It is with much sorrow that colleagues, students and friends at UNSW record the death of Associate Professor Alan Wilton of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.
Professor Wilton passed away today, 14 October 2011, after a 20-month battle with cancer. He was 58.
Alan Norman Wilton was a prominent Australian geneticist and was passionate about dingoes. He consulted with dingo conservation groups and government agencies about the hybridisation problem that may drive the dingo to extinction.
The Head of School, Professor Bill Ballard, noted that Alan was awarded the Australian Science Communicators Unsung Hero of Science Award in 2004 for his work in identifying genetic markers that can be used to discriminate between pure dingoes and hybrids and was Patron of the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary.
"Alan developed DNA testing as part of his canine disease research, which led to US and Australian patents," Professor Ballard said. "He provided genetic advice to dog breeders and developed DNA testing to work towards eliminating disease from breeds, particularly Border Collies.
"We wish to extend sincere thanks to all the people who supported and cared for Alan during his illness, particularly his close friends and colleagues in the school and the staff at Prince of Wales Hospital and the Sacred Heart Hospice."
In tribute, the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Merlin Crossley, said: “Alan Wilton was a model academic.
"His genetic research has been critical to dingo conservation and to the eradication of genetic diseases from various dog breeds. He was an inspiring teacher.
"But most of all he was a charming, engaging and very modest colleague who contributed selflessly to the community within and beyond the university. He will be missed but his contributions will be remembered.”
Alan received his BSc (Hons) in 1976 and PhD in Population Genetics on Drosophila in 1980 from The University of Sydney. He then held postdoc positions at North Carolina State University, University of California Davis, University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University, during which time he started working on human molecular genetics and disease gene mapping.
Alan joined UNSW in July 1991 as a Lecturer in Genetics, being promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1995 and Associate Professor in 2011. During his career he published 57 refereed papers, and 15 other scientific publications, including 5 book chapters, and attracted more than $1 million in external research funding from first-tier funding sources. Alan was an assessor for Australian Research Council and National Health & Medical Research Council grant applications, as well as a reviewer for various academic journals.
One of Alan’s major contributions to UNSW was his role in setting up a DNA sequencing facility that ultimately led to the establishment of the Ramaciotti Centre for Gene Function Analysis, and he served on its management board and executive committees.
He was engaged to Dr Barbara Zangerl and they had planned to marry next Sunday.
A request from the Wilton family: "It is Alan's and the family's wishes that no flowers are sent. Instead there are details below of a facility where contributions can be made to one of Alan's passions, sponsoring dingoes at the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary. http://www.dingosanctuary.com.au/index.html
"To donate to the Bargo Dingo Sanctuary in memory of Alan, a direct deposit can be made to the account below. Add Alan Wilton to the description of the deposit. This bank account is set up exclusive for donations and is not a general operations account.
Australian Native Dog Conservation Society Ltd - ANDCS
Charity No. CFN 10177
St. George Bank
BSB: 112 879
Account No. 466516885
ANDCS is a registered non-profit organisation so donations are tax deductible. After making a deposit, send the details of your name, email address and amount donated to firstname.lastname@example.org so a receipt can be sent to you."
Story on ABC-TV Catalyst program
A memorial site has been created here, also enabling donations to the NSW Cancer Council.