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La Trobe science student claims City of Wodonga Student Prize

16 Sep, 2021

A La Trobe University graduate, who recently completed her honours project at the university's Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems in Wodonga, has received the City of Wodonga Student Prize for Sustainability and the Environment.

Alana Cormican, who loves being outdoors and enjoyed biology and environmental science in high school, said it meant a lot to be recognised for the graduate award.

“There have been many hours of work and late nights put into this project and lots of help from my amazing supervisors and friends - I’m extremely grateful," she said.

The City of Wodonga Student Prize of $500 recognised Alana’s honours project and the contribution she has made in the field.

Director of La Trobe University’s Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems, Professor Nick Bond, said he was pleased that Alana’s work had been recognised.

“Alana’s research has helped us to understand the likely impacts of climate change on freshwater biodiversity across Victoria and how and where we can act locally to try and mitigate those impacts by protecting and restoring critical habitats," he said.

“It’s heartening to see one of our graduates recognised for their important contribution to the environment.”

Alana chose to study a Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) because she wanted to make a difference in the world.

“I thought working in conservation, in particular a course so heavily focused upon the hands-on side of conservation, would be the best way to make that change,” she said.

“I loved all the field courses we got to take part in for this course.

“We got to study in a wide range of locations such as Wilsons Prom, Falls Creek, Harrietville, and my personal favourite was Buchan – where we were able to go wild caving.

“By spending a whole week in the field conducting experiments, I was able to not only develop many technical skills but also get a taste for a career in research.”

The 24-year-old grew up in the Goulburn Valley, living in both Cobram and Shepparton.

She spent her gap year as an au-pair (a live-in nanny) in the US before returning for her bachelor’s degree at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne.

After completing her degree in early 2020, Alana had the opportunity to work as a summer cadet at the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems at the La Trobe University Wodonga campus.

“I gained lots of experience in the lab while also assisting in fieldwork,” she said.

“It was through this cadetship that I was offered my honours project.”

Alana moved to Wodonga last July to take part in her honours project under the supervision of Dr Aleicia Holland and Dr Michael Shackleton.

The project involved studying the thermal realised niches of Victorian dragonflies and damselflies, and how future climates could affect their distribution within Victorian waterways.

Her project was somewhat impacted due to lockdowns making it difficult to carry out the originally planned laboratory and field-based part of her study.

“While my project was desktop-based due to Covid-19, in the time between lockdowns I was also able to volunteer with field work for many other projects at the centre, which was a welcome change of scenery,” she said.

Alana hopes to pursue a career in research, specialising in freshwater ecology or climate ecology.

“I’d also like to work in resource management and grass-roots community engagement/education,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to be offered a PhD Scholarship with the University of Canberra, which I started in mid-August.

“The project is studying how water flows affect river food webs, and what food-webs could look like under future flow scenarios.”