La Trobe reaches Eureka finals

A team including researchers from La Trobe University has reached the finals of Australia’s leading science awards, the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.

The Burramys Genetic Rescue Team from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Mount Buller Mount Stirling Resort Management and UNSW is a finalist in the Research & Innovation Category – NSW Office of Environment and Heritage for Environmental Research.

The genetically different Mountain Pygmy Possum population of Mt Buller had been isolated for 20,000 years but was facing imminent extinction just ten years after it was discovered.

Through a program called genetic rescue - ‘wild to wild’ cross-breeding of isolated populations of the threatened species - the Burramys Genetic Rescue Team was able to boost genetic variation, resulting in population growth, healthy breeding and improved survival rates. Australia’s first genetic rescue can now become a template for saving other species under threat.

La Trobe University Adjunct Professor Ian Mansergh said he and the Burramys Genetic Rescue team were thrilled to reach the finals of the Eureka Prizes.

“The threatened Mt Buller population of the Mountain Pygmy Possum was saved from extinction through innovative – and at times controversial – science done by the team,” Adjunct Professor Mansergh said.

“To get to the finals of the prestigious Eureka Prizes is great recognition, not only for this project but for conservation science overall.

“The Victorian Government, through what is now DELWP, did a great job in supporting this novel and successful gene pool mixing research. Hopefully this Eureka Prize recognition will lead to support for implementing other critical conservation research done at La Trobe such as the reintroduction of extinct semi-arid mammals,” he said.

About the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

47 finalists were announced today, in the running for one of 16 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes in the categories of Research & Innovation; Leadership; Science Engagement and School Science.

Considered the ‘Oscars’ of Australian Science, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in science and offer more than $160,000 in prize money. Now in their 29th year, the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced at a gala award dinner at Sydney Town Hall on the evening of Wednesday 29 August 2018.

For more information on the 2018 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, visit: https://australianmuseum.net.au/eurekaprizes

ENDS

Media Contact: Claire Bowers – c.bowers@latrobe.edu.au - 9479 2315 / 0437 279 903

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