Young Tall Poppy of the Year 2020

Australian Capital Territory

Dr Aparna Lal

Few of the world’s challenges loom as large as climate and environmental
change. To effectively address this major societal challenge, we need
multidisciplinary and inclusive leadership.
Dr Aparna Lal, with a multidisciplinary science background, is an emerging
international leader in this space. She has two postgraduate degrees in
Wildlife Science and Ecology, a PhD in Public Health, and qualifications in
Environmental Law and Zoology.
Dr Lal convenes the ANU Master of Public Health course “Human Health,
Environment and Climate Change” and is committed to helping young
people understand the connection between environment and health. She
is a driving force behind the integration of environment and climate
change into public health curricula. Her passion for equity and inclusivity
underpins all of her work.
Dr Lal’s public outreach includes visits to schools and conference
appearances to lead workshops or provide a keynote. She regularly
engages with the media to make her science accessible. The many articles
on inequalities of bushfire smoke and sewage surveillance for COVID-19,
which she leads, highlight a central theme of her work: The environment
is key to health.

  • Ecology
  • Public Health

New South Wales

Dr Laura McCaughey

Antibiotics are the cornerstone of modern medicine. Without them things like chemotherapy, routine surgeries and organ transplants couldn’t be performed. Even a simple cut could once again become life-threatening. Worryingly, antibiotics are already no longer working against a huge range of bacteria because the bacteria are always changing and evolving to ‘fight off’ and resist the antibiotics effects. Dr McCaughey aims to understand how a group of protein antibiotics, called pyocins, work to kill bacteria. By doing so, she hopes to advance these new antibiotics through clinical trials to the mass market, providing an alternative strategy for treating multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. Laura’s public outreach includes blogs, articles, radio interviews, podcasts and public talks, as well as being the project manager of Soapbox Science Sydney. This large scale public event promotes all STEMM disciplines, showcases researchers from across Australia and aims to impact on all sectors of society through its fun and accessible format.
Laura received her PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2015 and is currently a Sir Henry Wellcome Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney.

  • Immunology


A/Prof Celine Frere

My research helps threatened and protected native Australian animals impacted by environmental change.
For example, I co-founded Detection Dogs for Conservation at USC. Our team gives rescue dogs a job by using them to ‘sniff-out’ koalas and other hard-to find animals. We train them to locate live animals and scats (poo) which allows us find out where animals move when feeding and looking for mates. We work closely with government, and international partners such as the International Fundfor Animal Welfare and WWF to preserve vulnerable koala populations and their habitat.
I also lead several projects that track individual animals and their offspring across generations to look at the impact of environmental change. For example, my work in Shark Bay Western Australia, (under a study which has tracked the same dolphin families for 30+ years), has shed light on the impacts of tourism practices, like hand-feeding. My decade-long study of lizards in the middle of Brisbane’s Central Business District has shown that city-dwelling lizards have evolved in just 30 generations, possibly to account for the urban landscape.

  • Evolutionary Biology


Dr Andrew Flies

Cancer is a problem that affects all animals, ranging from humans to Tasmanian devils whose population has plummeted in the past 20 years due to a contagious cancer. His research tracks successful human cancer immunotherapies and engineers them for diagnostic and therapeutic tools in other animals. His pioneering work in wild and comparative immunology has improved our understanding of immune evasion by cancer and the marsupial immune system, and is accelerating progress towards a vaccine to protect devils from cancer.
He is co-founder of Science in the Pub Adelaide in 2014 and Science in the Pub Tasmania in 2015 which have been holding monthly science outreach events have engaged thousands of people with Australian scientists.
Andy’s outreach includes public talks for the University of Tasmania Science Worth Seeing event, International Day of Immunology, Peppermint Bay public talk series, Beaker Street science festival, Science March, and over 20 radio and TV interviews. He has created a custom “Fluorobox” which shows how the fluorescent proteins made in the laboratory are developed and how they are used to study the immune system and has been at several science events since 2017.
He is currently and ARC DECRA fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania.

