ESA Gold Medal Presentation
Dr Steve Morton is an Honorary Professorial Fellow with Charles Darwin University in Alice Springs. He studied at the Universities of Melbourne, California at Irvine, and Sydney. He joined CSIRO in Alice Springs to work in the desert environment that has long been his focus. Subsequently, from 2000 until 2011, he helped lead CSIRO as Chief of Division and Executive Team member. In 2011 he returned to live in Alice Springs, from where he serves on a variety of boards and committees relating to environmental science and natural resource management.
The honour of receiving ESA’s Gold Medal prompts reflection, condensing into three topics. Firstly, of course, I want to talk about the challenge of doing ecology in the Outback, and its stuttering progress with few people and vast landscapes. This is not a complaint, for the situation is explicable; and yet sometimes I wish it were otherwise. Second, ecology is very much a human activity, although our disciplinary culture seems to highlight only occasionally the importance of colleagues, collaborators, mentors and role modellers. I might mention some people important to me. Finally, ecology is in an interesting space as our continent and the globe continue experiencing the great human acceleration. Our discipline is at its core a science, a dispassionate search for facts unaffected by sentiment – and yet simultaneously it is an expression of a value system favouring greater weighting for the environment in human decision-making. I fear that we are struggling to straddle this contrast. Resolution of the dilemmas lies in future, as the next scientific generations think more deeply about the intersection of ecology and values, and about how the discipline might best contribute to societal need. I leave you with my thanks.