20 Jun 2024

Graeme Batley: Winner of SETAC Founders Award 2024

Jenny Stauber

I am delighted that Graeme Batley, CSIRO, Sydney, Australia, is the recipient of the SETAC Founders Award for 2024. I have worked with Graeme in our Lucas Heights, Sydney CSIRO laboratory for over 40 years, during which time he has been a strong mentor of staff and students and an amazing ambassador for SETAC and environmental science in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Throughout his career, Graeme has embraced interdisciplinary science, having trained initially as an analytical chemist, before expanding his research to include environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, risk assessment and environmental management. His publications with Mark Florence in the 1970s were at the forefront of the then rapidly developing new area of dynamic metal speciation. His exceptional knowledge and understanding of water quality issues, metal speciation, bioavailability and ecotoxicology have contributed substantially to the development of water and sediment quality guidelines in Australia and New Zealand. Graeme co-developed the guideline methodology as Chair of the Toxicants Working Group and co-wrote or reviewed much of the guideline documentation. He presented over 50 lectures on the guidelines approach at workshops around Australia and New Zealand. These guidelines not only give regulators the tools they need to ensure water quality is protected, but also assist industry to ensure their social and environmental licence to operate.

Graeme has used his exceptional knowledge and communication skills in many applied studies, which themselves have been a model to others on how to use cutting edge science to solve real world problems for the mining, chemical, resources and water industries. Graeme is well known as an impartial and trusted advisor to governments, state agencies, industry and the community on a broad range of environmental issues. He has led or participated in a large number of national and international advisory committees dealing with complex issues including contaminant impacts on water quality, risk assessment for the resources industry and sediment dredge disposal. He is an exceptional networker and communicator who can converse at all levels with a diverse range of scientists, students, regulators and the public. He is sought after as a collaborator due to his exceptional expertise and personable nature.

Graeme has authored hundreds of highly cited papers in analytical and environmental chemistry. His 471 research papers and book chapters have been cited over 21,150 times (Google Scholar) (ISI h-index: 51; Google Scholar h-index: 67). His work in the area of sediment quality assessment was recognized when he was joint winner of Australia’s Eureka Prize for Land and Water Research in 2006 and co-recipient of the CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement. Graeme has received numerous other national and international awards including the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Analytical Chemistry Medal in 1991 and the RACI Environment Medal in 1995. In 2022, he received the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘significant service to environmental toxicology and chemical science.’

Graeme has been instrumental in raising the profile of SETAC and its outreach in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. He was the Foundation President of SETAC Asia-Pacific from 1997–2003, served on the SETAC Asia Pacific Board until 2011, and has served on many SETAC committees including on the IEAM editorial board, the Global Awards Committee and conference organizing committees. In recognition of his tireless work for SETAC over many decades, in 2016 he was awarded the SETAC Asia-Pacific Lifetime Achievement Award and received the SETAC Presidential Citation for Exemplary Service. All these activities demonstrate his strong commitment to volunteerism and professional service, which he has instilled in all his staff and students.

Graeme has been a strong role model and mentor of staff and students over many years. At CSIRO Environment in Sydney, he built a very strong research team and, to his great credit, was able to share his enthusiasm and passion for science. For example, Graeme instigated an industrial training scheme for undergraduate analytical chemists and ecotoxicologists, who undertook 12 months of training in our Lucas Heights Laboratories. Over 75 students participated in this program over 20 years, and many have gone on to senior positions in government and industry worldwide. Under his leadership the group has supervised over 100 exceptional Honors and post-graduate students, even though this was not part of his or CSIRO’s role at the time. This raised the profile of the group, which had an enviable research reputation worldwide in the fields of environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology and risk assessment.

The SETAC Founders Award is a fitting recognition of Graeme’s distinguished career with CSIRO. Graeme has achieved the highest level in science, both academically and through his service and leadership within the wider scientific and SETAC community. Congratulations, Graeme!

Author’s contact: [email protected]