Moran awardees to research attitudes to GM science and Australia’s historical weather records

August 25, 2017
Dr Linden Ashcroft (top) and Ms Kelly McKinley, joint winners of the 2018 Moran Award for History of Science Research

Melbourne climatologist Dr Linden Ashcroft and Adelaide PhD student Ms Kelly McKinley are joint winners of the Australian Academy of Science's 2018 Moran Award for History of Science Research

Dr Ashcroft will use the Moran Award to explore the motivations behind some of Australia's earliest weather observers, while Ms McKinley will explore Australian public attitudes towards genetic modification (GM) from the 1970s to the present.

Dr Ashcroft will work with pre-1900 weather observations to uncover the Australian climate prior to the formation of the Bureau of Meteorology in 1908.

“Historic datasets are vital for understanding the natural variability of our climate and putting human-induced climate change in a long-term context,” Dr Ashcroft said.

“However numerical weather records are only half of the story. Understanding why and how weather observations were taken is a crucial part of assessing data reliability.”

Dr Ashcroft hopes to uncover the motivations behind some of colonial New South Wales' most dedicated weather observers. Learning why they persisted in keeping regular, detailed weather readings for decades in a foreign landscape will help determine the scientific value of their data.

She will examine manuscript material at the State Library of New South Wales and the Sydney Observatory to better understand the dedication of 19th century 'citizen scientists'.

Ms McKinley will use the award towards her PhD project: ‘A history of activism and public attitudes in Australia towards genetic modification (GM) science in agriculture and food production’. The project is part of a larger Australian Research Council grant.

Ms McKinley hopes the exploration of how the Australian public have engaged with GM over time, using archival materials at the National Library, will help inform strategies for civic engagement, science communication and government policy around the issue.

The 2018 Moran Award for History of Science Research is aimed at postgraduate students and other researchers with expertise in the history of Australian science. Its purpose is to support access to archives that record the history of science in Australia, especially by younger researchers. 

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