Ecologist and Urban Forest Maker Dr Grey Coupland, from Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute, has been selected as a finalist in Australia’s leading science awards, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes.
One of three finalists for the Department of Industry, Science and Resources Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science, Dr Coupland has been recognised for her Miyawaki Forest Outreach Program through which she works with schools and community groups to plant miniature forests in urban settings to restore biodiversity.
Based on a method developed by Japanese botanist Professor Akira Miyawaki, Dr Coupland and citizen scientists plant dense forests using locally indigenous species to help rehabilitate degraded areas.
She guides and mentors the participants as they monitor their forest, learning valuable STEM skills and seeing the tangible impact of their environmental stewardship.
‘Pocket forests’ are now found at primary schools across Perth and Western Australia, with four more being planted this month. And soon the young scientists will connect with peers in the United States and Chile through the Sister Forest program, sharing their journeys as they work to address climate change, one tree at a time.
Dr Coupland said it was fantastic for the program to be recognised at a national level by the scientific community.
“As a restoration scientist, it is very rewarding to see children actively engaged in environmental stewardship and contributing to the greening of our urban environment,” she said.
“It is a joy and a privilege to work with children in planting and then monitoring their forests and teaching them about their vital role in science and restoring ecosystems.”
Australian Museum Director Kim McKay said engaging the public in the wonders and realities of science had never been more vital.
“Our efforts in making science accessible and fascinating can influence the way people view and interact with science,” she said.
“By bringing science into the community, we're not just sharing knowledge but cultivating an informed society that can actively participate in discourse and decision-making around critical scientific matters.”
Dr Coupland said being recognised as a Eureka finalist has inspired her to continue fostering curiosity and love for nature in the younger generation.
“I hope that the program will inspire the next generation of scientists and eco warriors who are and will be a critical voice for our natural world,” she said.
Dr Coupland will attend the official awards ceremony at the museum in Sydney on August 23.