Marine scientist wins Westpac Research Fellowship

18 March 2022
Prestigious fellowship recognises new generation of scientists
Dr Shawna Foo from The Faculty of Science has been awarded $540,000 to investigate and identify factors that increase marine ecosystem resilience to climate change.
Dr Shawna Foo

Dr Shawna Foo.

The increasing threat of climate change on the existence of marine ecosystems has challenged Dr Shawna Foo to look for solutions in animals and reefs that can not only survive but also thrive under extreme environmental stress.

“I’ve always been fascinated by animals surviving in extreme environments,” said Dr Foo. “My overarching focus is understanding the potential of animals to adapt to ocean change, and to identify factors that influence resilience to climate stress at both a species and population level.”

Her project will use innovative analysis techniques to identify factors that can help mitigate the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.

The Westpac Research Fellowship was established in 2016 and has been co-created with Australia’s leading research universities to focus on the specific needs of early career researchers to cover their full-time salary in addition to professional development and global experiences.

Amy Lyden, Acting CEO of Westpac Scholars Trust, said: “As the nation seeks to build a sustainable and inclusive future, Australia is looking to a new generation of leaders. As well as the financial support, a key part of the Westpac Scholars program is for each scholarship recipient to undertake a transformative leadership development program to equip them with the skills, networks and opportunities they need to reach their potential.”

“We are proud to be a partner in the Westpac Research Fellowships and it is great to see Westpac collaborating with universities to support early-career researchers. Innovative research like Dr Foo’s is desperately needed to understand the threat to coral reefs and to develop effective management strategies as our planet heats up,” said Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Mark Scott.

When asked what winning the Westpac Research Fellowship means to her, Dr Foo said: “It is such an honour, especially in a field where we receive quite a lot of rejection, it means the world to be recognised as an innovative early career researcher. This fellowship has given me greater confidence in my research ideas and abilities.”

“I am excited to connect with the Westpac 100 Scholars Network and develop collaborations with some of Australia's leaders in research, business, and industry.

“I also look forward to the opportunities provided by the fellowship to develop as a leader and ensure that I pass on the best skills and advice to the next generation of scientists.”

Dr Shawna Foo is a marine scientist in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. She completed a PhD in 2016 at the University of Sydney on the adaptive potential of sea urchins to ocean warming and ocean acidification.

She has worked in Italy and the United States, using a suite of model animals and systems, quantitative tools and remote sensing technologies to study marine systems at various scales in the context of global change.

Hero image: LI FEI on Unsplash.

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