He’s one of Australia’s foremost experts in one of our biggest environmental challenges – and now Flinders University water scientist Professor Craig Simmons has won the coveted SA Scientist of the Year award.
Professor Simmons was lauded for his work on groundwater, a resource of critical importance to the Murray-Darling Basin system, water and food security, mining and the nuclear industry, and coal seam gas and fracking.
He almost singlehandedly put groundwater on the research agenda and established the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, becoming the Inaugural Schultz Chair in Environment at Flinders University in the process.
Science Minister Gail Gago heaped praise on Professor Simmons, stating his outstanding personal contribution was helping to build a prosperous, sustainable Australia.
Professor Simmons’ win coincides with another public honour – being named as Scientist in Residence at The Advertiser, under a program devised by the Australian Science Media Centre to promote public knowledge of Australia’s world-leading research.
Professor Simmons says groundwater depletion and pollution are “huge international issues”.
“Here in Australia, groundwater provides more than 30 per cent of total water consumption and generates national economic activity worth more than $34 billion a year,” he said.
“A myriad of pressing groundwater issues in Australia includes the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the impacts of unconventional gas and hydraulic fracturing and mining, impacts of climate change and role of groundwater in urban and rural water security.
“They all require rigorous groundwater science, management and policy.”
Flinders scientists dominated this year’s SA Science Excellence Awards, claiming every category in which the University had a finalist. The other winners were nanotechnologist Dr Katherine Moore who won both that PhD Research Excellence Award and the People’s Choice award, and theoretical physicist Dr Maria Parappilly who took out the Early Career STEM Educator of the Year – Tertiary Teaching award.
Other finalists from Flinders were Dr Scott Groom (Biological Sciences) and Dr Christiaan Ridings (Chemical and Physical Sciences) in the PhD Research Excellence category.
Flinders scientists also featured in this month’s Unsung Heroes of SA Science awards, with SA Brain Bank curator Robyn Flook taking the main prize, and nanotechnologist Dr Andy Stapleton named the Unsung Hero of Science Communication.
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