Banksia Foundation

Apr 20
Home The awards Past Awards Mercedes-Benz Australian Research Award Winners
Mercedes-Benz Australian Research Award Winners PDF Print E-mail

 Supported by

Mercedes-Benz logo



Professor Matthew England
University of New South Wales

Professor Matthew England, Co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, is a nationally and internationally renowned expert in the field of climate dynamics.
Professor England explores global-scale ocean circulation and the influence it has on regional climate, large-scale physical oceanography, ocean modeling, and climate processes, with a particular focus on the Southern Hemisphere. Using ocean and coupled climate models in combination with observations, Professor England studies what controls ocean currents and how these currents affect climate and climate variability on time-scales of seasons to centuries.

There has been a great deal of concern about the decline in rainfall over southwest Western Australia (SWWA) and along Australia's east coast in the past few decades. There are also other Indian Ocean rim nations suffering a recent decline in rainfall, notably sub-Saharan Africa. To exacerbate the problem, annual rainfall variations for some of these regions are very large, with changes of up to 70% from one year to the next.

Professor England's research has had a major impact on our understanding of regional rainfall variability and predictability, discovering a distinctive pattern of Indian Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies that characterise SWWA rainfall variations; a region suffering a long-term water crisis. Of vital importance, Professor England and his team have also demonstrated that there is a predictive skill in this ocean-to-rainfall link, leading to improved projecting of SWWA freshwater supply and agricultural viability. Ensemble atmospheric and coupled climate modelling have verified that the SST index significantly improves skill at forecasting SWWA rainfall.

This critical work has enabled Oceanic predictors of drought cycles for Australia and other Indian and Pacific Ocean rim nations, thus providing the science to underpin improved water management practices in Australia, while also making an international impact via improved knowledge of rainfall variability and extremes in neighbouring regions.


Molectra Technologies - QLD

Molectra has been awarded the 2007 DaimlerChrysler Australian Environmental Research Award due to the completed nature of its science and the value of the project to the environment when commercially realised. This solution is innovative, scientifically sound and complete from the environmental aspect, addressing a worldwide environmental issue that has far reaching implications.

It is estimated that around 18 million waste tyres (measured in equivalent passenger units) are generated in Australia each year. The disposal or re-use of waste tyres varies greatly between States and Territories but overall nationally, it is estimated that about 57% of waste tyres go to landfill and 13% are disposed of inappropriately through illegal dumping.

Apart from the costs to the community and local and State/Territory Governments through littering our landscapes and waterways and taking up scarce landfill space, waste tyres are a source of health and environmental concerns; fires in stockpiles can release toxic gases and pollute waterways and tyre stockpiles provide breeding habitats for mosquitoes.  (Source Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Water Resources)

Tyre manufacturers, recyclers and governments are accelerating their efforts to find realistic and commercially viable solutions for the ultimate disposal of pneumatic tyres that have reached the end of their useful life.

In response to this growing urgency for a realistic solution, Molectra Technologies has scientifically developed a process that will:-

  • Reclaim products that make up a tyre
  • Extract the energy stored in tyres to run the whole process
  • Use the extracted by-products at every step to optimise commercial viability.

The Molectra technology has been scientifically designed to tackle every aspect of the waste tyre problem and represents a global solution to this significant waste stream.  This technology has been developed by Molectra Technologies and is based upon the process of molecular transformation utilising microwave technology to transform the molecules.

Unlike all other tyre recycling methods, this technology completely eliminates pollution and disposal problems while extracting valuable commodities to supply to industries.  It has the capacity to process this enormous waste in an energy-efficient, economical and (most importantly) environmentally responsible way.

The technology demonstrates global sustainability by removing this waste from the environment and creating valuable, useful and environmentally beneficial products from all components of the tyre, thus extending the lifecycle of useful materials beyond tyres.

The process produces a range of products including (but not limited to) crumb rubber, steel, plastic fibres, activated carbon, carbon black, diesel, jet fuel, oil and moulded rubber products such as pavers, blocks and rollers.

In response to the growing need to address the problem of the disposal of 18 million waste tyres generated in Australia each year, Molectra Technologies have developed a process of molecular transformation that completely eliminates pollution and disposal problems while extracting valuable commodities from the tyres to supply to industries.


Professor David Lindenmayer
"Ecologically Sustainable Australian Forest Plantations"
The Australian National University - ACT

This award  to Professor David Lindenmayer from the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University, recognises his contribution to the scientific understanding of biodiversity impacts, which will enable best practice plantation management.  Professor Lindenmayer has participated in over fifty seminars and lectures communicating the outcomes of his research and also produced a book "Trees and Biodiversity" together with his colleagues as a guide for Australian farm forestry.  
Following a global trend plantation forests in Australia have grown over the last decades and are expected to have trebled in size between 1995 and 2020.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, the Asia-Pacific region recorded the highest rate of forest plantation development in the world over the past five years. This development helped the region reverse the 1990s' trend of net loss of forest cover into a net gain during the period from 2000 to 2005. These plantation forests are an extremely valuable resource likely to supply an increasing portion of wood and pulp needs for the future. However this positive development still leaves serious concerns about the continuing loss of natural forests and biodiversity.

Maximising short-term economic return from plantations creates pressures for monoculture estates and the replacement of indigenous species with fast growing softwoods. Australia and NZ have just over 1 million hectares of plantations, about 80% of which is in softwoods.

Plantations need to be designed and managed in ways that promote the conservation of biodiversity and their future development must be guided by robust environmental research.

Since 1999, Professor Lindenmayer has undertaken two large scale and multi-faceted programs of research in the Tumut and Nanangroe regions in southern NSW, examining the impacts of different plantation landscapes on birds, mammals, reptiles, frogs, invertebrates, vascular plants and mosses, etc. across 150,000 hectares of forest. 
The large spatial scale of these studies has few parallels elsewhere in the world. The studies have highlighted the importance for many groups of patches of eucalypt forest and woodland retained within plantations. The research work has robustly quantified why it is critical to create plantation landscape mosaics rather than plantation monocultures.  It has provided major new insights on how to design and manage plantations in particular the retention of native vegetation within plantations and streamside restoration.

Over eighty scientific papers have resulted from this work. Over fifty seminars and lectures have communicated the outcomes of the research to relevant bodies. With his colleagues, David Salt and Richard Hobbs, Professor Lindenmayer turned his insights into a book "Trees and Biodiversity" as a guide for Australian farm forestry. 

For more information on Professor Lindenmeyer

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 23:12