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North Shore District Group

Scholarship Recipients 2018

Valette Williams Scholarship in Botany - Recipients 2018

Susan Everingham and John Whale

The Val Williams Scholarship in Botany is sponsored by the North Shore Group of the Australian Plants Society. The Scholarship honours the memory of our former esteemed member, Val Williams (1937-2004). Applications are sought firstly from Honours students and also from Masters or PhD students undertaking research at universities in the Sydney region.

The project must contribute to the knowledge of the ecology, conservation or propagation of native plants in the Sydney and surrounding regions.

The Scholarship, valued at $3,000 this year, attracted eight applicants, a mix of Honours and PhD students, from six local universities. It is being shared between two recipients, with each recipient receiving $1,500.

Congratulations to Susan Everingham and John Whale who are the joint recipients of the 2018 Val Williams Scholarship in Botany.

Susan is a PhD candidate within the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences at University of NSW.

Her topic is: "Are the Sydney plants flowering earlier in the year currently, than they did in the past?"

In Susan’s words:

“Growing up, both my mother and grandmother loved Australian native flora and would take me on bush walks around Sydney, naming all the species. This joy and fascination led me to study plant science at university and I have now just started the second year of my PhD. I am undertaking my research at both The University of New South Wales, and The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan. I really enjoy studying broad scale concepts in ecology as well as applying them to important areas of conservation at local scales.

My PhD encompasses both broad, global scale and smaller scale studies, to try and determine if plants are adapting to climate change that is already occurring. Researchers have made many predictions about how plants will cope in the future, as the climate continues to change. However, we need to know if plants are already changing and adapting to recent climate change, in order for them to survive in the future. 

The Val Williams Scholarship from the Australian Plants Society, North Shore Group, will allow me to undertake important fieldwork in the Sydney region, to determine if Sydney plants are flowering earlier in the year than they did in the past, due to climatic warming. I am using a large dataset that was compiled in 1963 that recorded the flowering time of 362 species in Sydney. This year, am doing a huge resampling effort of a subset of this data, to see if flowering times have change since the 1960s. The Val Williams scholarship will be helping me to travel to my sites, tag species and continue monitoring their flowering times.”

John is a PhD candidate within the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University.

His topic is: The Scientific Basis of Assisted Gene Migration under Climate Change

John’s research:

“My background has been research of genetic diversity within and between populations of a species and subsequently, how well adapted populations are to the environments they inhabit. In order for me to conduct my research and projects I will use my laboratory experience in DNA extraction and sequencing and analytical skills to look at the diversity and variation between individuals and populations. They will help to answer the questions about the genetic diversity and adaptive potential native Red Gums found in the Sydney Basin have to a changing climate. Among the species I will work with are Eucalyptus tereticornis, a coastal species and E. blakelyi, from the Western Slopes and Tablelands.”


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