Student Research and Travel Grants

Applications open on 1 March 2025. Applications close on March 31 annually.

About the Student Research and Travel Grants

Working with scientists, partners, and a strong community of people passionate about birds and their habitats, especially globally recognised Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), we combine the best of conservation practice and sound science to achieve critical wins for Australia’s most threatened birds.

Successful applications will align with our Bird Conservation Strategy to ensure Australian birds thrive. Supporting BirdLife Australia’s Bird Conservation Strategy 2023-2032  is our first ever Research Strategy 2023-2027, which defines our role and research needs, identifies objectives and activities that support research goals identified in the Bird Conservation Strategy and prioritises investment in those activities.

Therefore, we suggest that in preparing your research application you:

  • consider our broader strategic conservation goals,
  • ensure your research addresses a conservation issue for KBAs or one of our Conservation Programs.

We strongly suggest you contact us to discuss your projects ahead of time. Projects that align with our existing work and collaborate with staff on outcomes for our conservation work have a higher success rate.

We have Conservation Programs across Australia with diverse priorities and can put you in touch with our teams and are always happy to work together.

About the Stuart Leslie Grants

This Grant was established in 1997 by Mr Stuart Leslie AM, who was then one of Birds Australia’s long-time major donors and a keen birdwatcher. Aware of the crucial importance of ongoing ornithological research and the financial challenges facing Australian students, Mr Leslie generously committed to awarding $15,000 per year to support postgraduate fieldwork and travel to scientific conferences. In late 2004, he was awarded Fellowship of Birds Australia.

There are two Stuart Leslie Grants:

  • Stuart Leslie Bird Research Grant
  • Stuart Leslie Conference Travel Grant

The Stuart Leslie Bird Research Grant supports bird-focused or ornithological research that aligns with BirdLife Australia’s Bird Conservation Strategy and contributes to Birdlife Australia’s conservation and science programs, recognising the importance of birds as bioindicators of environmental health.

The Stuart Leslie Travel Grant is given to individuals attending conferences with a significant focus on avian research or bird-related topics.

Since its establishment, the Grant has provided $770,000, supporting more than 200 projects, including studies on threatened species such as the Powerful Owl, Regent Honeyeater and Hooded Plover. Each year, the number of applications received has increased, highlighting the vital need for award schemes such as this.

Mr Leslie chose to fund bird research because birds are excellent indicators of the overall health of the environment, and he also encouraged other individuals and corporations to consider donating to research organisations.

“Wildlife research is vital to our future,” he said. “Bird species are declining and we often don’t know why. Many Australians are in the position, individually or through their business, to make a real difference to the future of our wildlife. It is a relatively easy and immensely satisfying thing to do.”

The Stuart Leslie Grant will continue to support ornithological research into the future thanks to a generous bequest from Mr Leslie, who passed away in 2005, as well as ongoing support from Mrs Leslie and the Stuart Leslie Foundation.

Benefits of the Stuart Leslie Bird Research and Travel Grant

Typically, grants of between $500 and $5000 are awarded for research projects and up to $1000 for attending conferences.

Successful applicants are eligible to reapply annually, provided satisfactory progress has been made and reporting requirements have been met.

Preference is given to supporting researchers at an early stage of their research program.

How to apply for this grant

Applications for 2024 have now closed and will re-open on 1 March 2025. Applications close on March 31 annually. Results will be announced in June.

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed by at least two senior scientists from BirdLife Australia and/or external referees.

The merit of applications will be judged on:

  • The quality and significance of the research project
  • The novelty and strength of the science employed
  • The likely value of the project to avian conservation in Australia
  • The alignment of the project with Birdlife Australia’s Bird Conservation Strategy 2023-2032
  • The justification for a grant in the context of the overall budget of the project
  • The likelihood of the project achieving its objectives
  • Applications are open to Honours, Masters and PhD students.
  • Students are only eligible for funding toward current research being undertaken at an Australian tertiary institution or for travel to a conference to present current original research.
  • Grants are awarded on the strict understanding that funds will be exempt from institutional administration charges.
  • Previous funding will be taken into consideration.
  • Funds are limited and not all applications may be funded.
  • Applicants must be members of BirdLife Australia to be eligible to apply. Memberships are available here.
  • Applications unrelated to native Australian birds are not eligible to apply for this grant.
  • Students are responsible for obtaining all necessary permits to undertake their research.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to publish their research in Emu- Austral Ornithology or Australian Field Ornithology.
  • Applications by students Identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders are strongly encouraged.
Grant conditions

