Whitley Awards 2023: Showcasing the best Australasian zoological literature
Each year, the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales presents the Whitley Awards, recognising outstanding publications that help increase our understanding of Australasian wildlife. The awards are named in tribute to Gilbert Whitley, an eminent ichthyologist and former Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum.
We are delighted to announce that in 2023, our book Prehistoric Australasia: Visions of Evolution and Extinction has been awarded the top prize: the prestigious Whitley Medal.
Written by four of Australia’s foremost palaeontologists, Michael Archer, Suzanne J. Hand, John Long, and Trevor H. Worthy, and illustrated by renowned palaeoartist Peter Schouten, Prehistoric Australasia opens an intriguing window into the past life and environments of ancient Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. More than 100 scenes are brought to life through meticulously painted panoramas and fascinating descriptions of the prehistoric animals and their habitats.
“I was honoured to be invited to work with the best team for the job – three other wildly passionate scientists pooling our collective lifetime’s works, corralled by the very talented Peter Schouten, who waved his magic brush and made it all come to life. Winning the Whitley Medal is a truly awesome honour. It is humbling to be recognized in this way for our efforts on this amazing book,” shares author John Long.
The eye-opening glimpses of the long past offered in Prehistoric Australasia are a result of deep collaboration between authors and illustrator. “Scientists can raise taxa from the fossil remnants of past animals,” says author Trevor Worthy, “but it takes a synergy with palaeoartists such as Peter Schouten to bring them to life, introduce them to the wider population and stimulate kids and others to think about the past”.
There is a certain magic to seeing a snapshot of the daily life of these prehistoric creatures and the environments they lived in, and that holds true for veteran palaentologists like author Michael Archer: “It’s incredibly exciting to see these fossils – fossils that many of us working with our students and colleagues have actually discovered and wondered about – brought back to life.”
The team hopes that Prehistoric Australasia inspires its readers to discover more about fossils and our prehistoric past, just as they were inspired.
“My career as a palaeoartist began when, as a child, I was obsessed by the images of prehistoric animals that I would find in books – that obsession continues to this day,” shares Peter Schouten.
“It was always my hope that the images and text found in Prehistoric Australasia might engender a similar fascination… winning the Whitley Medal demonstrates that perhaps we achieved our aim.”
We would like to offer extra congratulations to Michael Archer and Suzanne Hand, who were also awarded a 2023 Whitley Awards Special Commendation for outstanding contributions towards the promotion of the Australasian Fossil Fauna and its conservation.
Certificates of Commendation
In addition to the Whitley Medal, the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales also bestows a selection of Certificates of Commendation to recognise outstanding publications across the broad range of titles that are nominated.
We are delighted that the following CSIRO Publishing titles were awarded Certificates in 2023:
Written by Joseph M. Forshaw, illustrated by Frank Knight
Edited by Branden Holmes and Gareth Linnard
Written by John Stanisic, Darryl Potter and Lorelle Stanisic
Edited by Bradley P. Smith, Helen P. Waudby, Corinne Alberthsen and Jordan O. Hampton
Written by Rohan Cleave, illustrated by Julian Teh
You can view the full list of Whitley Awards winning books on the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales website.
CSIRO Publishing would like to congratulate all our winning authors, as well as the authors and publishers of the other outstanding books recognised in the 2023 Whitley Awards. Thank you to the Royal Zoological Society of NSW for holding these awards and the work they do in celebrating Australasian science writing.