Funding boost for STEMM teaching and dolphin research

February 2, 2017

A dolphin calf

A dolphin calf, photographed off the coast of Mandurah by Krista Nicholson, MUCRU

Murdoch University has won funding for two projects in the State Government’s annual Royalties for Regions Regional Grants Scheme.

One of the grants will fund a project which aims to increase participation and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) subjects among students at Byford Secondary College and Halls Head College in the Peel region.

The Peel Development Commission funding, which totals $64,044, will pay for equipment such as 3D printers, virtual reality goggles and robotics items.

“The equipment will enhance STEMM teaching in the schools, capturing the imagination of the students and inspiring their interest in STEMM subjects to grow and develop,” said Murdoch University Provost, Professor Andrew Taggart.

Murdoch’s Mandurah Dolphin Research Project also won $56,500 in the Regional Grants Scheme.

The funding will be put towards the purchase of a dedicated research vessel to conduct the fieldwork, replacing a borrowed boat. The remaining $30,000 required to purchase the vessel will come from a donation from Mandurah-based philanthropists John and Bella Perry.

The project, which began in January 2016, aims to gain a better understanding of bottlenose dolphins using the Peel-Harvey and adjacent coastal waters in Western Australia.

Professor Lars Bejder, from the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU), which oversees the project, said the knowledge gained from the study would assist government, industry and local community groups in planning activities which minimised impacts on the dolphins.

PhD candidate Krista Nicholson, who is studying the local dolphin population, added: “The research will help ensure that sustainable tourism and recreational boating and fishing practices are developed.”

Professor Taggart said these Murdoch projects are just a few examples of a number of teaching and research activities the University has underway in the region.

“Our researchers are currently investigating how best to develop the Peel region without unduly impacting the health of the Peel-Harvey Estuary, with support and funding from several regional partners and the Australian Research Council,” Professor Taggart said.

“Murdoch also won funding from the federal government to support mathematics education in WA regional and remote high schools, including in Peel.

“The Murdoch Pathways to STEMM program will be rolled out in 2017.”

A focus of this program will be to increase the engagement and participation of young women in STEMM, which links with Murdoch University’s commitment toward addressing gender equity issues in STEMM. Murdoch is working toward joining the national SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equality) Athena SWAN Charter of organisations who share this commitment, in 2017.

The Regional Grants Scheme is an initiative of the State Government’s Royalties for Regions, supporting region specific priorities that are driven by local communities to assist the development of infrastructure, services and community projects.

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