Outstanding Research Student Supervisor Award 2020
Professor David DUDGEON, Emeritus Professor of Research Division for Ecology & Biodiversity and School of Biological Sciences, has spent almost 40 years at HKU researching and writing about the streams and rivers of monsoonal East Asia, and the animals that live in and around them. He has authored more than 200 papers in international journals, as well as book chapters, books, and other articles. In 2000, he was awarded the 10th Biwako Prize for Ecology in recognition of his contributions to freshwater ecology and conservation in Asia. His latest book, Freshwater Biodiversity: Status, Threats and Conservation, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.
Professor Dudgeon has supervised more than 40 research postgraduates in ecology. While many have worked with him on freshwater ecology, others have studied a variety of species ranging from waterbirds to turtles, ants to blowflies, as well as newts, frogs, bats, and even fig trees.
To help students make a substantial contribution to science, Professor Dudgeon tries to harness the passion that they bring to their studies. Students may think ‘little is known about X, therefore I decided to do my PhD on it’, but they should take account of the ‘so what?’ question, by rephrasing thus: ‘little is known about X, which is important because of Y, therefore I decided to do my PhD on it’. Ideally, says Professor Dudgeon, research students should be able to explain to a non-specialist (their granny, for example), what they are doing and why it matters. He tries to offer support when needed, while allowing sufficient space for students to engage with the study topic. Achieving the necessary balance is challenging, since it differs with each student, and becomes a learning process for all parties.