The Bird Conservation Fund supports applied scientific research, via an annual postgraduate scholarship focusing on critical knowledge gaps in bird conservation across Tasmania.

The Bird Conservation Fund Scholarship is worth up to $5000, and is given annually to a postgraduate scholar focusing on critical knowledge gaps in bird conservation across Tasmania. By pioneering an innovative, scientifically robust, repeatable and cost-effective monitoring program incorporating applied research, the TLC’s Bird Conservation Fund is helping address bird species decline.

Award value

Grant value is cash funding up to $3,000 for Honours, $4,000 for Masters and $5,000 for PhD or Post-doctoral research project. Typically one grant is awarded annually with the potential of two grants if both projects are deemed worthy. Funding amounts may be varied from time-to-time at the commencement of a new funding round.

Funds can be used for:

  • purchase or assistance with any aspect of the project deemed necessary
  • travel to conferences within Australia and abroad by students to deliver a presentation or contribute a paper or poster related to their research.

The funds are not available for salary, to increase a stipend or as personal cash payments.


  • Applications are open mainly to Honours, Masters, PhD and Post-doctoral students.
  • Students are only eligible for funding toward current (not retrospective) research undertaken at an approved Australian tertiary institution.
  • Award funds are provided on the strict understanding that funds will be exempt from institutional administration charges.
  • The student’s work must be wholly or majority focused in Tasmania and or related to issues directly relevant to the conservation of Australian native bird species.
  • A group project may be considered providing a key researcher is involved.
  • Students are only eligible for one award during the life of their project.

current recipients

Edith Shum and Moses Pillay

Edith Shum is a PhD student at UTAS exploring how species play a role in how we connect and adapt to a changing place. She is particularly interested in short-tailed shearwater (muttonbird/yula) rookeries on islands like Lunawanna, Bruny Island in lutruwita, Tasmania. With increasing storm surges and sea level rise, nest inundations, or loss of suitable nesting burrows are a growing concern. To address this, she is working on weaving drone and digital photogrammetry to construct a series of 3D terrain models under climate change scenarios. These models will act as a visual medium to facilitate discussions with the community to address where and how muttonbirds are currently impacted, where they may move to adapt to climate change, and how this might influence people and their attachment to place. By using species as a focal point to communicate about climate change, she hopes to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public understanding, thereby encouraging more meaningful conversations and actions that are necessary for addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Short-tailed shearwater. Photo: Peter Vaughan

Moses Pillay is an ANU Honours student who is using existing blood samples collected since 2014 from wild orange-bellied parrots to implement a novel study of diet and its carry over effects on fitness. Orange-bellied parrots prefer the seeds of native herbs and sedges that grow in the aftermath of fire in Tasmania; however, fire suppression has resulted in total dependence of the contemporary population on supplementary food provided by managers. Using blood samples from wild nestlings, he will use isotopic signatures to determine the ratio of native foods to supplementary foods in diet and investigate how it affects body condition and future survival.

Orange-bellied parrot. Photo: George Vaughan

previous recipients

2022: Carla Bruinsma and Erin Bok

Photo: Peter Vaughan

Carla Bruinsma is a UTAS honours student studying the distribution of forty-spotted pardalote habitat in Tasmania. She has a particular interest in feral animal eradication, re-introduction ecology and land management. The research the Bird Conservation Fund is supporting aims to validate the modeled distribution of Eucalyptus viminalis, the tree that the endangered forty-spotted pardalote depends upon for foraging. This information will help scientists assess the viability of re-introducing the forty-spotted pardalote into its historical range.

Erin Bok will be working on a PhD project investigating manna, a sugary juice produced by E viminalis trees, which is the pardalotes’ main food source. Erin is working to understand what factors underpin variation in manna quantity and quality, and how these factors drive pardalote behaviour, fitness and ultimately the woodland bird community more broadly.

