Using smell to disguise vulnerable plants, and protecting frogs from fire: 2023 Max Day awards

December 12, 2022
(from left) Shawn Scott from the University of South Australia (photo: Dr Topa Petit), and Patrick Finnerty from the University of Sydney.

Two early-career researchers have each been awarded a 2023 Max Day Environmental Science Fellowship Award for their highly interdisciplinary research work to protect the environment. 


Patrick Finnerty, University of Sydney 

Neighbourhood watch—using ‘virtual’ neighbours to protect plants from herbivores during habitat restoration and post-fire recovery 

Native herbivores are a serious threat to habitat restoration, sniffing out the most palatable native seedlings and preventing them from recovering. Patrick Finnerty aims to protect these plants by building on existing research showing herbivores rely heavily on scent when deciding where to graze. He plans to develop artificial odours to disguise vulnerable plants from browsing damage.  

Shawn Scott, University of South Australia 

Post-fire population response and chytrid occurrence in South Australian frogs  

In Australia, two key processes that threaten the persistence of many frog taxa are modified fire regimes and disease. Using a range of fieldwork techniques and GIS, Shawn Scott’s research will address a significant gap in the understanding of prescribed burn impacts on frogs, with emphasis on the novel relationship between prescribed fire and disease. 

About the award

The Max Day award provides up to $20,000 for early-career researchers working on the conservation of Australia’s flora and fauna, the ecologically sustainable use of resources, and the protection of the environment and ecosystem services. It is named in honour of Academy Fellow, the late Dr Maxwell Frank Cooper Day AO FAA, who spent a lifetime championing entomology, conservation and forestry, as well as helping other scientists.

Applications for the 2024 awards will open in February 2023.

© 2024 Australian Academy of Science