University student Amy McDonald became the first recipient of the Dr Stella Frances Scholarship at Environment Waikato today.
Environment Waikato and the Department of Conservation created the $5000 scholarship this year as a tribute to Dr Stella Frances, a former Waikato Regional Councillor and DOC Waikato Conservator, who died in August 2003.
Ms McDonald, a University of Waikato masters student, is currently completing her thesis – a groundbreaking study in habitat rehabilitation and freshwater species restoration.
The study focuses on the reintroduction of an iconic Waikato wetland species, the black mudfish, into a restored habitat at Horsham Downs. It involves rearing the fish in captivity, examining potential predator impacts and working with the community to monitor fish survival rates.
“We had a very strong field of applicants but Amy’s impressive study proposal makes her an outstanding first recipient of the Dr Stella Frances scholarship,” said DOC Waikato Conservator Greg Martin.
“The black mudfish is a threatened species in gradual decline and Amy’s study could be a major step forward in the long-term survival of this species.”
Ms McDonald, originally from Waihi, said she was really pleased to win the scholarship, which would go a long way to helping with research expenses.
“A successful translocation of black mudfish will not only increase the chance of the species' survival, but also increase the biodiversity of areas such as the recently restored Lake Kaituna,” she said.
“The Dr Stella Frances scholarship will be of great assistance in achieving this goal.”
Dr Stella Frances, who trained as a freshwater scientist and gained her PhD in freshwater ecology, was a tireless environmental campaigner. The Firth of Thames marine and estuarine ecosystem was a passion over the last four years of her life.
“Stella was an inspiration to those she worked with, both in her personal and professional life,” said Environment Waikato chairman Jenni Vernon.
“Environment Waikato and the Department of Conservation are proud to offer a scholarship that will help perpetuate Stella’s passion for conservation and the environment.”