Impact of research highlighted in annual competition

2023 Research Impact Competition winner Dr Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez

Dr Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment has won the 2023 Research Impact Competition, presenting his fascinating research project, ’Are Urban Forests Ready for Climate Change?’

As one of the flagship events of Western Sydney University's Research Week, this year’s Competition saw 16 researchers compete in the high-speed event, where they presented their work and highlighted the impact and contributions to the community stemming from their research, in just five minutes.

Investigating the impacts of climate change on urban forests, Dr Esperon-Rodriguez is focused on understanding how urban trees cope with extreme urban conditions such as heatwaves and limited space, while working with councils to make science-based plant choices, to ensure urban greening programs are successful.

In his presentation, Dr Esperon-Rodriguez shared how the impacts of climate change remain largely unmeasured in Australian cities.

“I talked about a recent work I developed with colleagues from Australia and France, where I assessed the climate risk of more than 16,000 plant species planted in more than 1000 cities across 93 countries,” said Dr Esperon-Rodriguez.

“We found that about half of these species are already experiencing stressful conditions and the number of species at risk will increase in future decades. I also highlighted that as city temperatures keep increasing, urban trees will become more important than ever.”

The runner up of the competition was awarded to Dr Hazel Keedle from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, with her presentation, ‘All Women Deserve Respectful Maternity Care, But Do They All Receive It?’

The People’s Choice Award went to dual winners, Dr Anna Fiveash from The MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development with her presentation ‘Music’s Potential to Improve Language Processing,’ and Dr Michelle Ryan from the School of Science, with her presentation of ‘Using the Iconic Platypus to Restore Western Sydney Waterways.’

The inaugural Western Ventures prizes, an initiative to support projects with excellent commercialisation potential were awarded to Dr Maria Rashidi from the School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment with the presentation ‘Eye in The Sky Keeps Bridges Safe’ along with Dr Phoebe Zhou from NICM Health Research Institute with ‘Safety in Your Hands: A User-Friendly Digital Tool for Drug-Health Supplement Interactions.’

Participants were judged by the expert panel consisting of Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Clare Pollock; Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Medical Association and Western Sydney University Board of Trustees member, Natalia Centellas; and Chair of External Advisory Board for the Urban Transformations Research Centre and Senior Manager at the Low Carbon Futures, WWF Australia, Monica Richter.

Other finalists included:

  • Dr Alison Short (School of Humanities and Communication Arts)
  • Dr Amira Aftab (School of Law)
  • Dr Ashlee Gore (School of Social Sciences)
  • Dr Catharine Fleming (School of Health Sciences)
  • Dr Erika Gyengesi (School of Medicine)
  • Dr Fran Doyle (School of Psychology)
  • Dr Isaac Lyne (Institute for Culture and Society)
  • Dr Kay Carroll (School of Education)
  • Dr Nasser Ghadiri Modarres (School of Computer, Data and Mathematical Sciences)
  • Dr Rosalie Power (Translational Health Research Institute)

2023 Research Impact Competition finalists

While shocked to win the Competition, Dr Esperon-Rodriguez said the initiative is vital to ensure that the benefits of research conducted at the University are not contained to offices or laboratories.

“Amazing things are being developed by great people here at Western Sydney University, so it is essential that we share our knowledge through initiatives such as the Research Impact Competition,” said Dr Esperon-Rodriguez.

“It is important for us as researchers to share how we are contributing to the world with our research, and for the public to know what is being done in the University, how many people we are reaching and what changes we are making.”


17 July  2023

Emily Feszczuk, Media  Officer

Photo credit:  Sally Tsoutas

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