Churchill Fellowship set to help fire ant research in South East Queensland

A scientist working for the largest eradication program in the world is hoping collaborating with scientists around the world could help unlock the key to eradicating fire ants in South East Queensland.

National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Science Manager Dr Liz Williams has received a prestigious Churchill Fellowship Award which gives her access to some of the best science minds in the world.

Dr Williams said the innovation behind fire ants and how to manage them once they had arrived in a country was just one of the aspects she was focussing on through the fellowship.

“I am looking forward to working with like-minded people with common passions who are at the top of their field when it comes to eradicating fire ants and exotic ants,” she said.

“It will be exciting to progress Australia’s knowledge of fire ants and how to eradicate them while working with people on the ground, which is invaluable experience.”

Through her fellowship Dr Williams aims to help improve the efficiency and success of eradicating fire ants in South East Queensland.

She was one of 16 Queenslanders to receive the fellowship, which provides an opportunity for Australians to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen field.

While international travel is not possible at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Williams hoped to travel to Taiwan, New Zealand, Hawaii and New Caledonia in 2021/22 to further her research.

In the meantime, she will be connected with Churchill Fellows who work in similar fields via virtual networking and collaboration events.

The fellowship covers travel expenses and Dr Williams can travel up until 2023.

“The collaboration is a big part for me as I will be sharing information we know about fire ants in South East Queensland with scientists overseas and I in turn will see if any of their technologies could be used back here,” she said.

Dr Williams was presented the Churchill Fellowship Award by His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland at Government House last month.