Emeritus Professor Gisela Kaplan

Appointment citation

Gisela Kaplan

Professor Gisela Kaplan has served the University of New England in a range of roles from 1996 until retirement in 2009, including from 2007 as Professor of Animal Behaviour in the School of Science of Technology, where she currently holds the title of Adjunct Professor.

Prof Kaplan’s international reputation as an expert in contrasting academic disciplines has been celebrated in multiple ways, by the bestowal on her of prestigious awards by professional bodies.  These include the international primatological community where she served on the international scientific committee and is now a life member; and the international ornithological community, where she has served as the only Australian on the Executive of the International Ornithological Union.  The latter body recognised Prof Kaplan as an authority on bird behaviour and one of the foremost ornithologists in the world.  In addition, Prof Kaplan was elected to the honours list of the 100 most eminent international scholars in ornithology worldwide, by the American Ornithology Union.  She is an award-winning author and has been distinguished by a Federation Award for her community work, and by the Publishers’ Association of Australia for her outstanding published work.  More recently, she received the prestigious Whitley Book Award for outstanding publications relating to the fauna of the Australasian region, presented by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, for her monograph entitled Bird Minds.  She has championed the idea of ‘science for the people’ and helped bring into focus animal behaviour and interest in native species – all in the name of the University of New England.  She has a high public profile and is a well-known and highly respected public intellectual.

Prof Kaplan’s publication record is truly remarkable.  During her twenty year association with the University of New England, she has produced no fewer than eighteen highly successful academic books based on intensive research that breaks new ground, and written chapters in more than forty others.  These are supplemented by highly regarded research papers.  Together with articles for public consumption, she has produced some 250 papers.  Her study The Australian Magpie, reprinted many times, is a remarkable scientific achievement, inspiring Australians from all walks of life. Her recent publication, Bird Minds. Cognition and behaviour of Australian native birds, has been praised in the most prestigious international journals, including Animal Behaviour.  It is a landmark publication covering approximately 500 Australian land-birds, and proposes novel theoretical insight.

Prof Kaplan has also provided highly valuable service contributions to both the University of New England and the wider public.  For many years she reliably offered her services to University of New England events such as Enrichment Day, volunteering annually (2001-2006) and providing a segment of a program for gifted primary school children on Sundays.  For ten years she participated in the Siemens Science Day (1998-2008), held in January for high-school students.  It was Prof Kaplan who usually gave the first presentation to open the day.  She was also a regular volunteer on Open Day at the University of New England.  She has earned the respect of local communities, never refusing the copious invitations to speak about native animals, conservation and scientific research at community events and in primary and high schools.  On the Northern Tablelands she has been a regular, and often repeat, invited speaker to local organisations and clubs.  She has also been an invited speaker at the Academy of Science, and part of special Canberra Academy of Science events, bringing international scholars together.  Prof Kaplan collaborates with the New South Wales Council of Conservation on special programs designed to foster positive attitudes to wildlife in school children.  She is a regular public broadcaster and a prolific journalist in a range of newspapers and magazines (such as Nature Australia, GEO, Endangered Species, The Australian and others – producing articles all designed to educate the public.  She has conducted some 250 interviews a year for the leading media in Australia, and for the BBC and CNN on matters pertaining to her expertise. This included Skype link-ups with the BBC London and CNN news.

In her retirement, Prof Kaplan continues to inspire the academic communities in her fields of expertise, and to enhance the University of New England’s reputation.  Her research continues apace, and since the publication of Bird minds she has signed a contract for a follow-up publication. She has so well crossed the threshold to a public persona that this trend is likely to continue.  In 2016 alone, Prof Kaplan was involved in approximately 300 national and international interviews.

The University congratulates and applauds Prof Kaplan, recognizing her outstanding scholarship and impressive contributions to the disciplines she serves, and to the University of New England, by conferring upon her the title of Emeritus Professor.