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 $2 000 this year, attracted five applicants, a mix of honours and PhD students, from three universities.
Jonathon Pankhurst is studying for BSc Advanced Science (Biology) honours at the University of Wollongong. Supervisors: Professor Kristine French and Prof. Mark Dowton, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong.
His scholarship topic is: The Identification, Impact and Utilisation of native Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Assemblages by native and exotic plants in Coastal Foredunes.
Jon Pankhurst is pictured collecting root samples on coastal dunes of the Illawarra coast and he has supplied some personal notes:
“I am currently undertaking my Honours research at the age of 21. As a child growing up in a rural city I have always enjoyed going on hikes and exploring nature, this has fostered a deep passion for the natural sciences. In 2012 I moved to the Illawarra to commence a degree in Biology at the University of Wollongong. I immediately fell in love with the beach and the relaxed coastal lifestyle. In my free time I enjoy spending as much time as possible at the beach and surrounding areas.
Throughout my degree I have developed a strong interest in both genetics and ecology and have heavily studied both fields during my undergraduate. For my Honours research I have combined my love for the coast with my passion for biology, to explore the relationship between coastal plants and various species of root fungi collectively known as Mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi are essential for providing nutrients to plants, especially those growing in low nutrient soils.
Using genetics, we are hoping to identify what species of fungi Bitou bush (a highly invasive coastal weed) is using and how its invasion influences native plant relationships with these fungi. The identity of Australian mycorrhizal fungi has rarely been explored before, and determining what species are forming interactions could potentially lead to new control methods of invasive plants.
The Valette Williams Scholarship allows us to sample a greater area of the Illawarra coastline, giving us a broader and more detailed picture of these interactions. This extra funding will enable us to take up to 3 times as many samples greatly increasing the accuracy of species identification. Giving us a more accurate idea of these fungal interactions with Bitou bush and how its invasion influences native plants in a coastal ecosystem.”
Best wishes go to the recipient, Jon Pankhurst, for success in his studies and we look forward to learning of the outcomes of his endeavours in the 2016 speakers program.
2009 Liza Xian
2010 Alison Hewitt,
2011 Nathan Emery &Tanya Bangel
2012 Diane Warman & Berin Mackenzie
2013 Jessica Mowle
2014 Desi Quintans