Scholarship adds fuel to bush fire reduction research

A love of the outdoors growing up paved the way for a path in bushfire management research for this year’s Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship recipient Ben French.

A University of Tasmania Biological Sciences PhD student, Mr French said he was grateful for the support the prestigious $120,000 scholarship would provide him to further research into bushfire management, including a collaborative project with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, a private landholder and conservation NGOs.

“I was very fortunate and privileged to get the scholarship,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity, with really generous financial support which will help turbo charge my PhD experience,

“It also gives me access to a leadership and mentor program through Westpac, which includes a string of national residential experiences as well as an international opportunity to attend a conference or take-up a placement – which will allow me to make connections with people at the cutting edge of our field throughout the world.”

Mr French said bushfire management was an exciting area of research which he hoped to continue in the future.

He said bush fire management was not only about ecology, but also had to consider the role of people too.

“Fire to me is a space where people and nature intercept, particularly in Australia where Aboriginal people have been managing our natural landscapes for thousands and thousands of years and the biology has adjusted,” he said.

“There is a lot of room for improvement in bushfire management, particularly in meeting the challenges we are facing around climate change.

“It’s certainly a space I am passionate about and hope to keep working in this research space into the future.”

Mr French is one of three University of Tasmania successful recipients of the Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship since its introduction in 2016, following on from: Matilda Brown (Biological Sciences) in 2018 and Madeleine Way (Agriculture), the first recipient in 2017.

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