Banksia winner ‘never gave up’ on marine dream

November 18, 2016

Professor Neil Loneragan with Claire Greenwell

Professor Neil Loneragan with Claire Greenwell

High achieving Murdoch University student Claire Greenwell will be pursuing her marine research ambitions after winning this year’s Banksia Association Honours Scholarship, valued at $10,000.

Claire was presented with her award at the annual Banksia Association dinner last night where she told attendees the funding will help her to focus full time on a study into the Western Gloomy Octopus as predators of the Greenlip Abalone in Flinders Bay, Augusta.

Her research is supported by Ocean Grown Abalone, a commercial company who are ranching abalone on artificial habitat or ‘Abitats’ in the region.

“I am so thrilled to have been awarded this scholarship,” said Claire, who has almost finished a double major in Conservation and Wildlife Biology and Marine Science at Murdoch.

“It is an honour and a privilege to have been selected by the Banksia Association and I am excited about the prospect of gaining a greater understanding of the interactions between these two iconic species.

“Little is known about this octopus and their diet. Evaluating the impact of octopus predation on abalone will contribute to our scientific understanding of these species and will help evaluate their predation of the abalone grown on Abitats.”

Claire said her passion for the ocean and desire to work in marine science began during childhood when her family visited the picturesque coastal hamlet of Hamelin Bay in the south west of WA.

After high school, she worked in the real estate industry for 12 years before deciding to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a marine biologist.

“Finally making the decision to give up my career to fulfil a lifelong passion has been perhaps the most important and fulfilling experience of my life,” explained Claire.

“Entering university as a mature age student has not been without its challenges, with considerable financial difficulties and hardship experienced along the way. While my journey has been a long, tough road, I am immensely proud of my academic success to date.

“I have met the most extraordinary people along the way, and I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find a university that cares more about the welfare and success of its students than Murdoch.

“I particularly want to acknowledge Professor Neil Loneragan. He is an amazing researcher and teacher, who gives so much time to his students. He is more than a lecturer; he is a mentor, and a friend.”

Since beginning her studies part time in 2012, Claire has achieved 11 high distinctions and seven distinctions for various units. Earlier this year she was awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award for Academic Excellence and the Marine and Freshwater Research Laboratory Prize in Oceanography.

She has also participated in a number of research projects at Murdoch including the monitoring of the Western School Prawn and the sampling of seagrass to understand the impact of climate change.

In addition, Claire recently completed an Independent Study Contract (ISC) on the feeding ecology of a fish (gurnard perch) in south west Australia.

In recommending her for the award, Dr Ryan Admiraal, academic chair of mathematics and statistics at Murdoch, said Claire was the most diligent student he had encountered and her level of effort dwarfed that of full time students.

Professor Loneragan, who will co-supervise Claire’s marine science honours project, described her work on the ISC as ‘exceptional’, and said she is close to submitting a manuscript based on this work for publication in an international journal.

Claire herself is keen to continue her education journey after her honours and is hoping to tackle her PhD at Murdoch.

Background

The Banksia Association Honours Scholarship was established to encourage Murdoch’s highest achieving students to continue their education at the University by providing them with financial assistance during their Honours year.

Since awarding the first scholarship in 2009, Banksia Association members have contributed up to $230,000 to the Banksia Association Scholarship Fund. So far nine scholarships, each worth $10,000 have been presented.

From fighting cancer to clinical psychology, the Banksia Association has shaped the lives of its recipients, many of whom could not have conducted an Honours project without financial support.

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