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All boom and no bust for bird book

A leading CSIRO ornithologist will receive the nation's most prestigious zoological award for his contribution to the field at a ceremony in Sydney tonight.

Australian National Wildlife Collection Director Dr Leo Joseph is one of three co-editors of Boom & Bust: Bird stories for a dry country to be awarded the 2009 Whitley Medal for publications dealing with the promotion and conservation of Australasian fauna.

"It is an honour to be recognised with the Whitley Medal and I would like to pay tribute to the co-editors and chapter authors who worked tirelessly to weave together such a wonderful collection of research-based stories of Australian birds," Dr Joseph from CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems said.

Co-editors Libby Robin and Robert Heinsohn from the Fenner School of Environment and Society will also receive the Royal Zoological Society of NSW's award, as will CSIRO Publishing.

"Boom & Bust is really a book that anyone can read and learn about how some of our hardy birds have survived, adapted and even thrived while others have died out amid the boom and bust cycles of the Australian bush," Dr Joseph said.

Experts in fields such as ornithology, biology, ecology, archaeology, palaeontology, history, social science and Indigenous linguistics contributed chapters to Boom & Bust.

Inspired and enabled by the extensive collection of bird specimens at the Australian National Wildlife Collection, Dr Joseph wrote a chapter on the evolutionary and environmental development of woodswallows.

"The evolutionary footprint in DNA sequences reveals how masked and white-browed woodswallows appear to have undergone major population booms during their history," Dr Joseph said.

The remarkable story of the Zebra Finch or 'little Aussie battler' that is thriving in some of Australia's harshest conditions is told by CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems' former Chief, Steve Morton, who is now CSIRO Group Executive, Manufacturing, Materials and Minerals.

Former CSIRO biologist, Julian Reid describes the uncanny success of pelicans despite uncertainty and sporadic inland flooding.

Presentations will take place at the Whitley Awards ceremony at the Australian Museum in Sydney tonight.

Named after Gilbert Whitley, an eminent Australian ichthyologist, the Whitley Medal is the highest ranked of the Whitley Awards presented by the Society and is reserved for work of outstanding quality that makes a landmark contribution to zoological knowledge.


Contact: Roger Nicoll
CSIRO Australia

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All boom and no bust for bird book
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