Dr Scalzo awarded Medal of the Order of Australia

Congratulations to Kings Park's Dr Tony Scalzo on receiving the award of a Medal of the Order of Australia (General Division).

Tony is well-known in the Kings Park community for not only his leading scientific expertise, but also his incredible 28 years of volunteering for the Friends of Kings Park, including 25 years as Editor of the Friends magazine ‘For People & Plants’.

Following Tony’s completion of his PhD in 1986 in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Melbourne on the interaction of influenza virus with cells of the immune response, he then moved to Perth to commence his career in medical research.

He first carried out research in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Western Australia. The main focus of his research was in the field of viral immunology specifically investigating the host immune response to the herpesvirus called mouse cytomegalovirus.

In 2003, together with Prof Mariapia Degli-Esposti, they moved their research teams to the Lions Eye Institute. Tony’s research focus during the period 2003-2010 was on how cytomegalovirus can evade host immunity, including how viral genes could mutate under Natural Killer (NK) cell immune pressure to escape NK cell immune surveillance.

Having had a life-long interest and passion about Australian plants, in 2011 Tony opted for a career change into horticultural research at Kings Park and Botanic Garden.

The focus of his research activities aimed at applying tissue culture-based techniques to facilitate the breeding of new varieties of Western Australian plants such as waxflowers for the cut flower and nursery industries, as well as new varieties of hardy kangaroo paw varieties for the home garden.

These applications have contributed to the development of new waxflower varieties with larger flowers and extended flowering periods, as well as new varieties of kangaroo paws that are disease resistant, less prone to predation by snails and slugs and that have stunning new colours and compact habit. These new varieties are currently being evaluated for the cut flower industry and release to the nursery trade.

Tony said, ‘I am proud and humbled to have been nominated for and to receive this award. I am indebted to mentors, colleagues and supporters, including the late Prof Geoffrey Shellam, Head of the Department of Microbiology at UWA, and the late Mr Tom Alford, Inaugural President of the Friends of Kings Park, Mr Digby Growns, Senior Plant Breeder Kings Park, who encouraged me and provided the freedom to make scientific and community service benefits for our community.’

BGPA Executive Director Alan Barrett said Tony's contribution to the conservation of WA flora over two decades was invaluable. 

'Tony's dedication, passion and community spirit has been an inspiration to many. We are very lucky at Kings Park to benefit from his scientific expertise, but also his wonderful community spirit. I am delighted to congratulate him on this very well-deserved Order of Australia medal.'