the University is very proud of their ground-breaking research.”

In previous years, JCU has had significant success in the Young Tall Poppy awards including the 2018 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year, Dr Alana Grech, and the 2014 Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the year, Dr Sue-Ann Watson.

Dr Rummer studies athletic performance in fish, including sharks and rays.

“My team and I use similar technologies to those used for assessing performance in human athletes,” she said. “But our goal is to determine how human-induced stressors, especially climate change, are affecting fish performance and therefore their health and the health of the oceans, as a whole.”

Dr Topp’s research aims to improve the performance and accessibility of health services in remote and low-resource areas with a key focus on health workforce governance.

“I look at the way training, recruitment and work conditions affect the relationship between health workers and their patients, and use a mix of public health, sociology and management sciences to identify problems, and develop solutions,” she said.

Dr Hoey’s research focuses on understanding how coral reefs respond to, and recover from, major disturbances, such as coral bleaching and cyclones, and the roles different fish species play in maintaining a healthy reef system.

“By identifying fish that are critical to maintaining reef health, my research helps managers and reef users make informed decisions around how people use the reef and what fish are needed to maximise reef recovery,” he said.

The annual Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are hosted by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science in partnership with the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.