Third Year Natural History Illustration student at the University of Newcastle, Susan Sparks, has won this year's prestigious Margaret Senior Wildlife Award with her illustrations of local flora and fauna, recorded in Throsby Creek mangrove, the Stockton Sandpit and the coastal heath of Awabakal Nature Reserve.
Ms Sparks' illustrations of birds such as the Striated Heron, Little Black Cormorant and the Australasian Darter, impressed the judges who praised her consistency.
Among the botanical species submitted were the bottlebrush, wattles and banksias.
Family holidays as a child ignited her love of the natural world.
"My parents were passionate about nature as well. We enjoyed holidays to the bush and beaches in far north Queensland. When I discovered rainforests, I was just smitten with them."
She has always enjoyed drawing too, but only began doing it seriously six years ago.
The University of Newcastle's Natural History Illustration degree was the perfect marriage of Ms Sparks' love of the natural world and drawing.
"A friend of mine knew about the University's Natural History Illustration degree and suggested it would allow me to combine my interests."
Ms Sparks enrolled after completing the University's tertiary preparation program, the Open Foundation course.
She plans to purchase a stronger microscope with the $1,000 award, which is funded by NSW Parks and Wildlife Division, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and the late Margaret Senior.
The Margaret Senior Wildlife Award recognises the talented students in the University's Bachelor of Illustration (Natural History) program. The University of Newcastle is the only institution in Australia to offer such a program and one of only three in the world.
Margaret Senior was one of Australia's most prominent and respected wildlife illustrators who died in 1995 leaving a bequest to the University to encourage the continuing study of natural history.
Applications for the Natural History Illustration degree are now open through the Universities Admission Centre (UAC). The closing date is September 30.
Images available: Photos of Susan Sparks' work are available on request by contacting Media and PR officer Carmen Swadling.
For interview: Susan Sparks on 0402 508990.