Flinders University scientists have paid homage to the late Professor Joe Baker AO OBE, a pioneer of marine biotechnology in Australia and an avid defender of marine environmental sustainability, who was recently farewelled in Canberra.
Professor Baker joined the Advisory Board of the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development (CMBD) in the College of Medicine and Public Health in 2011, when he was 78 years old.
Professor Wei Zhang, Director of CMBD said Professor Baker was a valued member of the CMBD Advisory Board at Flinders University.
“He brought 50 years of experience in marine science and biotechnology with him, and his advice was invaluable to our young centre,” he said.
Along with advising CMBD research staff, he helped prepare the CMBD’s strategic plan and worked with Flinders on its contribution to the Australia National Marine Science Plan 2015-2025.
“Joe took a national interest in the Centre as the first of its kind in Australia dedicated to the development of marine biotechnology and bioproducts towards Australia’s blue bio-economy,” says Professor Zhang.
Professor Baker was introduced to the Centre by CMBD staff member Shirley Sorokin, who was Professor Baker’s research assistant in 1986 at James Cook University.
“Joe was always interested in everyone’s work, and his kindness and compassion to his staff and students are one of his many legacies,” Shirley said.
“He continued this throughout his life right up until November last year when he gave individual advice to CMBD students during his last visit to the Centre.”
Professor Baker, who was Patron of the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) since 2007, encouraged a stronger integration of biotechnology with more traditional marine sciences.
“He was a visionary and an outspoken advocate for the advancement of marine sciences in Australia,” said Professor Sabine Dittmann, from the College of Science and Engineering, who liaised with Professor Baker closely when she was President of AMSA from 2012-2014.
“We will be honouring Professor Baker at the next national AMSA conference to be held in July in Adelaide,” she said.
Professor Baker was also on the committee of the Australia New Zealand Marine Biotechnology Society, which started in 2014 and is hosted at Flinders University.
Joseph Thomas Baker AO OBE, MSc PhD DSc, FRACI FTSE, commenced his academic career in Queensland, and was an associate professor in chemistry at James Cook University in the 1970s before being appointed Director of the newly established Sir George Fisher Centre for Tropical Marine Studies and later Director of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
In 1999 Professor Baker accepted the position of Chief Scientist for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.
Once he retired, Professor Baker continued working on multiple national and international advisory boards.