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Student Scholarships Support Penguin and Aerial Vehicle Projects

Two Deakin University students have been announced as recipients of Bill Borthwick Student Scholarships this year, for two very different projects.

PhD candidate, Laura Tan, and honours student, Sarah Murfitt, both from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, have each been awarded one of the scholarships which honour the vision of the Hon. Bill Borthwick, Victoria's first Minister for Conservation.

Established by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC), the annual scholarships assist tertiary students with the costs of research relating to public land in Victoria, including terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. Seven scholarships were awarded in 2016.

Laura’s project, "Adaptive predator management to protect ecotourism of an iconic species" aims to determine how to mitigate the high risk of loss of Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) clutches to raven predation, through investigating the genetics and skill transmission of Little Ravens (Corvus mellori). She will undertake an analysis of the genetic links between individual ravens, examine their predation of penguin clutches, and will aim to determine the relevance of genetic relatedness to transmission of egg predation skills.

Sarah’s project, "Application of unmanned aerial vehicles for intertidal reef monitoring" will make use of recent developments in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology that make it possible to map large areas in the coastal zone at centimetre resolution. UAVs have the potential to revolutionise the way intertidal reefs are monitored. They have the ability to collect very detailed information over large areas that allow us to monitor how habitats are changing through time. In this project, five pairs of marine protected areas and reference sites across Victoria will be targeted to compare the traditional intertidal reef monitoring (IRMP) ground surveys and the new UAV data capture approach.

On hand from Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, to see Laura and Sarah presented with their scholarships, were Dr Michael Weston (Laura’s supervisor), Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou (Sarah’s supervisor) and Associate Professor Geoffrey Wescott, who is also a VEAC board member.

Speaking about the scholarships, Dr Weston said, "This support makes a big difference to students, not only does it provide critical research funding but it also recognises their substantial efforts and contributions to their disciplines. We are very grateful".

Article originally published at Deakin University.

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