A La Trobe University graduate has received the City of Wodonga Student Prize for Sustainability and the Environment.

Alana Cormican recently completed her honours project at the university’s Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems in Wodonga.

Alana said it meant a lot to receive the 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,” Alana said.

After completing a Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus, Alana moved to Wodonga in 2020 to complete her honours project under the supervision of Dr Aleicia Holland and Dr Michael Shackleton.

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

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,” Professor Bond said.

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

Growing up in regional Victoria, Alana chose to study environmental science 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,” Alana 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,” Alana said.

After completing her degree, Alana had the opportunity to work as a summer cadet at the Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems in Wodonga.

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

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

Alana’s honours project was impacted by lockdowns, making it difficult to complete the laboratory and field-based components 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,” Alana 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 and education,” Alana 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.”

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