The winner and runner-up of this year’s Lincoln University Thr3sis competition both gave standout presentations that thoroughly engaged the audience, says Director of Postgraduate Studies Professor Charles Brennan.
Winner Shannon Gilmore’s three-minute talk, entitled ‘We Are at War: Using the Moon to Control Pest Mammals’, impressed the judges on every level, from its concise description of her research concepts to its quirky use of humour.
“Shannon clearly illustrated the significance of her research in the context of New Zealand and the world,” says Professor Brennan.
“She described the concepts of her research in a way that was engaging to scientists and members of the public, and her unique use of humour put the audience at ease.”
Shannon, an Ecology Master’s student, is investigating the effect that lunar phases and illumination have on activity levels in possums, stoats, rats and mice, with the aim of finding more effective means of controlling pest mammals.
She says it was “an awesome surprise to win”.
“I had assumed a PhD student would take first place, so that calmed my nerves a lot, and probably helped me win!
“I’m glad I participated. It was great to connect with other thesis writers on campus.
“The three-minute limit forced me to take a step back from my topic and re-evaluate it. I asked myself, ‘what are the most important parts?’ and ‘what will people outside of the thesis bubble be interested in?’”
Thr3sis runner-up and top-placed PhD student, Rowan Sprague, spoke about the research she is carrying out on how distances between wilding pines can affect the invasive trees’ tendency to spread. Her presentation, entitled ‘Pining for Space: The Effect of Space on Pine Invasions’, also impressed the judges.
“Like Shannon, Rowan had a clear delivery of her research concepts, the methods she was using and the importance of her research to the New Zealand ecosystem,” Professor Brennan says.
“She gave a compelling presentation regarding the importance of conservation in biodiversity, which aligned well with the research direction of Lincoln University as a whole.”
Rowan says the Thr3sis competition has allowed her to step back and revisit why she is passionate about her research.
“I feel like I have a renewed enthusiasm for my PhD,” she says. “Condensing my research down to three minutes was very challenging, but I found that focusing on the problem I am trying to address and why my research is significant helped me to trim down my speech.
“I would also like to congratulate all of my fellow participants, as everyone did such an amazing job and I really enjoyed learning about other students’ research.”
Professor Brennan says this year’s Thr3sis competition was unparalleled in terms of quality, with students offering an outstanding illustration of the breadth of research being carried out at Lincoln.
“It was very difficult for the judges to select a winner, as all finalists showed a passion for their research, dedication in terms of their experimental plans, and excellent communication skills,” he says.
“I remain in awe of the dedication and achievements the students illustrated in their presentations. It was a fantastic learning experience for all involved.”
Shannon will represent Lincoln University at the New Zealand Master’s Three Minute Thesis in Palmerston North next month, while Rowan will be flown to Brisbane to compete in the Trans-Tasman version of the event.
PHOTO: Thr3sis 2016 winner Shannon Gilmore during her presentation.