Ecosystem modeller Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas has been named Tasmania’s Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year for her work in communicating science.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas, who works at the Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, received the prestigious award last night at the Australian Institute of Policy and Science Young Tall Poppy Awards ceremony.

The Young Tall Poppy Science Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of Australia’s young scientific researchers and communicators. The Award winners become known as ‘Tall Poppies’ and are encouraged to take part in education and community outreach programs. Many become role models as they share their passion for science with the broader community.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas said she considered communication a key element of her work.

“Probably the biggest buzz I get from the work I do is communicating my research and I strongly believe that it is a fundamental component of our role as scientists,” Dr Melbourne-Thomas said.

“I really care about whether people understand my message, and seeing that transformation when an audience truly wants to listen and learn is incredibly fulfilling.”

With seventy percent of the planet’s surface covered by water, society depends on the oceans for a broad range of resources and services. Yet the underwater environment is difficult to observe and understand.

Building ecosystem models as ‘flight simulators’ is a powerful approach when it comes to evaluating what marine ecosystems might look like in the future.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas’ research uses these models to simulate and test different management strategies and to help determine what’s driving change in particular components of the system. These results can then inform where and how to best coordinate and invest in further research and monitoring.

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Dr Nick Gales, said the Award was well deserved.

“Jess understands the importance of clear science communication and prides herself on tailoring her presentations in a way that generates both understanding and enthusiasm from her audiences,” Dr Gales said.

“As an influential scientist and communicator, Jess is an important role model, particularly for women, and I am sure she will encourage many young people into the exciting and fulfilling world of science.”

“I congratulate her on this prestigious recognition and look forward to the contribution she will make as Tasmania’s ‘Tall Poppy'.”

Dr Andrew Constable, who supervisors Dr Melbourne-Thomas at both the Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, nominated her for the Tall Poppy Award.

“Jess has a strong national and international reputation for applying knowledge and scientific skills to the development of cutting-edge tools that are used to evaluate and communicate threats to ecosystems.

“These tools include mathematical ecosystem models, qualitative network models and statistical assessments, all of which have a have a strong influence on policies for the wise use of the marine environment.”