Michela Mariani

I have developed a novel method (less-invasive, fast and reliable) to assess the growth rates and age of urban trees. Using this method I have studied trees within Melbourne's urban forest that are up to 135 years old, healthy and growing at 2.2mm per year; which is pretty wonderful.

I am inspired by the notion that the past holds the key to understand the future. By studying the past we can disentangle the events that led to changes in the natural environments and we can predict scenarios in the focus of a climate-changing future. My research focuses on the reconstruction of past fire activities and related environmental changes across the Southern Hemisphere, especially western Tasmania. I'm now in the second year of my PhD, and so far have managed to publish a paper in a relevant international journal and showcase my findings at an important conference in Chile.

More recently, I received the Allan Gilmour Award from the Faculty of Science and this constitutes a very important step forward to proceed with my research; allowing me to participate in a workshop in Europe. As well as helping me connect with other experts in my field of study, this workshop will allow me to deeply understand the mathematical models applied to fossil pollen records to estimate either regional or local vegetation changes. Since my data collection will be completed by the time of the workshop, I will also be able to use my data to test the models with the supervision of experts. This methodology has not been applied in Australia yet, thus this research will also represent a step forward in Australian palaeoecology. After all the time I've spent in the lab and on the computer, I can say I'm really satisfied now!

Melbourne was suggested to me by researchers where I was working in Italy. Once I had contacted my current supervisor and discussed the research project, I got very interested in it and I decided to apply for a scholarship...and I'm still very happy about this choice! My advice would be that if you want to undertake a successful PhD in Science, you must be passionate and willing to devote your time to this amazing discipline.

Michela received the John and Allan Gilmour Research Award.

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