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Published: 2012-02-09 00:00:00

Two university students with a passion for improving the environment have been presented with special awards during a ceremony at the Waikato Regional Council.

The 2011 winner of the Dr Stella Frances Scholarship is University of Waikato student Emma Chibnall, while Gabrielle Batenburg is the 2011 winner of the Waikato Regional Council prize for water science.

Environment committee chairperson Jane Hennebry said they were both deserving winners of their awards.

“I’m delighted to see the awards presented to two young women both sharing enthusiasm for helping to resolve New Zealand’s big challenges of soil and water health,” Cr Hennebry said.

The Dr Stella Frances Scholarship was initiated in 2005 in memory of the well-known and highly respected environmentalist, regional councillor and conservator for the Department of Conservation (DOC) who died in August 2003.

It is awarded for masters-level research and study in the fields of natural and physical sciences, human perspectives on the environment, environment management practice or economics and technologies.

Emma Chibnall’s research topic is the ‘Contribution of dissolved organic carbon leaching to an annual carbon budget of a grazed pastoral system’.

Through her research Ms Chibnall hopes to provide information on the movement and cycling of carbon through pastoral soils that may contribute to improved management of dairy farm systems, both environmentally and economically.  

The $5000 scholarship is sponsored jointly by Waikato Regional Council and DOC and is intended to defray research/studying expenses.

Ms Chibnall, who moved from Auckland to Hamilton four years ago, was selected from four scholarship applicants. She said she was honoured and appreciative to have received the award.

“I’ve really enjoyed hydrology and soil science and this year-long research project combines the two. So far in New Zealand the presence of carbon in the soil has only ever been measured in a lab – for my research, we’ll be working in the field extracting soil water from a dairy farm near Matamata,” Ms Chibnall said.

Waikato Conservation Board chairman Arthur Hinds attended Wednesday’s ceremony with DOC’s Waikato conservator Greg Martin. Mr Hinds said: “Emma is a remarkable young woman, as Stella was. It is great to see her memory live on through the recipients of this scholarship.”

During the ceremony Gabrielle Batenburg was presented with her prize of book vouchers worth $500. The water sciences prize is awarded to the top Bachelor of Science student enrolled in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Waikato.

Ms Batenburg, who majored in environmental sciences with a second major in psychology, said she was proud to receive the award, but admitted to having “split passions”.

The former Epson Girls Grammar School student is due to start a post graduate diploma in psychology at the University of Waikato and hopes to become a clinical psychologist.

“I still have a huge interest and passion for the environment, especially concerning hydrology and soil, but any further work I do with these will be on a volunteering basis.

“In the past I have done tree planting and other similar volunteer activities, which I’d like to continue with. Ideally though, I would love to volunteer to help lecturers or students doing water science based projects at university,” Ms Batenburg said.