As awards contests go, it isn't going to compete with the Emmys, but an Australian scientist has quietly won accolades from the United Nations for building the greatest ecosystem computer model in the world. The scientist -- Beth Fulton -- then followed up that high honor by receiving a top scientific prize in her homeland.
Her creation, Atlantis, is being used around the world -- primarily in Australian and United States coastal waters -- to assess the impact of fishing, global warming and other factors on the health of marine ecosystems that support the major fish species humans depend on.
It was recognized this year by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization as the best in the world, after a review of 20 similar ecosystem modeling platforms.
Fulton is a scientist with the Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, part of Australia's national science agency. Yesterday, she was awarded the Science Minister''s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year. Not a bad achievement for a 34-year-old!
The goal of the Atlantis model is to analyze the various inputs to a marine ecological system -- from fishing nets, pollutants and changes in climate to predator-prey relationships and nutrient fluxes -- in an attempt to predict the effect of various management strategies.
With nearly half the world's big food fish being fished toward commercial extinction, powerful tools like this that confront the complexities of the ocean ecosystem are essential.
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