This year's applicants for Shackleton Scholarships were exceptionally qualified and the Committee made an additional £4,000 available for two extra academic awards, spokesperson for the scholarship Sally Ellis told Penguin News.
The spread of candidates was greater than ever, from Australia to Wales, from France and Germany to the United States. The first Falkland Islander to receive an academic scholarship for some time was Patrick Watts (left) the broadcaster and journalist who is preparing a history of the Stanley Sports Association. Watts, best known for his live broadcasting during the invasion of 1982, is also an enthusiastic sports reporter. He has been commentating on the Stanley Sports (the horse races at Christmas) for over forty years.
The other four academic scholarships follow the environmental and scientific themes of previous years. Teresa Darbyshire from the National Museum of Wales continues her collection of polychaeta (hairy sea worms) which she began with a Shackleton Scholarship in 2011. A multi-national team, Dr Aldo Asensi and Prof Bruno de Revier from Paris and Professor Frithjof Kuepper, a German scientist working in Aberdeen University, will continue their work on seaweeds (strictly brown Algae) again following earlier studies around the Islands last year.
Ms Melanie Mackenzie, an Australian biologist, will study Holothuroids (sea-cucumbers to the layman) with a view to developing a collection strategy for the Islands. A second Australian, Dr Alastair Baylis, who lives in California but who is well known to Falkland Islanders following his stint as Conservation Officer with Falklands Conservation, will resume work on the southern Sea Lion, with the objective of discovering why populations have declined alarmingly during the past century.
Commenting on this years Academic awards, the Chairman of the Fund's London Committee, David Tatham, said: "We are delighted with the very high academic quality of this year's awards, although it presents us with real problems in selection. This is a vintage year for our scholars who will also be able to benefit from the new South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute which has just been opened in Stanley. We look forward to reading the results of their studies."
On the Quality of Life side as always the decisions were hard to make, but we were delighted to again support Falklands sportsmen and woman by awarding funds to the longstanding Stanley Netball Club and the relatively newly formed Falkland Islands Archery Association – both of which will bring coaches to the Islands to improve their members' skills, techniques, coaching and umpiring abilities. His Excellency Nigel Haywood, Chairman of the Funds Stanley Committee, said the Fund were particularly keen to support clubs who would in time hopefully be in a position to send competitors to represent the Falklands at international events.
The third Quality of Life award went to musician Marc Block – a folk singer and songwriter who has been making a name for himself in folk clubs since winning Towersey Village Festival Song Slam in 2009. Marc has visited the Falklands previously working as a volunteer botanical field assistant with Richard Lewis as part of a Falklands Conservation project. Marc will play at a number of venues around the Islands and within the schools.