This page belongs to: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science 2022
Professor Trevor McDougall AC
UNSW’s Professor Trevor McDougall AC has received the 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
Professor McDougall has had a transformative impact on the study of oceanography and ocean thermodynamics, and in furthering our understanding of the role of the ocean in regulating the Earth’s climate.
Professor McDougall is recognised for his discoveries of new ocean mixing processes and his work to redefine the thermodynamic definition of seawater. This has been adopted by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission as the new international standard.
Watch a video about his work
[Music plays and the Coat of Arms and an image appears of a Prime Minister’s Prize for Science badge and text appears: 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Professor Trevor McDougall AC]
[Image changes to show Scientia Prof Trevor McDougall talking to the camera]
Scientia Prof Trevor McDougall: I'm Trevor McDougall. I'm Scientia Professor of Ocean Physics at UNSW in Sydney.
[Images move through of a shadow of a surfer in the water, a crashing wave, rolling clouds, Trevor riding a bike along a path, Trevor walking inside a building, and Trevor talking to the camera again]
I do research in the ocean's role in climate and climate change, and I work on ocean mixing processes and the thermodynamics of seawater.
[Image changes to show a close view of waves in the ocean, and then the image changes to show an aerial view looking down on the turbulent ocean]
So ocean mixing is like stirring milk into your coffee. It's turbulence.
[Image changes to show Trevor writing a formula on a glassboard, and then the camera zooms in on a diagram on the glassboard]
And the ocean has a variety of different processes at work.
[Images move through to show waves in the ocean, a thunderstorm with flashing lightning, and then a close view of the waves moving up and down in the ocean]
And thermodynamics is the study of where heat goes, how the ocean interacts with the atmosphere and where that heat goes inside the ocean.
[Image changes to show a rear view of Trevor and a colleague looking at a diagram on a computer screen]
So an example of that is that we need to keep track of the heat transfer around the ocean.
[Image changes to show Trevor and two female colleagues walking along the docks towards the camera, and then the image changes to show a turbulent sea]
And we've always done that for a century using potential temperature, which is the temperature a parcel of seawater would have when moved to the sea surface.
[Image changes to show a view looking down on an ocean pool, and then the image changes to show Trevor and a colleague walking along near the ocean]
One day I was swimming before breakfast and it came to me to try a different variable.
[Image changes to show a formula written on a whiteboard, and then the image changes to show a digital image of ocean modelling on a computer screen]
And now that temperature variable has been adopted internationally as the way of representing temperature and heat in marine science.
[Image changes to show Trevor in conversation with a male as they look out over the ocean]
And it's a factor of 100 times better at doing that than our previous potential temperature.
[Images move through to show Trevor and various colleagues looking at ocean modelling diagrams on computer screens and talking together]
With colleagues, I've also developed software which enables oceanographers around the world to determine these mixing directions in their own data.
[Image changes to show Trevor and two female colleagues walking towards the camera along a corridor]
To receive the Prime Minister's Prize for Science is an incredible honour.
[Images move through to show Trevor talking, Trevor in conversation with different colleagues, and then Trevor and a female colleague looking at a piece of equipment on a laboratory bench]
It also is an honour for the early career researchers that I've been working with the last ten years, and they've been really integral to some of the results that have been recognized in this Prize.
[Images move through to show Trevor and various colleagues in conversation, Trevor talking to the camera, Trevor writing a formula on a glassboard, and views of Trevor looking out over the ocean]
It's really great that the field of oceanography and climate science has been recognized in this way, because we need these sciences more than ever in the future to understand how the planet is and will evolve with time.
[Music plays and the image changes to Trevor turning towards the camera and smiling and the ocean can be seen in the background]
[Image changes to show the Coat of Arms and the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science badge and text appears: 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Professor Trevor McDougall AC]