Published on 20 September, 2020

Mr Graham Medlin honoured as South Australia’s Unsung Hero of science

Decades of devotion to tracking the biodiversity of outback wildlife species have been recognised with an award for heroic achievements in science.

Mr Graham Medlin accepts his Unsung Hero of Science award. He holds a certificate in his arms and wears a dark shirt against a logo backdrop

South Australian Museum Honorary Research Associate Mr Graham Medlin was named the Unsung Hero of South Australian Science 2020 by Governor of South Australia Hieu Van Le, AC at the University of Adelaide on 21 September 2020.

South Australian Museum Director Brian Oldman said the award acknowledges Mr Medlin’s commitment to using subfossils as a means of reconstructing past and present mammal diversity.

“Graham Medlin has dedicated over 30 years to the acquisition, research and curation of the subfossil collection at the South Australian Museum,” said Mr Oldman.

“This nationally and internationally significant collection is the largest and best curated of its kind in Australia, and represents a major scientific resource for understanding how climatic variation has impacted Australia’s biodiversity. The collection includes specimens from areas across South Australia and interstate, notably the Flinders Ranges, Nullarbor Plain and other arid regions.”

“Thanks to Mr Medlin’s meticulous nature, several extinct species have been discovered, including the pig-footed bandicoot (Chaeropus yirratji) and a hopping mouse (Notomys robustus) which is known only from subfossil skulls in the Museum’s collection. He has also made major contributions to the understanding of existing species using subfossil records, allowing us to help conserve threatened wildlife,” Mr Oldman said.

Mr Medlin donated his private collection of more than 10,000 subfossils from the Flinders Ranges to the South Australian Museum in 1988, which was the catalyst for the creation of its subfossil collection. He has worked with Dr Catherine Kemper, the South Australian Museum’s Senior Researcher – Mammalogy, on a National Estate grant to identify and curate this renowned collection.

As Honorary Curator of the Subfossil Collection at the Museum, Mr Medlin has volunteered two days a week for over 25 years, advising students and researchers who use the collections, and supervising a dedicated team of volunteers who sort and meticulously record specimens.

Mr Medlin’s achievements are testament to his in-depth scientific knowledge and experience, unrelenting enthusiasm and persistence. The extensive subfossil collection he has assembled at the South Australian Museum will be his lasting legacy to Australian natural history, environmental reconstruction and palaeoecology research. Given rapid advances in fields such as ancient DNA and shape analysis technologies, the significance of Mr Medlin’s contribution to science is yet to be fully realised. His legacy will continue to inspire and inform science long into the future.

The Unsung Hero Awards of South Australian Science are a joint initiative of National Science Week SA and the Australian Science Communicators SA (ASCSA), and are administered by National Science Week SA.

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