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Hannah Pusey has created a research lifestyle that many would envy. While her home boasts all of the benefits of a large city (Melbourne), her study takes her to some of Australia’s most northern and stunning locations.
Now one year into her PhD with Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Hannah is researching the conservation and ecology of the northern quoll, a small nocturnal mammal which has been under threat of extinction since the 1935 introduction of the cane toad.
Hannah’s fieldwork takes her to northern Queensland and the Kimberley region of north Western Australia where she is examining the effect of the cane toad on the northern quoll populations.
‘We are looking at the long-term impacts and how they might affect the Kimberley northern quolls before the cane toads wipe them out. I am trying to quantify whether the northern quoll has learnt, after 70 years of co-existence, to avoid eating the cane toad,’ she says.
With undergraduate and honours degrees from universities in Western Australia, Hannah chose Deakin for her PhD studies because she was able to find a supervisor with similar research interests.
‘We are both interested in working in northern Australia on carnivorous animals and trying to stop their decline. I felt we had similar values and that I could really connect with him. I also chose Deakin because I really liked the idea of being a part of the Centre of Integrative Ecology (CIE). We often have events/conferences/seminars that other universities don’t have,’ she says.
Spending long periods of time in northern Australia, Hannah says Deakin was the only university able to offer her the funding and support that was needed for her fieldwork.
‘We are very lucky to have such a strong community in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, and particularly amongst the HDRs [Higher Degree by Research students]. There are functions and events, and as soon as I arrived I was welcomed into all of it. The CIE plays a huge role in that and when any of us need help there is always someone who is willing to go out of their way.’
Eventually, Hannah would like to work with carnivorous marsupial conservation (specifically, the marsupials of South America) and says her Deakin research is the ‘perfect stepping stone’ towards this goal.
‘I am gaining the research skills needed in conservation and building on my knowledge. Already, I have learnt so much. By completing my PhD I will be able to work for NGOs, not-for-profit agencies, government, in research or consulting. These opportunities would not be possible without this qualification.’