Developing new techniques for dating modern human fossils and improving our understanding of the coastal carbon cycle are among new Southern Cross University research projects which have received $1.21 million through the Australian Research Council (ARC).
Southern Cross University has received the funding through the Discovery Projects, the Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities scheme, and the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme, announced by the Minister for Education The Hon Christopher Pyne MP.
Associate Professor Isaac Santos, from the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research, has been awarded $395,220 over three years for a project investigating carbon pathways in mangroves, using a combination of new experimental approaches.
Professor Santos said mangroves forests were highly productive coastal ecosystems, which played a key role in the marine carbon cycle.
“Currently we know how much carbon is being absorbed by the mangrove trees, but we don’t know how much is subsequently lost to the ocean and how it may occur,” Professor Santos said.
“We are testing a hypothesis that the carbon is going to the soil of mangroves, into the groundwater via crab burrows and then seeps into the ocean. We suspect that the magnitude of this process is comparable to carbon uptake by mangrove trees.”
Professor Santos is also leading a project to develop a new gamma spectrometry facility, which can perform high precision radionuclide measurements to resolve complex environmental processes such as sediment accumulation, soil erosion and marine carbon scavenging. This project has received $155,000.
Associate Professor Ed Burton, from Southern Cross GeoScience, is leading a project which aims to provide new perspectives on arsenic geochemistry in anoxic soils, sediments and groundwater systems. He has received $210,000 over three years.
Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Southern Cross GeoScience, is the lead investigator on a project which will enable the reliable direct dating of key modern human fossils. This project is aimed at helping to understand modern human expansion, critical for developing and testing evolutionary hypothesis. The project has received funding of $121,059.
“The newly developed direct dating technique applied to human fossil is virtually non-destructive, and allows for the first time to establish a reliable and consistent chronology of modern human occurrences throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia,” Dr Joannes-Boyau said.
Associate Professor Andrew Rose, also from Southern Cross GeoScience, is leading a team of researchers which has received $330,000 to develop a state-of-the-art facility for determining particle size, concentration and surface properties for a wide range of environmentally occurring particles, in rapid succession.
Researchers from Southern Cross GeoScience, Southern Cross Plant Science, the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, the School of Education and the Division of Research are also involved in a range of other ARC projects which are being coordinated by other universities.
Associate Professor Amy Cutter-Mackenzie, is an investigator on a $232,343 project led by Deakin University, to engage early childhood educators and children to develop curricula interventions that support and integrate children’s learning about healthy eating, active play and sustainability. Professor Bill Boyd is an investigator on a $400,000 project led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to develop and expand the mobile field recording system, the national data repository and a suite of online editing and visualisation tools to support archaeologists conducting research projects of national significance.
Dr Kirsten Benkendorff is the lead investigator on a $2 m project led by Griffith University which will provide support for a nuclear magnetic infrastructure network for use by researchers across five universities. The other researchers from SCU involved in this project are Professor Graham King, Professor Leigh Sullivan and Professor Richard Bush. Professor Graham King is an investigator on a $1.02 m UNSW-led project which renews access to the National Computational Infrastructure facilities and the largest super-computer in the southern hemisphere, used for world-leading research including bioinformatics at SCU. Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau is the lead investigator on a $360,000 project led by the University of Wollongong looking at innovative isotopic techniques to study the response of soil and water resources to modern and past climate change. Other SCU researchers involved are Associate Professors Anja Scheffers, Ed Burton, Scott Johnston and Professor Leigh Sullivan.