Congratulations to Dr Katherine Dafforn – winner of the 2020 AMSA Emerging Leader in Marine Science


SIMS extends a  very warm congratulations to Dr. Katie Dafforn from Macquarie University on receiving the inaugural Emerging Leader in Marine Science award.  Katie is the Deputy Director of SIMS’ Sydney Harbour Research Program (SHRP) and one of the leadership team of SIMS’ Living Seawalls project.

The award recognises excellence in marine research by an early or mid-career scientist. Katherine has expertise in benthic ecology, microbiology and ecotoxicology and has an outstanding record in applying her research to managing human impacts in marine ecosystems.

Here at SIMS, Katherine has been brilliant in leading the way with both SHRP and the Living Seawalls project and in partnering with organisations that can translate her science into real world solutions. These partners range across government and industry, from Hunter and Sydney Water to local councils to Lend Lease where her eco- engineering work at Barangaroo is becoming a significant feature of the largest coastal development in Sydney in over 10 years. She has been exemplary in engaging with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, a skill that is essential in her capacity as Deputy Director of SHRP and with the Living Seawalls project. 

Katherine’s efforts have led to a substantial expansion of relevant programs and resources at SIMS, with key recent achievements including  funding from Lendlease for continued research into marine rehabilitation at the Barangaroo development site in Sydney Harbour, funding for a research collaboration for Australia and Singapore through the Department of Industry, Innovation and Sciences as well as funding from the Department of Agriculture to investigate ecological engineering applications for biosecurity. 


Katherine also mentors postgraduate students and postdocs associated with SHRP and has worked to develop a professional training course, which was sponsored by and hosted at SIMS. The workshops were targeted towards marine scientists and engineers and focused specifically on Women in Leadership and Science Communication. Future female leaders and science communicators joined from SIMS, University of Sydney, Macquarie University, UNSW, UTS, Uni of Newcastle, Deakin University, the Ian Potter Foundation, NSW OEH, Australian Maritime Museum and the Australian Museum. Feedback from participants in the workshops was overwhelmingly positive and SIMS will continue to support further iterations of the workshop.


Apart from organizing professional training workshops, Katherine has also organized workshops about critical issues in the marine environment that align with SIMS’ key interests. Two recent ones include ‘Merging realms: exploring urban ecology across land and water’ and ‘Exploring the impacts and management opportunities for artificial light at night (ALAN)’. These have been important for raising the profile of these issues and bringing together experts to begin working on solutions.

We are very excited to have Katherine play such a pivotal leadership role in research at SIMS and marine science broadly.

Congratulations again!