Issue 4
Monday, 28 May 2018
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Dr Alan Andersen has become the first Territorian to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science
Dr Alan Andersen has become the first Territorian to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

University's ant man honoured


CDU Professorial Fellow Dr Alan Andersen has become the first Territorian to be elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Dr Andersen, the world’s leading ant community ecologist, was one of 21 scientists acknowledged for their outstanding contribution to science.

“Australia is a global centre of ant diversity,” Dr Andersen said. “We probably have about 10 000 ant species but the vast majority are undescribed; in fact, never before been collected, which is quite remarkable for such an important group of little creatures.

“One of my pet interests throughout my career has been to document the true extent of ant diversity in Australia.”

Dr Andersen has had a number of species named after him.

“I have had about six,” he said. “A couple of them are really quite interesting with fascinating stories.

“One of them, Colobopsis anderseni, belongs to a group of ants that nest in the hollow twigs of trees furthest out to sea, which means that every tidal cycle, they get flooded by the tide. This particular group of ants is really unusual in that there’s a specialised worker that has a plug head, a cork-shaped head – it looks remarkably just like a cork – which it uses to plug the nest entrances to stop the tide from coming in, which is pretty amazing.”

The new Fellows’ pioneering contributions also include: revolutionising the way e-waste is recycled; changing the way we think about carbohydrate foods; research that led to the detection of gravitational waves; and new insights into how the immune system may be harnessed to devise new therapies for cancer and other diseases.

From 23 founding Fellows in 1954, the election this year brings the total number of living Fellows to 568. They join a prestigious group including six Nobel Prize winners and luminaries such as Sir Mark Oliphant, Professor Nancy Millis, Sir Douglas Mawson, Professor Frank Fenner and Sir David Attenborough.