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Scholarship recipients

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2018 Recipient of WABSI PhD Scholarship: Bronte Van Helden

UWA Albany student announced as scholarship winner

Bronte Van Helden from The University of Western Australia was awarded the prestigious PhD top up scholarship from The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute.

Over the next three years, Bronte, based in Albany at UWA’s Centre of Excellence in Natural Resource Management (CENRM), will provide critical information about how different types of urban areas differ in their ability to support animal biodiversity.

As urbanisation increases, the proportion of native species exposed to threats also increases, prompting the need to conserve fauna in urban landscapes. Whilst we know that remnant bushland in urban areas is critical for maintaining biodiversity, gaps in knowledge still exist about how other components in an urban environment work to support animal residency.

The western ringtail possum and quenda will be used as case studies in the research to discover if residential areas can provide a valuable, novel habitat for mammal species that are conservation dependent.

“I’m really thankful for the opportunity as the scholarship has enabled me to widen my research to include other mammal species such as pygmy possums and native bush rats,” said Bronte.

The Institute is a joint venture between regulators and leading W.A. research organisations. The scholarship, valued at $35,000 over three and half years, will help improve planning decisions to secure a better balance between urban development and conservation.

The project was developed in collaboration with several end-users to ensure that the research generated has important management applications. Partners include the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (Albany District), the South Coast Ringtail Working Group, Oyster Harbour Catchment Group and the City of Albany.

  

2017 Recipient of WABSI PhD Scholarship: Rowena Burch

Rowena Burch from Murdoch University was awarded the inaugural PhD scholarship by The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute.

Rowena is studying native mammals and reptiles in the jarrah forests of the South West to determine how they respond to prescribed burns, timber harvesting and to programs aimed at controlling predators such as cats and foxes.

A collaboration between Murdoch University and the Department of Parks and Wildlife, the project uses cameras and GPS technology to monitor predator numbers and their movements. Results will help shape cost-effective control programs to better protect and manage unique fauna in the South-West.

“Loss of biodiversity due to human impact is a critical issue in Western Australia. Rowena’s research will deliver scientific information and help the State make more informed decisions around conservation and sustainable economic development,” the Institute’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Zurzolo said.

Rowena is analysing data collected over the past 7-9 years by the Department of Parks and Wildlife in experiments conducted using the BACI or “before-after-control-impact”; a design used to monitor potential environmental impacts.

The project will also design and implement research to investigate responses to different types of predator control activity in the Upper Warren region, east of Manjimup, which is a fauna conservation priority area.  Using cameras, Rowena and her team will determine how abundant feral predators are in this area. They will compare the ecology of feral predators in baited and non-baited sites and the spatial ecology of feral cats.

Rowena has an excellent academic record, diverse professional experience, a thorough knowledge of conservation biology and expertise in biostatistics. Importantly, Rowena’s research will clearly help fill an end user need: to better understand native fauna, how it responds to introduced changes and how we can better conserve and manage biodiversity in our South West.

“Undertaking a PhD fulltime is really challenging financially, so I’m honoured to have received this award,” said Rowena Burch.

The WABSI Top Up Scholarship is aimed at supporting research activities that contribute to improving, adapting and increasing our understanding of Western Australia’s biodiversity; in particular, where the research is collaborative and is clearly linked to the needs of end-users such as government, industry and community.

The scholarship aligns with the strategic role that WABSI plays in WA, to enable end-user driven, relevant research that helps to fill our gaps in biodiversity knowledge and to provide convenient access to biodiversity information.

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