The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are our country’s most comprehensive science prizes. Finalists for the seventeen prizes were announced on Friday, the winners will be announced on the 4th of September. Four finalists related to the landcare/agriculture arena caught my eye this year.
Professor Craig Simmons from Flinders University and National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training is one of the contenders for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science. There are a lot of buzzwords in the description of his entry, as you’d expect for something about leadership, but his Centre’s work to understand and protect Australian groundwater through science and policy deserves a closer look. There’ll be a post here about it sometime this month.
Sustainable agriculture gets its own prize amongst the seventeen – The Caring for our Country Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture – and there are three finalists.
The Cattle Methane Team, NSW Department of Primary Industries and University of New England has been looking at feed efficiency and methane production, and proved that some bulls make better calves than others. I’m going to avoid the temptation to add the inevitable jokes, we’ll probably hear them often enough in the next month. The work these guys have done caught my attention partly because it’s the only focused research result in the group. The others are body-of-work and meta-knowledge -type entries. No less important for that, but harder to pin down because there’s no one thing they’ve made or found out.
The Enrich Project comes out of the Future Farm Industries CRC, CSIRO, University of Western Australia and the South Australian Research and Development Institute. They’re working on using native shrubs as part of sustainable grazing in low-to-medium rainfall areas across southern Australia. I know some individual producers have experimented with this on their own in an attempt to deal with salinity, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Project manages to pull together across the broader field (couldn’t resist).
Then there’s the Transformational Adaptation Research Group, formed by CSIRO and the University of Melbourne. Their research is only a beginning, so I wouldn’t have expected it to appear in this finalist list at all. But what they’re beginning is to work out how to change our agricultural systems, from individual farms to the landscape as a whole, in order to adapt to climate change – and not just little changes. Big changes. Risky ones. Scary ones. They appear to be trying to get past the large quantity of opinion that risky behaviour and major change generates, and winnow out the useful principles. It’s a rather impressive task they’ve set themselves. I look forward to finding out more.
Read more about all the prizes and finalists at http://www.australianmuseum.net.au/2013-Finalists-Eureka