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Bill Borthwick Scholarships 2018Bill Borthwick Scholarships 2018



Bill Borthwick Student Scholarships 2018

The scholarships were announced in March 2011 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of the Land Conservation Council (LCC).  They honour the vision of the Hon. Bill Borthwick, Victoria's first Minister for Conservation from 1973-1979 and Deputy Premier from 1979 to 1982, and a central figure in establishing the LCC to advise government on the use of Victoria's public land.VEAC has established the annual scholarships for tertiary students to assist in the costs of research relating to public land in Victoria, including terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.

Here is a short video highlighting the work of previous scholarship recipients.

VEAC awarded five scholarships in 2018, the recipients were:


 Ms Ana Bermudez Contreras, University of Melbourne


"Can mycorrhiza explain the differential success between revegetation practices?"


Ana's research for her Master of Environment degree seeks to explore a critical knowledge gap in the field of ecological restoration relating to the role that soil biota play in determining the outcomes of different revegetation techniques.  She will describe and compare the mycorrhizal fungal communities of transplanted, direct seeded and naturally occurring established plants to answer this question.

The outputs of this project will contribute to the development of:

-Improved understanding of the interaction between soil biota and riparian forest species established using different vegetation techniques;

-Evidence based guidelines for riparian restoration practices;

-Broader knowledge of the role of plant-soil interactions that can improve the management of Australia’s forests.

The study may also highlight the importance of soil biota in vegetation conservation practices in riparian forest systems and forest systems elsewhere in the landscape.


Miss Emma Bennett, Monash University

"Optimisation of Conservation Detection Dogs"


Emma's PhD research will develop a framework for reporting and evaluating the performance and cost of conservation detection dogs and provide a decision tree to support managers when considering engaging a dog for their research questions or conservation objectives.

This will be achieved by investigate into how we measure performance, what factors influence the price variation when employing detection dogs and how we compare dog detection to alternative survey methods.

The research will investigation the financial cost of dogs and how land managers can optimise the allocation of resources between various detection methods to make cost effective decisions.  This will greatly benefit Victoria’s public lands by allowing more transparent information regarding the cost, detection success and contribution of dogs as part of an overall conservation strategy.


Mr James O’Dwyer, La Trobe University

“Does environmental watering enhance population connectivity for Murray cod? "

The aim of this PhD research is to use genomic tools to investigate whether environmental watering enhances population connectivity for Murray cod.

James is seeking to identify population of birth young-of-year Murray cod based on genetic make-up, test whether greater dispersal of young-of year Murray cod in high flow compared to low flow conditions, and identify flow conditions that facilitate dispersal for Murray cod.

Potential outcomes for this project include producing a case study demonstrating the impact of environmental watering on dispersal of native fish species; and recommendations for environmental water management strategies that promote dispersal and survival of a culturally and ecologically significant native fish species.


Mr Matthew Rees, University of Melbourne

“Do foxes alter their diet in response to suppression in a mesic forest?”

As part of Matthew’s broader PhD project and research being conducted by external partners, the density of foxes, feral cats and native prey species is being monitored in response to fox control through a series of before-after, control-impact experiments in the Western Otways. Currently, there is a clear missing link for these surveys to be able to relate changes in the density of predator species to the density of prey species.

Matthew’s PhD research aims to determine the level of fox predation pressure experienced by different prey species, through the dietary analysis of fox scats. In doing so, I will also be able to determine if foxes vary their diet in response to control, if foxes are suppressing feral cats, and inform an individual based model of foxes in this landscape that is being developed as part of a broader project.


Mr Ruthur Lee, University of Melbourne

"The influence of anthropogenic noise on bird singing activity within a protected landscape"

Ruthur's research for his Master of Science aims to determine the impacts of noise pollution, specifically associated with motorized recreation, on bird singing activity within a protected space encompassing a range of road and track uses (Bunyip State Park).

Ruthur’s field work will involve testing how the presence of different categories of road access, ranging from sealed roads to seasonal 4WD tracks, affect the presence, distribution and daily and seasonal singing patterns of birds. The work will also test the geographic extent of these impacts by mapping noise across the landscape in increasing distance from various road types.

Results from this study can be used to inform local community groups about the importance of protected spaces biodiversity monitoring programs to assist with management and conservation of native species and assemblages. 

The soundscape recordings and associated data from the study will be deposited in the online acoustic wildlife library at Museums Victoria for use in research, education and outreach.  The recordings will also serve as a benchmark that can be used in the future to analyse how management implications have resulted in the changes to soundscapes.