The role of duck soup in biodiversity

on 16 May 2013 

Some in the audience cringed a little when Dave Whitelaw suggested Stephen Hopper Winthrop Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Western Australia was  “the nearest thing conservation science has to a rock star” when introducing him to a full house of Bush Heritage supporters in Albany on May 14.

Few noticed Dave’s tongue was firmly in his cheek and this was the start of an amusing story about Hopper. Thanks to Angela Sanders having a chance meeting with Emeritus Professor John Pate who taught Hopper when he was a post-graduate student in the 1970’s Dave knew something that was not in the long list of achievements and awards on the eminent scientist’s CV.

According to Professor Pate not only was the young Hopper a first-rate intellect but he was also a talented musician who supplemented his meagre student allowance by playing in a jug band called Duck Soup at bars and taverns around Perth. Once this information reached the mischievous hands of Guy Grant it did not take long to discover a YouTube clip of a youthful-looking Hopper leading Duck Soup through a rousing blues number.

The Bush Heritage supporters gathered In Albany were treated to a short excerpt from this clip and for perhaps the first time in his very distinguished career Professor Hopper was introduced as the “former lead guitarist with Duck Soup”. As Dave wryly noted, music’s loss was conservation science’s gain.