Two very different UNSW environmentalists - Professor Richard Kingsford and Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos AM - are finalists in this year's coveted Banksia Environmental Foundation Awards.

Professor Kingsford, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, is contesting the Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year Award. The protection and management of water systems is one of the most significant challenges for Australia. Professor Kingsford has contributed to the protection and conservation of rivers, wetlands, and their biodiversity across Australia for more than 20 years.

Professor Kingsford has focused on key sustainability issues for important wetlands (e.g. Macquarie Marshes), contributing to policy initiatives to reduce overallocation and protecting rivers and their biodiversity. He pioneered aerial survey techniques for waterbirds, providing valuable information for biodiversity, as well as developed innovative software system that provides information about river systems, including 70 percent of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Professor Kingsford also helped establish the Paroo River Agreement to protect the last free-flowing river in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Professor Skyllas-Kazacos, School of Chemical Engineering and Engineering, is contesting the Banksia Climate Award. Professor Skyllas-Kazacos is the principal inventor of the Vanadium Redox Battery (VRB) - an invention of major significance to the future reduction of greenhouse gases and the mitigation of climate change.

A major limitation of renewable energy production is its fluctuating and unpredictable nature, requiring it to be 'balanced' with reliable fossil fuel derived energy so that electricity can be supplied constantly to industry and society. The very high energy storage capacity of the VRB allows green energy to be produced sporadically, but distributed in a constant, reliable way that can meet peak demands. In this way, the VRB makes it truly possible for renewable energy production to stand-alone from coal-fired electricity production, thereby enabling large-scale future reductions in greenhouse gases.

Professor Skyllas-Kazacos is the only individual nationwide to be short-listed for this prize, alongside organisations such as Anglo Coal Australia Pty Ltd and Telstra.

Professor Skyllas-Kazacos has also been honoured as one of the 9 finalists for the inaugural Banksia Environmental Foundation 'People's Choice Award'. To show your support for Professor Skyllas-Kazacos' work, visit the Banksia Awards website to vote now.

The awards will be announced on July 19.