Photo: Kristian Bell

2018 Outstanding Outreach Award winners

Congratulations to the six winners of the OEH/ESA Prize for Outstanding Outreach in 2018.

Casey Gibson is a second year PhD student at the University of New South Wales. She works in the Australian Alps researching climate change impacts on alpine plants. Specifically, she is interested in building a long-term picture of phenological responses to climate change using historical and recent natural history records, accompanied by a multi-year winter field experiment. To do this, she shovels a lot of snow in winter, walks over mountains to stare at lots of flowers in summer, and nerds out on natural history collections year-round.
Vanessa Pirotta is a conservation biologist and science communicator who has recently completed her PhD at Macquarie University. Her research focuses on identifying conservation gaps for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Vanessa’s most well-known research involves the use of emerging technologies such as drones for marine megafauna conservation. She collaborated with industry experts to develop custom-built, waterproof drones to collect whale snot (visible plume of spray) from large whales. This device uses a remotely operated flip-lid petri dish to minimise sample contamination from air and sea water. Lung microbiota collected from this research was used to provide a non-invasive assessment of whale health.
Kit Prendergast is a native bee researcher from Western Australia. She is currently doing a PhD at Curtin University, under a Forrest Scholarship. Her thesis is the “Determinants of native bee assemblages in urban habitat fragments in the southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot and interactions between honeybees (Apis mellifera) and native plant-pollinator communities.” Kit has a passion for the natural world and gets a real buzz when going out in the field to conduct native bee surveys. She is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and passion to inspire others, especially children, to learn to conserve our environment. Kit’s surveys have underscored the incredible diversity of Australia’s native bees that occur within the urban milieu of the southwest Western Australian biodiversity hotspot. Kit aspires for her research to lead to science-based actions for conserving thriving native bee assemblages.
Heather Neilly is a landscape ecologist and passionate scientific communicator. She completed her PhD in 2017, where she looked at the impact of cattle grazing regimes on native wildlife. She now works as a post-doctoral researcher at Calperum Station, near Renmark SA. Here, she is examining the role of fauna in ecological restoration, particularly how Malleefowl act as ecosystem engineers and their impacts on germination and soil function. Additionally, she is measuring the efficacy of applying woody debris in degraded landscapes as a multipurpose restoration tool. In 2017, she published ‘Who’s making that noise?’ a picture book for 4-7 year olds about discovering urban wildlife. This book formed the basis of a ‘Discovering Urban Widllife’ workshop that was rolled out to schools in Queensland in 2018.
Amelie Vanderstock is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney who uses participatory approaches to research pollinator networks in community gardens and urban bushland. She is passionate about native bees, creative science communication and the power of co-creating science to build community. Her latest project is ‘Lets BEE Scientists’, where she is co-designing a pollinator-preference experiment with high-schoolers. Amelie became an insect ecologist because she never lost her wonder at the amazing world of insects and their fascinating lives. Her dream is to share this wonder in creative, participatory ways with the broader community- because we are all scientists!
Catherine Ross is currently a PhD candidate at the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, studying restoration ecology in grassy woodlands. Catherine’s project is part of a larger research program based at Mulligan’s Flat Woodland Sanctuary in Canberra. The sanctuary is the site of a large research trial looking at woodland restoration techniques, including the reintroduction of several animal species that have been extinct in the local region for some time, such as the bush stone-curlew, eastern quoll and eastern bettong. She is particularly interested in how the reintroduction of ecosystem engineers like the bettong can be used as a tool to restore ecosystem function and diversity.