Remembering Dr Alec Costin, the father of Australian high mountain ecology

December 01, 2022
Dr Alec Costin AM FAA devoted his life to learning about and protecting Australia’s unique ecosystems.

Academy Fellow Dr Alec Costin devoted his life to learning about and protecting Australia’s unique ecosystems. He was an international authority on the ecology of high mountain and high latitude ecosystems, and made major contributions to the flora of the Snowy Mountains area.

Dr Costin was born on 30 September 1925 and raised in Roseville on Sydney's North Shore. He passed away on 22 August this year at the age of 96.

Dr Costin’s family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Academy’s Shine Dome in October for a memorial to celebrate his remarkable life and significant contributions to Australian science and land management.

According to Charlie Massey, a pastoralist from the Monaro region, his “lifelong research and resultant political fighting were largely responsible for the creation and protection of a number of Australia’s great national parks and the protection of fragile landscapes therein.”

Dr Costin in the Kosciuszko region.

Dr Costin had a direct impact on the formation of national parks, forestry and farming, and helped to convince government boards that mountain catchments were more valuable for water catchments than for livestock grazing.

He consulted with government officials, scientists and farmers to protect some of Australia’s most fragile and vulnerable alpine regions.

“Alec gave his time generously to the Academy, including over two decades of service prior to his election as a Fellow,” Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said.

Deidre Slattery, a fellow ecologist who was mentored by Dr Costin, made the closing remarks.

“Thank you Alec, for the devotion to our shared heritage, and for passing on your deep love and understanding of the mountains to us all.”

Dr Costin was interviewed in 2006 about his career by David Salt on behalf of the Academy. Read the full interview.

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