Great Barrier Reef Research Program Director Dr Britta Schaffelke was today awarded the 2022 AIMS medal by CEO Dr Paul Hardisty.
Originally a German student researcher studying kelp beds in the 1990s, Dr Schaffelke’s life took a turn during a scientific dive course when she met her future life partner, who was embarking on a master’s thesis on Lizard Island, and she also fell in love with coral reefs.
She joined the “AIMS family” in 2005 and has spent the past 17 years focused on the research and management of environmental impacts on the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical ecosystems, especially those related to deteriorating marine water quality.
Dr Schaffelke said she had witnessed the evolution of AIMS research from observation and understanding to exploring ways to apply that knowledge, particularly to the impacts of climate change.
“A big part of AIMS’ success is that our research and science is long-term and largescale,” she said.
“It is foundational and provides the context for a lot of other studies.”
AIMS also played an important role in forming partnerships with other organisations to work on big questions together.
“The project that most defined me was being part of the marine monitoring program,” she said.
“Then in 2016 we started discussing the prospect of marine restoration.
“I think what keeps inspiring me is the knowledge that our work matters, that AIMS’ science is making a difference.”
Dr Schaffelke said she saw herself more as a facilitator than “the star” and was honoured and humbled to receive the award.
“It means a lot to me,” she said.
“My achievements would not have been possible but for the people I have worked with throughout my years at AIMS. That we are all working together as a team sets AIMS apart from other places. It makes all the difference.”
Dr Hardisty said Dr Schaffelke had had an undeniable impact both within AIMS and with external stakeholders.
“Britta has had significant science output and is a recognised leader, trusted advisor and mentor, a member of numerous advisory and steering committees, and was instrumental in establishing gender equity initiatives at AIMS,” he said.
“She has delivered outputs that translate to real-world Reef impact.”
The AIMS medal recognises the outstanding, sustained, and enduring commitment of a staff member to excellence, and the exemplification of AIMS values.
It is the second time the medal, presented biannually, has been awarded since its inauguration in 2020.
Dr Hardisty said this year’s award was significant in that it was also AIMS’ 50th Anniversary Year.