Media release: New Director of Australian Museum Research Institute

Expert in wildlife genomics, Dr Rebecca Johnson, has been appointed as Director of AMRI.

Dr Rebecca Johnson

Dr Rebecca Johnson
Photographer: James Morgan © Australian Museum

TUESDAY 31 MARCH 2015: Australian Museum Executive Director and CEO Kim McKay AO today announced Dr. Rebecca Johnson as its new Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI). Dr. Johnson is the current Head of the Australian Museum’s Centre for Wildlife Genomics and has been acting in the AMRI Director role since January of this year.

Dr. Johnson brings over 18 years experience to the role as a molecular geneticist in Australia and the USA, including 11 years with the Australian Museum. Pioneering wildlife forensic science, in 2012 Dr. Johnson established the Australian Museum’s Centre for Wildlife Genomics, a leader in the Australasian region and came to global attention as co-founder of the Koala Genome Consortium which sequenced the genome of the koala for the first time in 2013.

“Dr. Johnson’s vision for the Australian Museum Research Institute combined with her proven ability to communicate science made her the obvious candidate. I congratulate Dr. Johnson and welcome her to this significant role, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with her to achieve our ambitious goals to be the premier Museum in Australia and the Pacific.” Kim McKay said.

“Rebecca brings extensive knowledge and experience of science and education, combined with an understanding of the business management of this complex organisation,” McKay said.

Chair of the Australian Museum Trust, Catherine Livingstone AO described Dr. Johnson as a talented, energetic, and innovative leader who is deservedly respected by her peers.

“Dr. Johnson is a superbly qualified leader and committed to engaging the broadest possible audience in scientific discoveries and stewardship of the Australian Museum Research Institute.”

AMRI’s purpose is to understand and respond to challenges facing our planet. The research focuses on four key areas: the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, pest species, animal conservation and application of wildlife genomics.

“I am honoured to be appointed to this role at the Australian Museum Research Institute. My vision is to build on our leading research to ensure the Museum’s place as the premier scientific and education institute in our region. We want to be the first place the scientific and education communities, and the broader public, engage with about natural science,” said Dr. Johnson.

Bringing together a team of 70 scientists and more than 100 associates, fellows and students, in the last year alone, AMRI has described over 104 new species, and contributed to 112 scientific publications. Dr. Johnson will also be responsible for the Lifelong Learning division of the Museum; more than 35,000 students took part in education programs in 2014.

Dr. Merlin Crossley, a member of the Australian Museum Trust and Dean of Science at the University of NSW endorsed the appointment of Dr. Johnson.

“This appointment represents a new era for the Museum, and I believe Dr. Johnson is the right person to lead AMRI in developing and implementing its ambitious plans,” he said.

AMRI’s research is underpinned by the Australian Museum’s collection of more than 18 million objects ranging from mammals, birds, fish, marine invertebrates, entomology and malacology as well as earth sciences and Indigenous cultural treasures. AMRI also owns and operates the world renowned Lizard Island Reef Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef.

Dr. Johnson succeeds Dr. Brian Lassig, an esteemed marine scientist who contributed to the formation of AMRI. Dr. Lassig held the role for five years until his retirement in December 2014.

Australian Museum
Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is Australia’s first museum and one of the foremost scientific research, educational and cultural institutions in the region. It is the trusted guardian of the nation’s largest and oldest natural science and cultural collection with more than 18 million objects.

The research undertaken by the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI) informs decision making, policy and global, regional and national efforts to manage biological resources. AMRI’s work guides conservation management decisions including management of wild and captive populations of endangered species, protected areas, natural resources such as marine fishing grounds and land restoration.

Dr Rebecca Johnson – biography
Dr Johnson was appointed Director, Australian Museum Research Institute, Science & Learning in April 2015. She was previously the Head of the Australian Museum Centre for Wildlife Genomics, is a member of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences, and a certified wildlife forensic scientist with over 18 years’ experience as a molecular geneticist, in Australia and the USA. She has a PhD in the field of molecular evolutionary genetics and has established the Museum as one of the global leaders in the field of wildlife forensics and conservation genomics. Dr. Johnson is also co-leader of the Koala Genome Consortium, an Australian led group carrying out sequencing of the koala genome and it’s genes for direct conservation application.

The Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics is one of the only ISO17025 accredited wildlife forensics laboratories in the Australasian region, making it the first point of call for many wildlife managers from zoos, the aviation industry or government who want to utilise DNA and genomics techniques in the management of their animals or for law enforcement purposes. Dr Johnson has been appointed by the Minister for the Environment as an examiner in wildlife forensics under the Commonwealth legislation section 303GS(1).

Dr. Johnson represents the Museum on a range of government and industry committees in her area of expertise, and is a member of the International Society for Forensic Genetics, the Society for Wildlife Forensic Science, a committee member of the NSW Branch of the Australia New Zealand forensic Science Society and an executive committee member of the Australian Aviation Wildlife Hazard Working Group. She has published her case work in scientific literature and on specific genetics applications of wildlife forensic science. Dr. Johnson has received both an Australian and an international award in the field. She has been invited to present her research both in Australia and overseas and also regularly presents to students and the public on the importance of wildlife forensic science and the key roles and museums and herbaria can play in making a difference to the wider community through contemporary applied science.

Dr. Johnson received her undergraduate degree at the University of Sydney - BSc (Hons) in 1995 and was awarded her PhD at La Trobe University in 1999.

 

Media Contact:
Claire Vince, Publicist
02 9320 6181 / 0468 726 910
claire.vince@austmus.gov.au
 


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