Cairns woman in world's top tropical biologist job
A LEADING James Cook University professor has become the first Australian to be elected president of the world's major tropical biology body.
Cairns product and conservation biologist Dr Susan Laurance is the newest president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, a group formed in 1963 to foster the exchange of research among scientists working in tropical environments.
It currently has more than 1200 members from about 80 countries.
Dr Laurance, whose American-born husband Bill Laurance has also held the presidency, developed her love of rainforests while growing up in Edge Hill.
After spending 14 years working in South and Central America, Dr Laurance returned to Cairns in 2009 where she has investigated the impact of droughts on rainforest plants. But she has more recently turned her attention to the threats posed by climate change.
Dr Laurance said the world's tropical rainforests were in a "very difficult position" as they faced the double whammy of agriculture expansion and population growth.
She said she hoped to use the new role to raise awareness of the need to protect the world's tropical rainforests.
Dr Laurance will also oversee the ATBC's annual conference when it comes to Cairns in July 2014, in what is set to be the largest meeting of rainforest biologists ever held in Australia.
JCU Vice-Chancellor Prof Sandra Harding paid tribute to Dr Laurance's appointment, which she said reflected JCU's leadership in tropical research and conservation.
"Her election as leader of this global scientific association reflects her own achievements in this important field," she said.
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Esteemed role: Dr Susan Laurance is the first Australian president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.