Adriana Vergés - 2019 Winner
Associate Professor Adriana Vergés is an innovative and inspiring thought leader in the field of marine conservation. Using the arts, digital storytelling and effective use of social media, she has very successfully raised the profile of marine research at UNSW and beyond. Her leadership has clearly impacted the wider community through science communication at public events and impact on policy. Her approach challenges the usual way that research is conducted, and this has been recognised by government awards and received very strong interest from donors.
Her ability to turn ideas into action is proven by the success of Operation Crayweed, a project designed to restore lost seaweeds to the Sydney coast.
Adriana leads the amazing Operation Crayweed which has restored crayweed forests to the shallow waters off Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, long ago lost to sewage outfall. She also led the Grand Challenge event bringing scientists and screen writers together to plan, pitch and write climate fiction or “cli-fi”.
Thought leadership is what universities should be all about. I'm glad we're encouraged to go beyond disciplinary expectations, think more broadly and place emphasis on actual impact and reaching out to people.
The world is not responding fast enough to the threat of climate change. Part of the reason is that the public doesn't fully understand the dimension of the problem. So how about we try to use fiction? I organised a ‘cli-fi’ workshop to bring together climate scientists and screenwriters to workshop story ideas with a grounding in climate science. It's when people's hearts and emotions are touched that they really open up to new ideas.