In accordance with the application criteria, the following conditions must be met:

  • Funds are to be strictly exempt from organisational administration charges.
  • You are required to submit one copy by email of a two-page progress report by October 31 and a two-page final report by February 28 of the following year.
  • In your reports, please include the following which may be included on BirdLife Australia’s website:
    • two or more reasonable-quality photos with captions illustrating your research
    • a 300-500 word summary of study purpose, methods and results to date.
  • You are required to acknowledge the Professor Allen Keast / Stuart Leslie and BirdLife Australia in any presentations, publications, reports or promotional material arising from this work.
  • You may be requested to write a brief article for BirdLife Australia’s membership magazine, Australian Birdlife.
  • You are required to provide BirdLife Australia with an electronic copy of your final academic thesis at the completion of your research project for the BirdLife Library.
Past recipients

A total of $42,500 was awarded to 18 projects in 2023, including nine applicants for conference travel. Research grant recipients include:

  • Clara Borrel, PhD, Deakin University: ‘Breeding ecology and threats of the Spotted Pardalote’
  • Laura Cardona, PhD, University of Tasmania: ‘Effects non-consumptive outdoor recreational activities on forest mammals and birds’
  • Felicity Charles, PhD, University of Queensland: ‘The influence of changing fire regimes on fire-dependent plant-animal interactions. Glossy Black-Cockatoos — a case study’
  • Claudia Escobar, PhD, University of Melbourne: ‘Reproductive phenology and distribution of Brown and Desert Stringybark (Eucalyptus baxteri and E. arenacea), vital foraging resources of the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne) of south-eastern Australia’
  • Kirrily Hastings, PhD, Edith Cowan University: ‘Finding space: Breeding territory abandonment in Western Hooded Plover in association with human disturbance and altered habitat quality’
  • Aubrey Keirnan, PhD, Flinders University: ‘Determining best practices for measuring the avian visual system in the skull’
  • Natalie Klukowski, Doctorate, La Trobe University: ‘Metagenomic characterisation of critically endangered Australian psittacine parrots; bacteria and viral diversity’
  • Ariana La Porte, PhD, Monash University: ‘Avian persistence in the Mornington Sanctuary KBA: how can microclimates buffer climate change impacts?’
  • Nathan Yaschenko, Masters, Edith Cowan University: ‘Developing and applying a novel survey method for the Masked Owl in the South West of Western Australia’


Professor Allen Keast Research Award

As part of our Student Research and Travel Grant, we will be presenting the Allen Keast Research Award to recognise and celebrate the most outstanding student research application among the pool of applicants.

About the Professor Allen Keast Research Award

With his wide scope of research, the number of scientists he collaborated with and his role in educating the global ornithological community about Australia’s birds, Professor Allen Keast was one of Australia’s most influential ornithologists.

His desire to fund this award stems from a lifelong passion to encourage and support young ornithologists.

Professor Keast was made a Fellow of the RAOU in 1965 and awarded the D.L. Serventy Medal in 1995. He passed away in 2009.

Award value

With awards of up to $5000 awarded annually, this prestigious award is reserved for the most meritorious applications. Successful applicants are eligible to reapply each year, provided satisfactory progress has been made and reporting requirements have been met. Preference is given to supporting researchers at an early stage of their research program.

Recipients of the Professor Allen Keast Award

2023: Kirrily Hastings, from Edith Cowan University, for her research project: ‘Finding space: Breeding territory abandonment in Western Hooded Plover in association with human disturbance and altered habitat quality’.

2022: Felipe Jorge, from the University of Queensland, for his research project: ‘Assessing the effectiveness of acoustic indices for monitor bird diversity associated with habitat restoration efforts’.

2021: Erin Bok, from the University of Tasmania, for her research project: ‘Forty-spotted Pardalote and manna gum: joining the spots to save an Australian endangered bird species’.

2019: William Mitchell, from Monash University, for his research project: ‘Reintroduction of the Mallee Emu-wren to Ngarkat Conservation Park’.

2018: Johanne Martens, from Deakin University, for her research project: ‘Ecology of beak and feather disease virus in wild Australian parrots’.

2017: Fernanda Alves, from the Australian National University, for her research project: ‘Conservation and management of an endangered refugee species: the Forty-spotted Pardalote’.

2016: Richard Beggs, from the Australian National University, for his research project: ‘Removing a reverse keystone species: Impacts of an experimental cull of Noisy Miners on small-bodied woodland birds in remnant woodland fragments within an agricultural matrix’.