Sprigg Lecture Series

Professor Michael Mahony

Professor Michael Mahony in the lab.

The Sprigg Lecture Series provides visitors with access to the latest research and thinking around scientific and cultural discoveries at a local and global level and to engage with scientific ideas that affect them and their world, now and in the future.

These free lectures commemorate the life of Dr Reg Sprigg AO, a remarkable South Australian geologist who discovered the world’s oldest fossilised animals in the Flinders Ranges in 1946, now internationally recognised as the Ediacara fossils.

Online bookings for Sprigg lectures will open one month before the event. 


Next Sprigg 

Professor Michael Mahony, School of Enviromental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

4 November 2014
Bio-banking Frogs for Future Climate Change
Book online


Since discovering large numbers of dead and dying frogs on a rainforest stream in North Queensland in 1992, Professor Michael Mahony has been researching the cause and impact of a pandemic that has led to the extinction of hundreds of frog species across the globe. Realising that the impact of the disease would be magnified by climate change, he has shifted research focus to the application of frontier assisted reproductive technologies to develop frog “biobanks”. In this lecture Michael relives the excitement of developing a ground-breaking approach to overcome a technological challenge of applying genome storage to a group of critically endangered Australian species.


Professor Michael Mahony is a biologist and environmental scientist with a background in amphibian biology and ecology, systematics, environmental law and assessment, and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on genome storage for amphibians. Michael is currently in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle, NSW and has been a member of numerous state and federal advisory bodies concerned with conserving eastern Australian forests and ameliorating the impacts of the pandemic disease of the world’s frogs caused by a chytrid fungus. He has published more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and reports. His current research has a strong focus on applying frontier reproductive technologies as insurance for conserving our endangered frogs.


Previous Sprigg Lectures


Dr Wolfgang Haak, Research Fellow, University of Adelaide
5 August 2014
The History of Agriculture and Early Human Movements


Recent ancient DNA studies have significantly increased our knowledge about human populations in the past. Dr Haak will present a summary of ancient human DNA studies performed at the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. These studies operate at the interface of human genetics, anthropology and archaeology, and tackle questions about the peopling of Eurasia before and after the Last Glacial Maximum, and discuss the processes which have formed of the genetic diversity we observe today.


  • 2006 PhD in Anthropology from the University of Mainz, Germany.
  • 2007 Relocation to Adelaide as postdoc in National Geographic’s Genographic Project (until 2011), Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), University of Adelaide.
  • 2011- present  Senior Research Associate at ACAD continuing ancient human DNA work in Europe and South America amongst many other regions (CI on two ARC DP grants).



Dr Stephen Richards, Honorary Research Associate, South Australian Museum
13 May 2014
Discovering Melanesia’s Hidden Biodiversity: Exploration for Conservation in remotest New Guinea


Since 1991 Stephen Richards has been exploring the remote tropical forests of New Guinea, travelling by light plane, helicopter, boat and on foot to document the poorly-known biodiversity of one of the world’s last great wilderness areas.

Hundreds of new species have been discovered during these expeditions, and this information is adding to knowledge about New Guinea’s unique biodiversity and is being used to highlight the importance of these areas for conservation.

In this lecture Stephen describes and illustrates the challenges and excitement of species discovery in one of the world’s most difficult, but also most spectacular, environments. 


Dr Stephen Richards is a research scientist with a background in biodiversity assessments, animal ecology, and systematics. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts on Melanesian frogs and reptiles.

Formerly the Senior Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Stephen is currently a Research Associate of the South Australian Museum, the Regional Chair for Melanesia of the IUCN’s Amphibian Specialist Group, and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications.

He has discovered more than 200 new species of frogs, reptiles and dragonflies during more than 40 major expeditions to remote regions of Melanesia in the past 20 years.



Professor Ian Owens, Natural History Museum, London and Imperial College London
30 April 2014
For the learned and the curious: the role of natural history museums in the 21st century


Many of the word’s great natural history museums have their roots in the cultural and scientific revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, a time of intense interest in collecting, displaying and debating the extraordinary objects that were being brought from around the world.

I will ask whether there is still a scientific and public role of these institutions today and in the future, when digital technology allows instant global access to what were once rare objects, and when taxonomy, mineralogy and systematics are commonly identified as disciplines in crisis.

Can natural history museums still do relevant science? Can they still inspire the learned and the curious? Can they change enough to rediscover their original purpose?


Professor Ian Owens is the Director of Science at The Natural History Museum in London, with responsibility for a collection of over 80 million natural history objects and a team of more than 300 scientists. He now holds a Chair in Evolutionary Ecology at Imperial College London, having started his academic career as a lecturer at the University of Queensland. His research interests are in global patterns of biodiversity and evolution in wild populations.

The Sprigg Lecture Series is supported by Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and Bundaleer Wines.