Professor Cath Lovelock awarded AAS Suzanne Cory Medal

Professor Cath Lovelock has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to science by the Australian Academy of Science, which awarded her the esteemed Suzanne Cory Medal in March 2023.

The Suzanne Cory Medal is an honorific award that is awarded in alternate years in the biomedical sciences and in all of the biological sciences excluding biomedical sciences. It recognises career-long achievement.

Cath is a leading global expert on the impacts of climate change on coastal wetlands and the role of coastal ecosystems in mitigating climate change.

She said she was pleasantly surprised to hear the news that she had received the medal.

“I’m so pleased to have the platform to talk about the importance of coastal wetlands and their conservation and restoration for the benefit of coastal societies,” Cath said.

“It’s fabulous to be recognised by my peers and wider community for my contributions to science.”

Why coastal wetlands matter

Cath’s research focuses on the influence of environmental change, namely climate change, on coastal and marine ecology, with a particular interest in plant communities, such as mangroves.

“I’m an ecologist, meaning I look closely at how ecosystems work and how all the different parts – whether it’s plants, insects, frogs or crocodiles – work together,” Cath said.

“I’ve been working to explore the vulnerability of mangroves and saltmarshes to climate change, and also how these ecosystems can help us adapt to climate change, particularly through their role as blue carbon.

“This acknowledgement reflects how science has propelled coastal ecosystems into being globally recognised as important for resilience of the coastal zone.”

Blue carbon innovation

Cath is a member of the International Blue Carbon Scientific Working Group. Blue carbon refers to carbon captured by the world’s oceans and coastal ecosystem. Seagrasses, mangroves and saltmarshes all act as carbon sinks. They may be much smaller in size than forests but they sequester carbon at a much faster rate. Cath has played a key role in setting up a market-based blue carbon method in Australia.

“That means a farmer who has an underperforming paddock along the coast can turn that back into a coastal wetland, let’s say a saltmarsh or a mangrove, and receive Australian carbon credit units that they can sell.”

Cath cautions, however, that blue carbon is not a silver bullet and that the primary way to fight climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Close to home

"I love to work in Moreton Bay,” Cath said. “Moreton Bay is right on our doorstep, and it’s a fabulous place that has everything from dugongs to turtles to sharks all the way through to huge developments down at the Gold Coast for tourism. So, it all happens in this one area.

“And we’ve got the Olympics coming! What story do we want to tell about how wonderfully well Australia can manage its ecosystems such that we can have human activity and we can have those ecosystems and all the gorgeous creatures that are in them and around them at the same time?”


Watch this Australian Academy of Science video of Professor Cath Lovelock discussing her work.

Image above: Beautiful Moreton Bay, on our doorstep, is also home to a huge range of wildlife and coastal ecosystems. Photo: NASA

Project members

Professor Catherine Lovelock

School of the Environment
ARC Laureate Fellow