Ben Keaney at a wrestling tournament

Hidden Talents at CHL

17th April 2021

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Today, we have someone special we want you to meet. It’s the President of ACT Wrestling.

But wait a minute….you must be thinking, what does wrestling have to do with the School of Culture, History & Language (CHL)? Well, that’s the beauty of CHL—its vast and diverse profile, both in terms of its people and the programs it offers.

Meet Benedict (Ben) Keaney. A researcher at the Department of Archaeology and Natural History (ANH), Ben is an integral part of the team that monitors air quality and conducts the pollen count for Canberra. But he is also an Olympic wrestler! Ben has been wrestling for more than 15 years and has represented Australia in competitions overseas. In fact, in 2016, he was the Oceania Continental champion. What’s more, Ben coaches the sport and is the President of ACT Wrestling. So, if he’s not behind a microscope, you’ll find him throwing unsuspecting opponents onto a wrestling mat! As the President of ACT Wrestling, he has been part of an organisation that helps improve the lives of its members, whether that’s helping a family of wrestlers from Punjab in India to get citizenship based on their sporting talent, or guiding at-risk youth to make healthy life choices. In building the ACT Wrestling community, Ben has made life-long friends and shared many memorable experiences.

According to Ben, a major turning point in his life was graduating from ANU with a PhD, where he was able to build on research expertise from Australia's premier educational institution and use it not only for enhancing his professional life, but also his personal life and role as a leader in a community organisation. Currently, Ben’s research focus is the study of pollen and the health impacts it has on the Canberra community. His other research interests include the rehabilitation of peatlands in the ACT and NSW, following last year's catastrophic fires and past environmental change in the Australian Alps. The first time Ben went into peatland was with his mentor Geoffrey Hope. During that trip, Ben recalls, it was snowing and so stunningly beautiful that he got distracted, fell into the bog and got his legs soaked. And this was not even Ben’s craziest fieldwork experience. He recalls during a thunderstorm up in Namadgi, his team could hear loud peels of thunder and see lightning strikes approaching, so they all had to work very efficiently to get the job done before the storm got too close.

That sums up fieldwork for Ben—challenging but incredibly rewarding at the same time. Needless to say after that first incident, Ben was hooked and hasn’t looked back since (though he does insist that he is much more careful where he treads now when in the mountains!)

“I have been in the field many times over the years, from bogs to the top of mountains, but I think the thing that drives me is the wonder of nature. From minute insects to looking at the night sky when camping, research as opened my eyes to the excitement of scientific discovery.” – Benedict Keaney

Ben Keaney

If given the opportunity, Ben would like to do research in the Rocky Mountains in the USA on Army Cutworm moths, which migrate to alpine scree slopes to hibernate over summer. They are very similar to the Bogong Moth here in Australia and are a rich food source for grizzly bears. Ben believes they could be a useful source of information about environmental changes in Yellowstone National Park. What does the future hold for this wrestler-cum-researcher? It is simply to continue doing what he loves—researching at ANU, wrestling, and being an active member of the Canberra community. And when there’s a little relaxation time away from these passions, Ben likes to go bushwalking, play board games and meditate.

If you are at CHL and have a hidden talent we should know about, please write in to us: communicate.chl@anu.edu.au. We’d love to tell your story!

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster