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Governor's Environment Scholarship 2012

Three Tasmanian students are the recipients of this year’s Governor’s Environment Scholarship.

The Governor of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Underwood AC, is patron of these prestigious scholarships, of which the EPA is a sponsor. The scholarships are available to students undertaking an honours or masters project, in any faculty at the University of Tasmania which relates to management of the environment. Up to three awards are available each year and the scholarships are worth each.

Ian Jermyn is a BApplied Science (Marine Environment) (Honours) candidate in the National Centre for Marine Conservation and Resource Sustainability at UTAS. He has been awarded the Governor’s Environment scholarship for his research on declining kelp forest density and species interactions. Ian’s honours project will provide information on whether a decline in kelp density affects the diversity and abundance of invertebrate grazers associated with it and how these changes impact rates of herbivory on kelp.

"This research will contribute to the environmental management of Tasmania's unique coastal environment by increasing our understanding of the resilience of Tasmanian kelp forests and the communities they support," Ian says.

Christian Mackay is a BSc (Honours) candidate in the School of Geography & Environmental Studies. His topic is the biogeography of Tasmanian Ants.

Christian’s study will focus scientific attention on Tasmania’s native ants - a key but neglected group of animals which deliver a range of environmental benefits which include soil conditioning, seed dispersal and pest control. Ants are also important food sources for echidnas, birds, lizards and other predators. Christian says he hopes to address several questions during his research.

"Things such as how many species of ants occur in Tasmania and where are they found? How are ants distributed in relation to the local and regional environment, including gradients of soil fertility, elevation and rainfall? And the provision of baseline information necessary to manage the impacts of invasive pest ants which are now spreading with increasing international trade, and once established, often displace native species," he says.

The third recipient is Mr Dylan Belworthy-Hamilton, Masters of Applied Science (Marine Environment) (Honours) in the National Centre for Marine Conservation & Resource Sustainability. Dylan’s topic is the detection of blood fluke cardicola forsteri in southern bluefin tuna.

"Aquaculture offers a sustainable alternative to wild harvest fisheries but is not without its own challenges, including infection by pathogens. Pathogens that cause disease in farmed stocks may transfer to wild populations, thereby having an adverse effect on the environment," he says.

"My current research is focused on using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and other molecular techniques to identify the presence of blood fluke in farmed fish. Currently physical counts of the parasite in the heart and gills of dead fish are used to diagnose blood fluke infection. PCR analysis may be a better diagnostic approach allowing for increased sensitivity and diagnosis on live animals."

Image: (Left to right) Ian Jermyn, Christian Mackay, UTAS Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen, Governor of Tasmania, the Hon. Peter Underwood AC and Dylan Belworthy-Hamilton. Photo by Roger Lovell and courtesy of the University of Tasmania.