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North Shore District Group

Scholarship Recipients 2021

Valette Williams Scholarship in Botany - Recipient 2021

2021 Harriet Simpson-Southward

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). 

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 $2250 this year, attracted three applicants, two Masters candidates and one PhD student, from three universities.

Congratulations to Harriet Simpson-Southward, recipient of the 2021 Val Williams Scholarship in Botany.


PhD candidate in Biological Sciences at the University of Wollongong (UOW)

Project: “Effects of climate change on resilience of fire prone eucalypt communities”.

I am a PhD Candidate working in the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires (CERMB) at the University of Wollongong.

I have always been interested in conservation from a young age, however my passion for fire ecology only began when I spent a year on exchange in Australia during my undergraduate degree. I went on to complete my Honours project in the CERMB and was delighted to be given the opportunity to return to Australia to undertake further research in this field. Witnessing the devastation caused by the recent 2019-2020 bushfire season has only emphasised the importance of such research to me.

The mortality of eucalypts and therefore their distribution patterns can be influenced by a range of different environmental and landscape parameters. Firstly, I am investigating whether certain combinations of bark traits, climatic parameters, fire regimes and topographic positions increase the likelihood of mortality in some eucalypt species. Secondly, I am investigating whether this makes some species more vulnerable to range shifts under climate change. The findings will contribute to improving public awareness, government decision-making and management policies. Knowledge of the spatial distribution of eucalypt bark traits will enable better prediction of eucalypt responses to increases in fire frequency and severity with climate change.

I aim to use the Valette Williams Scholarship to gather important data about the influence of topographic variation on bark traits, substantially expanding on my existing PhD research and delivering a broader evidence base for the impacts of fire and climate change on eucalypt species in Australia. Ultimately, I hope to use it to determine the influence that elevation, slope and aspect may have on bark thickness and density.


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