Kings Park Science and University of Western Australia PhD student Vanessa Brown has been awarded a prestigious Graduate Women (WA) Scholarship.

Vanessa at Banksia Woodland restoration siteView image slideshow

In a ceremony held yesterday evening, Vanessa was awarded the Mary and Elsie Stevens Scholarship, for women enrolled in a higher degree by research in Mathematics or Science. She was one of six researchers awarded $3000 scholarships by Graduate Women (WA) this year.

Vanessa’s research explores the role of seed enhancement technologies to improve restoration success, as part of the Restoration Ecology research group at Kings Park. She is particularly focussed on the seeds of local Banksia Woodland species, including Anigozanthos manglesii (red and green kangaroo paw), Acacia pulchella (prickly moses), and various native peas.

'Seeds have to go through quite a few challenges before they can germinate and become successful seedlings,' Vanessa said. 'I’m testing how substances like biochar can be used to form a protective coat around the seeds to adsorb harmful substances, such as herbicides. This gives our native seeds the best shot at establishing, particularly in restoration sites where herbicides are needed to keep weeds at bay.'

The Mary and Elsie Stevens Scholarship has come at the perfect time for Vanessa’s research.

'I had planned to run this biochar experiment as a field trial last year, but unfortunately had to cancel that due to COVID-19. I’m so excited to have been awarded this scholarship, because it means I’ll finally be able to run this experiment using controlled growth rooms at UWA, which I can adjust to mimic the ideal field conditions.'

Vanessa’s PhD supervisor Dr Todd Erickson, a UWA and Kings Park research scientist, said that the award was very well deserved.

'Vanessa is one of those students that goes above and beyond what is expected to achieve the best results from her research program,' Dr Erickson said. 'Receiving this award is so fitting for Vanessa and she will now elevate her investigations much further than first planned. It’s exciting to see what she will now be able to achieve.'

Seedlings emerging from biochar pellets Vanessa at a field experiment site

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