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Turtle researchers win Eureka Prize

Associate Professor James Van Dyke and the 1 Million Turtles Community Conservation Program team were awarded the prestigious prize for their work enabling a hands-on opportunity for the community to help save turtles across Australia.

The program is a joint project between researchers at La Trobe University, Western Sydney University and the University of New England.

Associate Professor Van Dyke, within La Trobe’s School of Agriculture, Biomedicine and Environment, said the win comes after years of collaboration.

“It’s pretty amazing and great recognition for our citizen scientists and to help the turtles across Australia,” Associate Professor Van Dyke said.

1 Million Turtles involves individuals and community groups participating in activities such as turtle habitat construction and restoration, turtle nest protection and fox management.

The TurtleSAT app is at the heart of the highly successful program and enables community members to record their sightings anywhere in Australia, with the data helping to reduce turtle deaths.

Emphasising Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics literacy and First Nations knowledge, the Australia-wide program has influenced policy and saved over 1000 freshwater turtles and 200 nests in 2022 alone.

“The program has changed attitudes toward STEM and has created opportunities for community members to actively learn, participate and contribute to freshwater turtle research and conservation,” Associate Professor Van Dyke said.

Data collected from the tool recently found Sydney’s newest airport in Western Sydney is a prime nesting area for long and short-neck turtles. This has created an opportunity to advocate for proactive planning, integration of turtle-friendly design and recognition of their significance to the environment.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prize is considered one of the nation’s leading science awards honouring excellence across research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

Associate Professor Van Dyke and his team were one of 55 entries to have been shortlisted for 18 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

About the Eureka Prize

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards.

Presented annually in partnership with some of the nation’s leading scientific institutions, government organisations, universities and corporations, the Eureka Prizes raise the profile of science and science engagement in the community by celebrating outstanding achievement.

Since the prizes were established in 1990, more than $4.5 million in prize money and a total of 490 Eureka Prizes have been awarded.

Image L-R: Dr Deborah Bower, Associate Professor James Van Dyke and Associate Professor Ricky Spencer at the awards.


Media

Jess Whitty – j.whitty@latrobe.edu.au, 0481 383 817