The Inaugural Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture

Listen to Dr Leanne Webb’s podcast about Climate change: Current status and future strategies for the Australian wine industry.

Leanne Webb and the van Heeswijck family

Research indicating that greenhouse gases produced by humans are very likely to have contributed to the recent warming of the climate, and that concentrations of these gases are projected to increase in the future, is to me compelling and, of course, central to my work. I do not think any person working in the wine industry can deny how important climate is to their product……so I believe an understanding of the changing climate, and potential implications of this, is essential to the future of this industry”.

Prior to working as a research scientist Leanne Webb spent 3 years employed as a viticulturist for T’Gallant winemakers on the Mornington Peninsula. It was in 2002 that she started working on her PhD project (with Snow Barlow and Penny Whetton) exploring the potential impact of greenhouse gas-induced climate change on the Australian wine industry. Leanne is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Melbourne and the CSIRO in the field of climate change adaptation. This lecture will discuss her research aimed at improving the resilience of the Australian wine sector in adapting to climate change, ensuring that the wine regions have the best biophysical, viticultural and economic information to fully explore any opportunities and threats that may arise from climatic shifts.

The inaugural Robyn van Heeswijck Lecture is named in honour of the former Senior Lecturer whose life and world class research was cut short after a courageous battle with cancer. This Lecture recognises early career researchers that share her passion and commitment to the improvement of the grape and wine industry. While at the University of Adelaide (1995-2002), Robyn van Heeswijck researched various aspects of grapevine and molecular biology, with a particularly strong contribution to the area of nitrogen metabolism and phylloxera research. Dr Heeswijck graduated top of her B.Sc. (Hons) degree at the University of New South Wales to be awarded their University Medal. She briefly worked as a research assistant before pursuing her PhD at the famous Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen (1980-1986). Following her return to Australia in 1987, Robyn worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. In the Department of Agriculture, Victoria (1990-1994), she played a key role in establishing the Victorian government’s plant biotechnology unit which has become the most powerful and well-funded government plant biotechnology centre in Australia, a true legacy of Robyn’s vision, skill and determination. Robyn van Heeswijck (1956-2003) is survived by her husband, Peter Høj, and two children, Stine and Torbjørn.

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