Wise decision

Dr Rohan Bilney's award-winning research reveals vital environmental information.

Dr Rohan Bilney and friend.
Dr Rohan Bilney and friend.

Dr Rohan Bilney, a PhD graduate from Deakin's School of Life and Environmental Sciences, has won the Australian Journal of Zoology’s Best Student Paper Award.

The award is presented annually to the best paper in the journal that arises from student work.

Papers are judged by a panel of editors on how well they "make an international impact in zoological research using Australasian animals".

The editors noted that Rohan’s paper involved "a considerable amount of work on a difficult species and presented important findings that would likely have international interest - in addition to important conservation implications".

Rohan’s paper - Reversed sexual dimorphism and altered prey base: the effect on sooty owl (Tyto tenebricosa tenebricosa) - was co-authored with his PhD supervisors Dr Raylene Cooke and Dr John White, also both from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.

"Australian predators, such as the Sooty Owl, are likely to have been significantly affected by declines in distribution and abundance of small mammals - which are their main dietary items - following European settlement," Dr Bilney said.

"It is therefore important for Sooty Owl conservation that we have a detailed understanding of their diet and how they have adapted to ecological changes.

"An interesting aspect of their diet relates to differences between the sexes due to the significant size differences between males and females, which is the greatest of any owl species in the world."

As well as being honoured to receive the award, Rohan said it was especially rewarding to receive recognition for his research.

As part of his prize, Rohan will be profiled in an upcoming issue of the journal.

Dr Cooke said the award was a much deserved one..

"Working on Australian owls is very challenging, with the Sooty Owl being no exception,’"she said.

"Rohan worked extremely hard, in very difficult terrain, to collect data on these owls and this award is certainly deserved."

Dr Bilney is currently working for an environmental consultancy called Wildlife Unlimited which is based in his home town of Bairnsdale.

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