Queensland researchers have chance to study at Smithsonian

The world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, will once again open its doors to Queensland researchers and educators for a once-in-a-lifetime fellowship opportunity.

Minister for Science Leeanne Enoch said the 2020 round of the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships Program was now open for applications.

“The Palaszczuk Government is providing funding of up to $25,000 to allow successful recipients to travel to the Smithsonian Institution to collaborate with leading researchers for up to 16 weeks,” Ms Enoch said.

“This fellowship program is a fantastic opportunity for Queensland researchers and educators to exchange skills and knowledge with their international colleagues across the natural sciences, arts and education disciplines.

Minister Enoch said the program is open to employees of Queensland-based research, educational or cultural agencies, including universities, schools, museums, galleries or government research organisations.

“Queensland must continue to be leaders in in the fields of science, research and innovation, and the knowledge that the successful fellows bring back with them make an enormous contribution to the state,” Ms Enoch said.

“This is an invaluable experience and I encourage all those eligible to apply.”

This year’s fellows are preparing for their trips next year, they are working on projects to protect migratory land birds, improve fish migration and ensure children in rural Queensland have access to the very best in science education.

QUT environmental law academic Dr Evan Hamman will work with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre (SMBC) in Washington DC and other leading law and science academics in the US.

He will research how Queensland can develop effective legal and policy protections for land birds migrating within the Australo-Papuan region – an ancient biogeographic area that includes Queensland, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia.

“The SMBC in Washington has considerable expertise in the ecology and conservation of song birds, especially those that migrate between North, Central and South America. My plan is to work with these researchers to better understand how the concept of migratory connectivity can be operationalised as a central component of an effective governance response in Queensland,” Dr Hamman said.

Dr Nathan Waltham, who works at JCU’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), will travel to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre in Maryland where he will work with researchers looking at the impact of urban development and agricultural expansion, and restoration techniques to improve fish migration between freshwater and ocean, in addition to strategies and research tracking coastal habitat restoration.

“The Smithsonian has been looking at the impact of migration barriers, such as roads, degraded habitat and dams, on the river herring in Chesapeake Bay, an estuary in the US states of Maryland and Virginia. The river herring is comparable to the barramundi and mangrove jack in North Queensland,” Dr Waltham said.

He said there were many parallels between the management issues facing Chesapeake Bay and those faced on the coastal ecosystems of north Queensland.

Associate Professor Angela Fitzgerald will travel to the Smithsonian Science Education Centre, also in Washington DC.

“My plan is to develop an online professional learning package to support current and future teachers in both the United States and Queensland, particularly in regional and remote areas, in becoming more confident and competent in teaching science in primary schools,” Associate Professor Fitzgerald said.

“This is very important as Queensland transitions to a knowledge-economy. It’s really important that we have the skills to avail of the employment and business opportunities coming our way and that no one, no matter where they reside, miss out.”

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