2021: Adam Cisterne

Masked owl. Photo: Eric Woehler

Adam is completing a PhD as part of the Difficult Bird Research Group at the Australian National University, working on the conservation and ecology of the endangered Tasmanian masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops). We know the owl nests in tree hollows, but Adam is investigating the detail of what habitat it requires.

He is making a genetic analysis of the owl’s population size and look at changes in genetic structure and diversity within that population. The key research outcome will be a model of masked owl occurrence, based on the cavity-bearing capacity of habitat within the broader context of forest cover at the landscape level.

Adam is also looking at whether rodenticides have become an issue for masked owls. Owls prey on rats and mice and we don’t yet know how they are affected by anticoagulant poisons. Adam is analysing the livers of dead owls and looking for any residual poisons in owl pellets. He has been working with an owl-detection dog who searches for the elusive bird’s pellets.

Read Adam’s paper, ‘Can population models be a useful tool for evaluating the status of data-deficient species?’

2020: Amy Wing

Forty-spotted Pardalote. Photo by Chris Tzaros

2020’s recipient, Amy Wing, is an Honours student at the University of Tasmania. She is investigating how manna produced by white gums - an important food for forty-spotted pardalotes - varies across populations.

Project summary

The manna produced by white gums (Eucalyptus viminalis) is a crucial food resource for many animals, including the endangered forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus) found in southern Tasmania. Manna is a sugary secretion produced from wounds on the leaves, stems or branches caused by insect bites but also by the hooked beak of the forty-spotted pardalote.

Under the supervision of Dr. Geoff While, Assoc. Prof. Julianne O’Reilly-Wapstra, and Dr. Peter Harrison, Amy’s project investigated whether the quality and quantity of manna varies between populations of E. viminalis and across environments using multi-population common-garden field trials established on a wet and dry site. Results from this study were linked back to natural populations of E. viminalis on Bruny Island where the forty-spotted pardalote co-occurs to ascertain whether the quality and quantity of manna, in part, underpins their restricted distribution. The specific aims of this project were to better understand the chemical composition of manna and how genetics and the environment interact to shape manna quality and quantity. Results from this study will benefit the in situ and ex situ conservation of the forty-spotted pardalote as well as present a conceptual framework upon which to study other plant resources, such as nectar, that are critical for threatened and endangered animals.

Amy’s research ‘further reinforces the importance of sucrose and raffinose in manna, as well as the composition of manna. Manna quality as well as sucrose and raffinose sugars varies spatially across Bruny Island. Manna quality is influenced by the environmental variable annual heat moisture index (AHM), across Bruny Island. This research did not find any indication of genetic control over manna quality. These results indicate that manna may be vulnerable to climate change, which could have devastating effects on the endangered pardalote species. The results can be used to aid future management and conservation efforts, as well as supplementary feeding trials.’

2019: Erin Harris

Wedge-tailed eagle. Photo: Peter Vaughan

Erin Harris received the first-ever Bird Conservation Fund Scholarship. The University of Tasmania Masters student investigated the effectiveness of eagle nest protection zones.

Little is known about the efficacy of covenants on eagle nests in Tasmania, and Erin’s work will help determine if prescriptions are working and how management may differ on nests found on unprotected land.

Project summary

Over the last two decades conservation covenants have become the primary mechanism for securing important biodiversity values outcomes on private land in Tasmania, including the protection of threatened eagle nests.Eagle ecology in Tasmania and the role of conservation covenants on nests is a complex issue with environmental and social components both playing an influencing role.

With a view to understanding the effectiveness of conservation covenants in providing adequate protection of eagle breeding sites, University of Tasmania Master of Environmental Management student Erin Harris, under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Harwood (UTAS), Dr. Sally Bryant (TLC) and Nick Mooney, documented the activity status of eagle nests during the 2018-2019 breeding season across three management regimes: Private land protected by Covenants; Permanent Timber Production Zones and unprotected private freehold land. Furthermore, Erin also conducted social surveys and interviews with private landholders of covenanted and non-covenanted properties to understand why landholders engage in conservation covenanting programs, their attitudes towards these programs and eagle nest protection and how covenants change their land management practices.