Months of collecting data in the field at dawn have paid off for Research Scientist Dr Alison Ritchie, who has won a prestigious award for her studies into conserving Banksia woodlands on the Swan Coastal Plain.

Dr Alison Ritchie and Dr Peter Mawson

Alison received the Perth Zoo Prize for Conservation Research from the University of Western Australia's Faculty of Science at a breakfast function in May 2016, in recognition of her higher degree research thesis which she completed in 2015.

The honour is awarded to the student who completed the 'most outstanding piece of research into the field of conservation biology' and was presented by Dr Peter Mawson, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia and Director of Animal Health and Research at Perth Zoo.

Alison said she was genuinely surprised when she found out she had won the award and enjoyed discussing her research with other scientists at the presentation.

'It was very nice to know others had read and enjoyed reading my thesis', she said.
'I feel very passionate about trying to get Banksia woodlands research out there. There are lots of community groups working in this field, but it's hard to get research out there to the general public.'

Banksia woodlands are the most commonly found ecological community on the Swan Coastal Plain, which covers the Perth metropolitan area and includes Kings Park and Bold Park bushland.

Alison said during the breakfast she chatted with University of Western Australian Professor Sarah Dunlop about her thesis and also with other students about their work.

'It was great to see the diversity of science projects that students were being awarded for', Alison said.

Alison's extensive thesis studying Banksia woodland restoration success saw her investigating several revegetated sites to measure how the ecosystems were tracking in terms of flora, fauna (particularly bird movement) and pollination.

Much of her research saw her working at sunrise to complete data collection with the support of volunteers, staff and students at UWA and BGPA.

'They helped with surveys and early morning surveys especially in summer', she said.
'I have been really well supported by everyone.'

Now working as a Post Doctoral Research Associate for Curtin University, Alison is based at Kings Park as the work she does is directly involved with the park's projects.

'My main project is to develop protocols and use new innovation technology to work out how we can restore Banksia woodlands in areas where pine plantations have existed', she said.

Her projects see her working in the Gnangara area with Curtin University's industry partner Urban Resources and she said it has been interesting to start the restoration process from the beginning, as opposed to measuring the success at the end, which she focussed on during her thesis.

Read more about Dr Ritchie and our many talented scientists in the research section.

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