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Mass extinction and evolution expert welcomed into Australian Academy of Science

Media release

Curtin University’s internationally renowned organic geochemist Professor Kliti Grice has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Grice leads the Western Australian Organic & Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC) in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Curtin and is a specialist in the area of mass extinction and evolution of life.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry explained Professor Grice is especially well known for identifying a geological and environmental basis for the largest mass extinction of life in Earth’s history, which happened at the end of the Permian Period, around 252 million years ago when the supercontinent Pangea was formed.

“Professor Grice’s outstanding research has also uncovered interesting and intriguing insights into the Devonian and Triassic/Jurassic extinction events. Her reputation has attracted many national and international PhD and postdoctoral scholars to the field of earth sciences and geochemistry at Curtin,” Professor Terry said.

“She uses chemistry, geology, biology, sophisticated analytical tools and palaeontology in her inter-disciplinary research to reconstruct palaeo environments and analyse climate changes, to explore and understand massive catastrophes in the geological past.

“It is with great pride that we acknowledge, congratulate and welcome Professor Grice as the University’s newest Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.”

Professor Grice and her team also work heavily in the applied energy space, including the exploration and the processes that lead to the formation of major petroleum reservoirs in Australia and overseas.

Professor Grice said that she works largely on four mass extinction events of life throughout Earth’s history, including the event that led to the demise of non-avian dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.

“Someone once said to me, ‘That must be very depressing, working on extinction events, when life gets destroyed,'” Professor Grice said.

“But the whole of evolution episode associated with extinctions is very exciting. For instance, the more resistant and advanced life forms that survive can subsequently flourish in pulses of exceptional evolutionary expansion, or exciting new life forms evolve. If we didn’t have extinctions, life on Earth today would not be as we know it.

“Extinction also relates to climate change, and what we can learn from the past can help prepare us, to some degree, for challenges associated with future climate change.”

This year, 21 new Fellows were inducted into the Australian Academy of Science, taking the total number of living Fellows to 568. They join a prestigious group, which includes six Nobel Prize winners and luminaries including Sir Douglas Mawson and Sir David Attenborough.

“I’m honoured that my peers have nominated me as a Fellow and I believe this accolade also reflects the complimentary research contributions of a large cohort of Australian and international collaborators that I have had the good fortune to work with,” Professor Grice added.

“I am especially grateful to my Curtin teams including the many inspiring students and early career researchers who bring great enthusiasm and energy to our research program.”

Professor Grice also stressed the importance of science research in our everyday lives, and hopes to inspire future generations of students to continue to ask questions and pursue answers.

“Science matters. Everything we do, every day, is related to science,” Professor Grice said.

“Of course research can be challenging and not all experimental investigations work out but it is important to remain curious and pursue research projects with determination and persistence in search of greater clarity to the questions, ideas and hypotheses that warrant attention.”

The new Fellows will be formally inducted into the Australian Academy of Science at the Shine Dome in Canberra this evening (22 May).