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Ann Macaulay Cameron (1939–1998)

by John H. Pearn

from Toxicon

Dr Ann Cameron was a senior Australian toxinologist, a vigorous advocate for the protection of the marine environment and a great friend of both undergraduate and postgraduate students in marine biology and toxinology.

The ranks of toxinologists, and particularly those of ecotoxinologists, have had among them fearless advocates for the protection of the natural environment and the creatures that dwell therein. Ann Cameron was one such who took an uncompromising stance throughout her professional life. She was a significant personality in the late twentieth century successful movements to protect further the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia's north-east coast, and such owe some of their success to her fearless persona and advocacy. Her death, on 17 October 1998, twelve months after the loss of her partner, the late Professor Bob Endean (1925-1997), has left a gap in the international ranks of 'toxinologists with a conscience'. Ann Cameron was an Australian, but first and foremost a Queenslander. She joined the staff of the Department of Zoology at the University of Queensland in 1961, prior to her graduation with First Class Honours in Marine Biology in 1963. She was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (in Marine Toxinology) from the University of Queensland in 1969. Her partner, Dr Bob Endean, had long been the pioneer 'stormy petrel' of the movement to promote urgent research to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the predations not only of the Crown of Thorns starfish, but also from uncontrolled tourism and environmental pollution. Ann Cameron joined this team and was appointed as a Counsellor of the Great Barrier Reef Committee in 1974, serving subsequently as its Committee Secretary from 1976.

Her special interest was in the anatomy and toxinology of venomous fishes, particularly stonefish and the venomous tropical and sub-tropical fishes of the Pacific.

She served in the University of Queensland's Department of Zoology throughout her academic life—Demonstrator from 1961, a Senior Tutor in 1973, Lecturer in 1976 and Senior Lecturer in 1983, in which latter position she served until her death. Her Head of Department, Professor Gordon Grigg, has spoken of her special support for undergraduate and postgraduate students, noting 'She strongly believed that students should learn to think independently and not be constrained to think along conventional lines. She told them they should not be afraid to be outspoken and she knew how to stick up for herself. She taught me, whilst I was an undergraduate Science student'. Much of her field research was undertaken at the Heron Island Research Station, a laboratory and service facility maintained by the University of Queensland and The Great Barrier Reef Committee at the southern extent of the Reef. It was there that she completed extensive research on coral-fish interactions; and on a wide range of venomous marine creatures. She collaborated especially with Dr Bob Endean in the context of her work on the epidemiology and ecotoxinology of the Crown of Thorns starfish.

Ann Cameron was invited to be a Member of the Heron Island Research Station Advisory Board from 1981, and was appointed as a Foundation Member of the International Society for Reef Studies also in that year. She was a vigorous advocate for the International Society on Toxinology from the time of her election as a Member in 1979, and was a co-convenor (together with Dr Bob Endean and the author of this obituary), for the Seventh World Congress on the Toxinology of Animal, Plant and Microbial Toxins, held in Australia in July 1982.

Ann Cameron was selective in her choice of friends, and those who were privileged to know her and be part of her professional, personal and family life knew her to be a loyal, caring and reliable friend. With her partner (Bob Endean) she established a bush-encircled home at Gold Creek Road in the suburb of Brookfield, in Brisbane. This property was on the site of a former goldmine and together with her partner she intermittently mined for gold over a period of 20 years. She surrounded their home with a fine collection of tropical and sub-tropical orchids. Ann loved to smoke cigars, and many interstate and international toxinologists who visited her home well remember the collegiate aroma of cigar smoke whilst friends sat amidst that fine tropical garden. Three years prior to her death, Ann Cameron developed a brain tumour, a condition which she bore with typical fortitude and good humour. Her courage and resilience were particularly exemplified following the sudden and unexpected death of her partner, a year prior to her own death. A cremation service was held for Dr Cameron in Toowoomba on 21 October 1998; and a wake, held in Brisbane, was attended by a large body of undergraduate and postgraduate students, biologists from many fields and academic colleagues alike. Ann is survived by her sister, Elizabeth, and by a loving stepdaughter, Dr Coralie Endean, herself a Consultant Veterinary Surgeon and graduate student in Medicine.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Ann Macaulay Cameron

Additional Resources

Citation details

John H. Pearn, 'Cameron, Ann Macaulay (1939–1998)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

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