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tierney o'sullivan, australia, 2013-2014
Fulbright Scholar Tierney O'Sullivan

Fulbright Year: 2013-2014
Country: Australia
Proposal Type: Research Grant
Field of Study: Ecology
Proposal Title: The Behavioral Effects of Road Traffic on the Tasmanian Wedge-Tailed Eagle
UGA Undergraduate Major: Ecology
Graduation Date: May 2013
Hometown: Roswell, Georgia

Tierney O’Sullivan’s Fulbright year will combine a host of her academic, professional, and personal passions.

An avowed outdoor enthusiast who has enjoyed a successful career as a whitewater kayak racer (she’s a three-time national champion), Tierney is working on the island state of Tasmania, located 150 miles south of the mainland of Australia, examining how environment plays a role in the breeding success of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the largest bird of prey in Australia and an endangered species.

“I will be working with the Forest Practices Authority and the University of Tasmania to undertake research on the effect of road traffic on the breeding behavior and success of the wedge-tailed eagle,” Tierney, a UGA Charter Scholarship recipient and an Honors student.

“I will monitor nesting sites and record behavioral responses to disturbance. The wedge-tailed eagle is the sole remaining predator in Tasmania, and is currently endangered on the island. This project will continue in an ongoing effort to better understand the factors responsible for its decline and enable its conservation in the future.”

Tierney adds that the survival of the wedge-tailed eagle is integral to Tasmania on several fronts.

“Conservation of this species in Tasmania is paramount, not only for its iconic status, but also because it performs a vital role in the ecosystem,” she says. “Since the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger in the last century and the sudden decline in the Tasmanian devil in the past decade due to the onset of the crippling facial tumor disease, the wedge-tailed eagle is the sole apex predator in Tasmania.”

When she completes her Fulbright year, Tierney will seek a master’s degree in statistics before pursuing a PhD in conservation ecology with an emphasis on community level interactions.

“In the future, I am interested in looking for answers to a fundamental dilemma in conservation—how to provide the most effective management of the entire ecosystem with limited funding and resources,” she says. “My work in Tasmania will serve as an ideal basis for these career goals by providing experience with not only academia, but also the management component of conservation.”

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