  • Immunology

Western Australia

A/Prof Hayley Christian

One in five Australian children aged 2-4 are overweight or obese. Physical activity is a critical strategy for combating rising childhood obesity. A/Prof Christian’s multidisciplinary team focuses on turning challenges into opportunities to make a positive difference to children’s health and wellbeing through promoting more active childhoods. She works closely with families and children, government, non-government organisations, professional bodies and the private sector to uncover the best environments, policies and programs to facilitate physically active lifestyles for children’s lifelong health and wellbeing.
A/Prof Christian’s research involves interventions focused on the child, the family, and social and built environment. This includes strategies to create healthy early childhood education and care environments, identifying how the home and neighbourhood environment shapes children’s health and development, and ways to increase children’s physical activity through active play and walking with the family dog.
A/Prof Christian actively communicates her research through a variety of innovative mechanisms including mainstream media, social media and community presentations.
A/Prof Christian is Head of the Child Physical Activity, Health & Development team at the Telethon Kids Institute, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Western Australian and a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow.

  • Child Health and Wellbeing

South Australia

Dr Kylie Dunning

One of the greatest challenges for IVF clinics is identifying which embryos are suitable for transfer back into the patient’s womb. The current gold-standard technologies include taking a small number of cells from the embryo (a biopsy), then sequencing the DNA to confirm that the embryo has the predicted number of chromosomes. As well as being invasive, this procedure is inaccurate.

Dr Dunning is developing new technologies that overcome the need for a cell biopsy, and instead, using light to take a non-invasive, “molecular photo”. This revolutionary procedure involves shining gentle doses of light upon an embryo and using the scattered light that comes back to reveal the intricacies of its biochemistry, providing insight into the health of the embryo.

Dr Dunning’s engagement activities include: presentations to >1000 primary and secondary school students, hosting high school student visits to her laboratory and invited talks to Rotary clubs.

Dr Dunning PhD was awarded in 2008 from the University of Adelaide. She is currently a Hospital Research Foundation Mid-Career Fellow at the University of Adelaide.

  • Reproductive Biology

Northern Territory

Dr Carla Eisemberg

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Dr Eisemberg’s research focuses on relationships between wildlife ecology, harvest and conservation practices to assist communities to manage their resources. Wild meat is an important source of nutrients to remote communities. However, changes in harvesting technology and accessibility have increased the pressure on these resources.

Her research on the northern long-necked turtle has showed that its meat has an extremely high concentration of Iron. The results of her research have the potential to influence future health programs addressing anaemia, as well as an inspiration for indigenous enterprises in remote communities, such as turtle farming and sustainable harvest.

Dr Eisemberg also studies wildlife conservation and management practices in Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Brazilian Amazon. By comparing areas located in different regions of the globe but similar in weather and remoteness, her research identifies patterns and solutions towards wildlife conservation through local economic benefits and sustainable use.

  • Ecology


A/Prof Yuming Guo

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Global environmental change is unprecedented in scale. Human health is a crucial bottom-line indicator of the impacts of global environmental change on human communities.
However, a big challenge is to understand how environmental conditions and large-scale changes, especially at both local and global level, influence and perhaps determine the health outcomes for whole communities and populations over a long timeframe, because of the data availability and modelling complexity. Dr Guo is enthusiastic about open science, big data analysis, and collaboration. For example, he leads the establishment of the Asia Pacific Cohort Consortium for Environmental Health Effects, which involves 25 cohorts (about 6 million individuals) from 10 countries.
Dr Guo’s current research focuses on development of novel study designs for individual and small-area analyses, use of novel remote sensing and mobile technologies in epidemiology, spatiotemporal modelling of environmental exposures and risks, and projections for health impacts of global environmental change.
Dr Guo completed his PhD at Queensland University of Technology in 2012, and is currently a Professor of Global Environmental Health and Biostatistics at Monash University.

  • Climate Science