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March 16, 2017

PhD Scholarship winner: Congratulations Rowena Burch!

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

Rowena will study 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 will use 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 will analyse 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 Inaugural 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.

Group shot of the winners

Rowena Burch with (L to R): Joe Fontaine (Murdoch University), Prof Mick Poole (WABSI Chairman),
Kate Bryant (Murdoch University), Peter Zurzolo (WABSI Chief Executive Officer) 

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