Emeritus Professor ‘Bav’ is going fishing!

Published 29 August 2007

He will ‘miss all the good bits’, like the thrill of winning multi-million-dollar research grants and working with some of the best science minds in the nation, but Professor Peter Baverstock, who retires at the end of the week, is going fishing – ‘and nothing compares with that’.

Professor Baverstock, or ‘Bav’ as he has come to be affectionately known across the University, will leave a huge set of shoes to fill.

As Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research) he has steered the University from an educational institution that had zero research dollars and no PhD research students when he arrived in 1988 (at what was then the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education) to an organisation which today has a total research and research training income of around $20 million per annum and supports the work of about 250 PhD students.

“One of the things I won’t miss is all the administration,” he says with his characteristic wide smile and belly laugh. “I have decided to indulge my main passion while I am still young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it.

“My last day is Thursday and my wife Lizette and I will be in our new house at Hervey Bay next Monday. We already have the boat ‘Our Dream’ up there waiting for us and have found a great house five minutes from the boat harbour.

“Lizette and I are both mad on fishing and we have been going up to Hervey Bay for holidays for many years as it has some of the best fishing and the most beautiful waterways in Australia.”

One of the attributes Southern Cross University is becoming renowned for across Australia and the world is its research activities, and that reputation is in no small measure directly attributable to Bav’s ability to pull in the research dollars and top staff.

Bav will still take on wide-ranging consultancy work while ‘in retirement’ and continue to actively supervise his current PhD students, including Trish and Wally Franklin’s whale research at Hervey Bay.

He says his peak experience during his years of service was the day in 2001 that his team won five Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grants in one fell swoop – CRC GrainFoods, CRC Sugar, CRC Tourism, CRC Molecular Plant Breeding and CRC Desert Knowledge – now bringing in around $6 million dollars of research funding annually.

He also cites the appointment of outstanding research scientist Professor Robert Henry as one of the highlights of his own career: “Enticing a man of that calibre to come and work for us was an incredible thrill and we have enjoyed the most excellent relationship over the years. I will really miss working with Robert as well as all of the amazingly supportive and enthusiastic staff at the Graduate Research College who consistently pull together so well as a team.”

Setting up the Graduate Research College – the first of its kind in Australia – is another milestone of which he is justifiably proud.

Bav is modest about his own personal research achievements but he has researched and published extensively on everything from bats, rats, fish and lizards to whales, dingoes and tapeworms.

He has also had two animal species named in his honour: Baverstock’s Inland Bat (Vespadelus baverstocki) and the anal parasite of the Australian stingray (Parachristanella baverstocki).

“All research is incredibly exciting to me,” he said with infectious enthusiasm. “I have always been interested in nature and after watching TV nature documentaries as a boy I decided that I could have fun and be paid for it by becoming a zoologist.”

Bav went on to establish a career in zoology and genetics with various establishments, including the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science and the South Australian Museum, where he headed the Evolutionary Biology Unit studying Australian animals and their origins, before coming to Southern Cross University.

“Dare to be different” is Bav’s parting message to his Southern Cross University colleagues. “We will never make an impact if we just follow the crowd. We need to be more overtly, consciously and aggressively different across everything we do. We can’t possibly beat the ‘Group of 8’ universities if we try and play their game so we need to be unique and proud of it. Then they will be emulating us.”

At Bav’s farewell Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Clark announced that a research scholarship would be established in Professor Baverstock’s name as a tribute to his significant contribution to the University. The scholarship will be known as the Peter Baverstock Research Career Path Scholarship. He will be further honoured as an Emeritus Professor.

Professor Neal Ryan has been named as the new Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) for the University.

Photo: Wearing his heart on his hat – Professor Peter Baverstock retires from Southern Cross University this week to ‘go fishing’.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley Southern Cross University media officer 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.