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Marine ecologist Dr Peter Macreadie has attracted laurels along his whole, short career – almost as prolifically as seagrass attracts carbon.
After only completing his PhD in 2010, Dr Macreadie has just been awarded a Victoria Fellowship delivered by veski. During his time at the University of Technology (Sydney), he was an ARC DECRA fellow, a finalist in the 2011 Eureka “Peoples’ Choice” award, a NSW Tall Poppy and a recipient of a UTS Vice-Chancellor’s Early Career Researcher Excellence Award - among other awards and fellowships.
Dr Macreadie became an Honorary Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in January this year.
“The school has been fantastic in making me feel at home, with the Head of School, Prof Guang Shi, and Director of the Centre for Integrative Ecology, Prof Marcel Klaassen, particularly, being critical in setting me up at Deakin,” he said.
He also acknowledged Professor Rod Connolly (Griffith Uni) and Prof Geoff Wescott, from Deakin, for nominating him for the award.
Dr Peter Macreadie with his proud family - Microbiologist Prof Ian Macreadie, Mrs Jo Macreadie and sister, Ms Rachel Macreadie.
Dr Macreadie’s placement at Deakin marks a return to his home town, where he has spent many summers snorkelling and fishing in Port Phillip Bay - and developing his passion for all things marine.
He completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne, on “fish responses to seagrass habitat fragmentation” and has published 34 papers, spanning microbiology, geology, biochemistry, and marine ecology.
Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer said she was delighted that Dr Macreadie has received a Victoria Fellowship.
“Dr Macreadie’s research promises to make a real difference to coastal management, marine conservation and our ability to adapt to climate change,” she said.
She added that the Victoria Fellowship demonstrates strong Government support for progressive marine and coastal research, which bodes well for the future.
The Victoria Fellowships were established by the Victorian Government in 1998 to "encourage innovation and the commercial application of research" among early career researchers. In 2012, the number of Fellowships was doubled, with up to 12 recipients each year.
The Fellowship will provide Dr Macreadie with a travel grant of up to $18,000 that will allow him to undertake more work on his “Greening the Grey” project, which aims to replace grey infrastructure with green along Victoria’s coastlines.
“This project will help us to replace grey infrastructure, such as seawalls, groins and breakwater systems, which degrade over time, with mangroves and plants that are self-regenerating, low maintenance and appreciate in value over time,” Dr Macreadie said.
He will use his travel grant to visit three of the world’s leading coastal research teams, which are all based in the USA.
“These marine centres, including the Smithsonian “Global Change Research Wetland,” can show us a way forward in wetland research. As part of my trip, I will scope out the feasibility of establishing a similar facility in Victoria,” he said.
“Green infrastructure is gaining momentum around the world, for reducing urban runoff, improving air, soil and water quality, climate adaptation, enhancing fisheries and coastal recreation, and for improving resilience to extreme weather events.”
Dr Macreadie - who is known to colleagues as “Dr Seagrass” - is especially passionate about seagrass, which can be found around the entire coast of Australia.
“Australian seagrass ecosystems are among the most powerful carbon sinks in the world,” he said. “There is estimated to be some 200,000-600,000 square kilometres of seagrass in the world, and around 100,000 kilometres of this exists along the Australian coastline.”
“In Port Phillip Bay we used to bulldoze seagrass because people didn’t like the look of it. It just wasn’t valued. Now we know how important it is for nutrient cycling, shoreline stabilisation, fisheries enhancement, and as a food source for iconic animals such as dugongs and turtles.”
“Even more importantly, seagrass has been storing carbon for millennia. If we start to lose it through degradation and dredging, there is potential for the leaking out of ancient carbon into the atmosphere.”
With such an informed and committed advocate for marine ecology as Peter Macreadie, Australians should feel that the future of our marine life and coastal habitats couldn’t be in safer hands.