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Conservationist and marine photographer recognised
Two men who have made significant contributions to scientific knowledge without being professional researchers have been honoured on Australia Day.

Peter Andrews, a farmer from the Upper Hunter Valley in NSW, and marine photographer Neville Coleman from Brisbane have each been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

Mr Andrews' award is for "service to conservation and the environment through the development and promotion of sustainable farming practises".

He is best known for advocating Natural Sequence Farming (NSF), a technique that restores natural water cycles, even in times of drought, by maintaining a cover of vegetation to stop the soil losing moisture and nutrients.
Restoring the land

Mr Andrews says it's an honour to receive the medal, and adds that he hopes it might lead to a better understanding of how the Australian landscape works.

"Before European settlement, we had an amazing filtering system and groundwater storage system (based on dense plant cover) that maintained high levels of productivity under the extreme conditions we've got, and now we've more or less dismantled it.

"The issue that frustrates me is that the whole planet runs on sunlight and that's got to be converted by plants to a product that everything in the food chain can use.

"These massive changes (we've made) in the way a landscape functions is exactly what we're now experiencing. We just go from drought to excessive rain events, basically because there's nothing managing those huge thermal energies that are released every day from the sun."

Mr Andrews visits about 50 properties each year, teaching farmers how the natural system on their property works.

This year he plans to set up a train-the-trainer program so others can also teach about Natural Sequence Farming.
In love with the sea

Neville Coleman, 72, is a self-made photographer and underwater explorer, despite a poor and violent childhood and barely any high school training.

He left high school in his first year there, working in the printing business as an apprentice, where his lungs were scarred by the corrosive acids used in the etching process.

Despite his weak lungs, Coleman fell in love with SCUBA diving and grew to love the life below the waves.

He also used the physical and mental challenge of diving as a way of conquering his own inner fears, he says.

Neville Coleman fought for decades to have photographs accepted as a valid way to identify new species, and as a consequence photography has gained acceptance with taxonomers.

Today Neville Coleman runs his own business, writing and publishing books and software applications, giving lectures, running specialist dive courses and travelling the world's greatest dive sites to photograph the wildlife.

"I feel that this award is making the whole story worth the effort, because it gives it a fairy tale ending," he says of receiving the Order of Australia Medal.

Despite problems with his health last year, Neville has no plans to slow down. He has written three new apps', which will include 9000 of his own underwater images.

"Staying alive is my biggest plan this year," he says wryly.

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