Trevor McDougall, a University of New South Wales professor was on Monday awarded the top honour at the prime minister’s prizes for science for his contributions to the field of oceanography and research on the ocean’s role in regulating the climate.
McDougall who began studying the ocean in the 1970s said that he was “a bit overawed” by the $250,000 prize.
He said, “I take it more as an acknowledgement of the importance of the field – climate research and oceanography – and also all the people that I’ve worked with over the years,”.
Also, Dr Adele Morrison, an oceanographer at the Australian National University, received the Malcolm McIntosh prize for physical scientist of the year in recognition of her research into the complex system of ocean circulation and its impact on rising sea levels and climate.
Morrison, who studies how warm ocean currents are driving ice melt in Antarctica, said that she hoped she could be “a role model for girls and young women considering a career in science”.
Now in their 23rd year, the prizes are Australia’s most prestigious awards for scientific research, innovation and teaching and McDougall, who is the first in his extended family to go to university – earned a scholarship to complete his PhD at the University of Cambridge, studying ocean mixing processes.
He said that climate breakdown “became [a] clear and present danger” in the years after he finished his studies and In 1988, a decade after McDougall’s PhD was completed, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established.
Later on, he led a group of researchers who changed a 30-year-old definition of heat in the ocean, improving the accuracy of seawater calculations by a factor of 100, an idea which according to him, came while swimming in a freshwater pond.
McDougall was recognised as a companion of the Order of Australia in 2018 for his ocean thermodynamics research.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.