Fighting climate change through citizen science is a cause close to the heart of IMAS marine ecologist, Professor Gretta Pecl, who was one of four outstanding finalists for the prestigious 2022 Tasmanian Australian of the Year.
Along with Professor Pecl, award finalists included eating disorder recovery advocate Joanne Cook, Indigenous researcher Dr Emma Lee, and documentary filmmaker and journalist Craig Leeson. Congratulations to Craig Leeson, who will now compete for the title of Australian of the Year against other state and territory finalists at the national awards on 25 January 2022.
Professor Pecl said it was an honour to be recognised for her work to establish the Australian citizen science Range Extension Database and Mapping program, Redmap.
“Australia’s oceans are so vast, it’s difficult to collect enough data to demonstrate the effects of climate change – which makes it hard to find solutions to the impact climate change has on marine environments,” she said.
“This is why we established Redmap, which allows the Australian community to help record sightings of marine species that are uncommon in their area.
“We use this data to track and map which Australian marine species are extending their geographic distribution in response to changes in the marine environment, such as ocean warming, and focus our research in these areas.
“Involving citizen scientists in our climate change research has helped us gather far more data on the movements of marine species than many other monitoring approaches would.”
Founded in 2009, Redmap is a platform that allows everyday people to log information about marine species, either on the website or through a smart phone app.
“In its 12-year history, we’ve had input from thousands of recreational fishers, divers, boaties and naturalists – and they’ve all helped scientists understand how warming waters are affecting the distribution of species within our oceans” Prof Pecl said.
“This also raises awareness among lovers of the marine environment of the potential changes to our marine ecosystems, and that’s a key part of fighting climate change.”
Professor Pecl’s work through Redmap is part of a much larger body of research that has led the national and international agenda on understanding global climate-driven species redistribution.
For her leadership in this area, Professor Pecl was nominated as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
She also has the most globally cited paper on species redistribution, has started a conference series on the topic, is ranked 178th on the Reuters Hot List of 1000 most influential climate scientists, and is named in the world’s Top 20 Women Scientists on the same list.
In addition, Professor Pecl is passionate about science communication and women’s participation in science, winning multiple national and international awards for both scientific research and science communication.
“Along with my supportive family and many fabulous colleagues at UTAS, CSIRO and elsewhere that I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to work with, I’d like to thank the many funders and supporters of our research,” she said. “Without you, it wouldn’t be possible.”
Published 29 October 2021