A NSW Government website

Premier's Prizes

2023 NSW Scientist of the Year

Emeritus Professor Trevor McDougall AC FRS FAA
UNSW Sydney

Emeritus Professor Trevor McDougall is globally recognised as a leading expert in the field of physical oceanography and is the world’s foremost authority on ocean thermodynamics.

He has been recognised for his contribution to our understanding of the fundamental physics of the ocean, including how it moves and how it mixes. His ground-breaking research has impacted all of physical oceanography, including observational oceanography and ocean modelling, and he has also transformed the field of ocean thermodynamics.

Trevor’s research focuses on the ocean’s role in climate, ocean mixing processes and the thermodynamics of seawater. His major discoveries have positioned Australia at the forefront of ocean physics and climate research. His work has improved the modelling of the effects of climate change and has led to the discovery of several new ocean mixing processes, and the development of new methods of analysing oceanographic data.

Trevor’s theoretical discoveries underlie the adoption of the Temporal Residual Mean parameterisation by ocean and climate models. Widely regarded as the most substantial improvement in ocean modelling since 1985, this breakthrough incorporates the effects of mesoscale ocean eddies in climate models. His dedication to advancing ocean modelling techniques has not only expanded our understanding of the coupled atmosphere-ocean-ice climate system but has also opened new avenues for future research.

Trevor’s contributions to the field of oceanography includes leading an international group of researchers in redefining the 30-year-old definition of seawater thermodynamics and improving the accuracy of the treatment of ‘ocean heat content’ by a factor of 100.

Trevor has received significant recognition and awards during his career, including:

  • 2023 Fellow of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
  • 2022 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
  • 2019 President of International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans, 2019-2023
  • 2018 Prize of Excellence, Werner Petersen Foundation
  • 2018 Fellow of the American Geophysical Union
  • 2018 Companion of the Order of Australia
  • 2017 NSW Premier’s Prize for Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Physics
  • 2016 Laureate Professorial Fellowship of the Australian Research Council
  • 2015 Henry Houghton chair for visiting senior scientists, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2015 Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales
  • 2015 Jaeger Medal, Australian Academy of Science
  • 2013 Royal Society of Tasmania Medal
  • 2012 Fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK)
  • 2012 Scientia Professor of Ocean Physics, School of Mathematics and Statistics, UNSW Sydney
  • 2012 Fellow of the Royal Society of London
  • 2007 Fellow of CSIRO
  • 2004 Fellow of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
  • 1997 Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

Trevor has over 160 journal publications, 11 book chapters and two books, with over 14,000 citations and an h-index of 55.