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Australian Academy of Science honours marine science Professor


Sharlene King
28 February 2019
Isaac Santos

The Australian Academy of Science, the nation’s peak science body, has awarded its prestigious 2019 Anton Hales Medal for distinguished research in the Earth Sciences to Professor Isaac Santos from Southern Cross University.

Professor Santos is among 20 of this country’s leading scientists and early to mid-career researchers recognised for their outstanding contribution to science by the Australian Academy of Science.

Southern Cross University is the only regional university represented in the Academy’s 2019 honorific awards.

Professor Santos’ research focuses on how groundwater seepage influences water quality in estuaries and the coastal ocean. To advance his field, Professor Santos has developed unique infrastructure and built a large research team at the University’s National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour.

The Anton Hales Medal is given annually by a panel of distinguished scientists to an Australian researcher 10 years after PhD completion.

Professor Santos said he was deeply honoured to have his work recognised by peers.

“The Australian Academy of Science is our peak body. Winning this medal shows that we can punch well above our weight while working at Southern Cross University in regional Australia.

“This medal is a testament to the ingenious and hard work by a large group of students and colleagues who share my struggles and victories. All the work I do is a team effort.”

A Brazilian oceanographer who was awarded his PhD in the USA, Professor Isaac Santos relocated to Australia in 2009 to start work at Southern Cross. In his 10 years at Southern Cross, Professor Santos has won 17 prestigious Australian Research Council grants and multiple international awards. He has a large network of international collaborators and has worked all over Australia and overseas.

Professor Santos’ research has revealed how groundwater releases soil carbon to surface waters and eventually the atmosphere in coral reefs, wetlands, estuaries, mangroves, and beaches. His research has influenced not only academic circles, but also public opinion and is helping to manage and preserve valuable Australian coastal waterways.

One of Professor Santos’ award nominators Professor Bill Burnett, Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State University, said: “Isaac has an impact outside of his own field because of his approach to science. He understands that problems need to be investigated from different sides. He lets any problem lead him wherever it goes and does not feel constrained to stay within his discipline.”

Professor Santos will collect his medal in May 2019 at a ceremony in the Shine Dome in Canberra. Watch a video featuring his work


World’s best researchers based at National Marine Science Centre

Southern Cross University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Mary Spongberg said she was thrilled and delighted for her colleague.

“Isaac’s water quality research has had a major impact on regional communities and the environment, while inspiring his global scientific community,” Professor Spongberg said.

“This award is further demonstration of Southern Cross’ research excellence. We have the highest rank of 5 for research rated as ‘well above world standard’ in Oceanography in the federal government’s Excellence in Research for Australia assessment.

“Isaac is recognised not only for his skills as an outstanding Earth scientist, but also for his contribution to the broader community and for inspiring the next generation. He is an exceptional educator, always blending his research into teaching, sharing his best projects with our students.”


Study alongside world leaders in marine science

From 2019 Southern Cross University offers the Bachelor of Marine Science and Management degree at the National Marine Science Centre facility in Coffs Harbour. Students rub shoulders with world leaders in the multiple sub-disciplines of Marine Science while accessing the living laboratories of the Coffs Coast and Solitary Islands Marine Park.