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Botanic garden chief scientist awarded AM

Professor Brett Summerell’s love of plants stems from his childhood and his passion to study and protect Australia’s unique flora has seen him become a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Prof Summerell was acknowledged for his service to the environment through plant pathology and mycology. His interest is in fungi and helping to protect other plant life from diseases and to “survive better”.

He has been performing this vital scientific research for 35 years at the Botanic Gardens of Sydney, describing more than 120 new species of fungi and publishing over 150 journal articles, books and book chapters.  


For the past two decades the Douglas Park residents has also led more than 100 scientists, students, volunteers and support staff while helping to establish vital scientific facilities such as PlantClinic, the Australian PlantBank and the National Herbarium of New South Wales. 

 Prof Summerell was grateful to see the important work his team does to protect and promote plants acknowledged on the national stage. 

 “This honour is not just a recognition of my work, but of all the people I work with to protect Australia’s unique plant life from extinction,” he said. 

 “I hope this recognition will inspire more people to discover the power of plants and the inherent value they provide to our everyday lives. 

 "Plants sometimes get neglected in the scheme of the environment, but if we are going to combat the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss, we have to start with saving plants first.” 

 A self-proclaimed “plant person”, Professor Summerell has been fascinated by fungi and plants his entire life.  

The professor’s life has been more than laboratory he has had the opportunity to visit “some amazing places”.

“I have been in the secret gorge where the Wollemi Pine live…that was an amazing experiencing being able to abseil down [a few times].”

He has travelled far and wide to tropical rainforest and deserts in Australia and has never disappointed by the unique flora.

His passion and enthusiasm for the natural world is why he chose to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at the University of Sydney in 1985 where he also won the University Medal as the top ranked student in that year. 

Prof Summerell, husband and father of two, will be spending the day visiting his mother, Patricia, whose birthday is on Australia Day –  it will be a double celebration – one to mark 88 years and the other to mark years of dedication and commitment.



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