Internationally respected Canberra scientist killed in head-on crash
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Internationally respected Canberra scientist killed in head-on crash

An internationally respected Canberra scientist who died in a head-on car crash has been remembered as a passionate man with an "enormous standing" among entomologists around the world.

Dr John La Salle, 67, died when the Toyota RAV4 he was driving collided with a dual cab ute on Gocup Road, near the NSW Riverina town of Tumut, on May 27.

Dr John La Salle, who died in a head-on car crash near Tumut on May 27.

Dr John La Salle, who died in a head-on car crash near Tumut on May 27.Credit:Carl Davies

He worked with the CSIRO and played a key role in establishing the Atlas of Living Australia - the national biodiversity database - in 2006, before becoming its director five years ago.

Prior to that, he spent 11 years at the helm of the Australian National Insect Collection.

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Dr John La Salle, who colleagues say had an "enormous standing" in the global science community.

Dr John La Salle, who colleagues say had an "enormous standing" in the global science community.Credit:CSIRO

One of Dr La Salle's colleagues, CSIRO director of national collections and marine infrastructure Toni Moate, said his loss would be widely felt.

"John was a lively character and his humour, passion and generous nature will be sorely missed," she said.

"John brought passion and integrity with him at every stage of his career at CSIRO and in his life."

Ms Moate said Dr La Salle had "led the charge" to make biodiversity information accessible online, catapulting the field into the digital future.

In the process, he helped create the Atlas of Living Australia, which Ms Moate said had come to be regarded as a world-leading research and analysis platform.

"John's standing in the world arena for biodiversity is enormous," she said.

"He created opportunities for impact at an international scale and his brilliance in communicating with people and identifying solutions saw the [Atlas of Living Australia] established as the platform of choice for many countries."

In a statement, the Atlas of Living Australia said Dr La Salle's leadership made "a profound contribution" to the organisation, and to the national and international biodiversity communities.

A death notice published in The Canberra Times describes Dr La Salle as the beloved husband of Cigdem, devoted father of Sam and Alex, and loving brother of Mark, Grant and Skip.

The Atlas of Living Australia said Dr La Salle's family had asked anyone wanting to pay tribute to make a donation to Casting for Recovery, MS Australia or St Vincent de Paul in his memory.

A NSW Police spokesperson said an investigation into the cause of the crash was ongoing.

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.