TASMANIAN BOTANIST Professor Brad Potts has been awarded the 2008 Clarke Medal for his cutting edge research on the evolutionary biology and breeding of eucalypts. The Clarke Medal has been awarded by the Royal Society of New South Wales since 1878 for distinguished research in natural sciences performed in Australia and its territories and rotates through geology, botany and zoology.
Potts is Professor of Forest Genetics at the University of Tasmania’s School of Plant Science and a world leader in eucalypt biology. He has contributed to ground-breaking work on understanding the evolutionary processes by which eucalypts respond to changing environments as well as their conservation genetics. He specialises in the genetics of the Tasmanian blue gum and has undertaken significant genetic research to back the breeding programs of eucalypts for both pulp and solid wood products. His fundamental research has been supported by the Australian Research Council and he has also worked closely with the forest industry through various Co-operative Research Centres headquartered in Hobart.
“It is important to remember that scientists these days rarely research alone and this award is a reflection of the fantastic group of collaborators and students I have worked with over many years,” Professor Potts said.
Professor Potts is a graduate of the University of Tasmania and has worked there since completing his doctorate in 1983.
The University of Tasmania has a long history in eucalypt genetic and evolutionary research which was started in the 1930s and was expanded in the 1950s through the work of Professors Newton Barbour and Bill Jackson. Professor Potts said his research had built on this foundation through the long-standing support and excellent research environment provided by the School of Plant Science.
“While great advances in our understanding of our eucalypt gene pools have been possible through both DNA and statistical approaches over the last decade, with a eucalypt genome currently being sequenced by the US Department of Energy and to be released into the public domain, we are at the threshold of a new understanding of this iconic Australian tree,” he said.
Professor Potts considered that one of the big challenges now for Australian forest geneticists was to work with the international groups exploring the eucalypt genome to enhance the flow of information back to Australia for the benefit of the Australian industry as well as the conservation and management of our native eucalypt genetic resources.