Kings Park Science’s 2018-19 Summer Scholarship Program recently wrapped up after another successful summer.
The popular program, funded by the Friends of Kings Park, provided nine talented science students from across Australia with the opportunity to spend their university holidays working alongside some of Kings Park and Botanic Garden’s expert scientists.
The students undertook diverse research projects on topics including ecological genetic assessment, invasive species management, cryopreservation, fire ecology, genetic diversity, vegetation composition, seed pelleting and the ageing of short-lived orchid seeds, which provided them with invaluable experience for their post-graduate studies.
Three of the students, Jason Paterson, Ebony Cowan and Lily Whelehan took part in the Program in 2018-19 and shared their experiences.
Having completed her honours at Curtin University, Lily Whelehan was selected for the scholarship program for a second time after completing a Bachelor of Conversation and Wildlife Biology at Murdoch University.
Having always had an interest in plants, Lily has been involved in plant conservation from a young age.
‘Down the road from my house there’s a little bushland area. My mum would take me there and we would get involved in weeding days,’ said Lily.
Knowing this is what she wanted to do, Lily has wasted no time. Last year she analysed the effects of cryopreservation on plant mitochondria and this year her project continued and extended her honours research and learning, which will contribute to a paper she is writing this year.
Lily has found the program extremely rewarding, citing the one-on-one training and supportive culture at Kings Park Science as highlights of her scholarship.
Lily is soon to begin a PhD and harbours a desire for a career in conservation with the aim ‘to feel like I’ve made a difference’.
Jason Paterson is completing his final semester of a Bachelor of Science at Murdoch University. Enthusiastic about the great outdoors and all things plant-related, Jason made the switch from being a carpenter to a full-time student.
Working on the outskirts of suburbia, the constant clearing of native bushland had an impact on him, leading him to act on his passion for nature and make it his career.
‘I’ve always had an interest in plants. When I was younger, I was always in the bush or on holidays down south, I always knew that there was something special about being in nature,’ he explained.
Jason spent the summer scholarship period undertaking a project on fire ecology and weeds by analysing invasive species. He investigated and measured the contribution of veldt grass to fire potential in urban bushland areas. This included fieldwork at three different bushland locations and the combination of practical science and academic writing was valuable to him.
Citing the program as an amazing experience, Jason said it ‘integrated my love for being out in nature with the outcomes I can achieve.’
Jason is soon to commence his last semester of his undergraduate degree, followed by further honours study. He envisions a career in conservation, protecting the rich biodiversity of WA.
Ebony Cowan completed her undergraduate degree in a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Deakin University, majoring in Environmental Sustainability and Management. She completed honours at Murdoch University last year, investigating seed production in serotinous plants.
Having lived on a dairy farm in rural Victoria, Ebony was always avidly interested in the real-life effects of the environment on people.
‘I got to see the effects first hand - things were drier, cows weren’t producing as much milk, the area was changing.’
Her curiosity for the natural landscape led Ebony to apply for the Summer Scholarship Program. Ebony undertook a project on plant trait databases for fire ecology research.
Collating and compiling data over the 12-week program was a rewarding experience. With 8,000 plants the South West of WA, understanding what species we have and how they function is vital for conservation of such rich biodiversity.
The culture at Kings Park was a huge highlight of the program for Ebony, who describes it as being ‘so encouraging to be surrounded by people that love plants and seeing their passion for their own science.’
Embarking on a PhD with Murdoch University and Kings Park in April, Ebony aims for a career that works towards solving the problems facing our diverse and fragile natural landscape.
If you’re a university student studying a native plant biology discipline and are interested in applying for the Kings Park Science Summer Scholarship Program in 2019-20, submissions open in September 2019. Check back on the Kings Park website for details and further information on how to apply.