Marine reserves, koalas and climate change in the Pacific are among topics to be tackled by Faculty of Science researchers, who will pair with industry partners in the latest Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects round.

Faculty-led projects attracted nine grants from 29 awarded to The University of Queensland in the competitive Linkage Projects scheme, for a total of $2,310 million in funding from the ARC plus contributions from the industry partners.

The School of Biological Sciences attracted two grants valued at $612,771 total, while the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management attracted seven grants valued at $1,697 million in total.

Faculty researchers also are chief investigators in an additional three grants, led by other Schools and Institutes. The additional three grants have attracted $1,343 million in total, plus industry contributions.

In addition, School researchers were chief investigators in three other Linkage projects, led by other universities, with the value of ARC contributions at $967,000.

Research on ultrathin lighting technologies has seen the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences researcher Professor Paul Burn FAA FRSC win one of only two prestigious ARC Australian Laureate Fellowships made to The University of Queensland in the latest round. Professor Burn was awarded more than $2.8 million from the ARC.

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences researchers Professor Paul Young (Head of School) Professor Ross Barnard, and Dr Ben Schulz are also featured on an Industrial Transformation Training Centre grant for the new ARC Training Centre for Biopharmaceutical Innovation, valued at $4.3 million.

Successful Faculty-led Linkage project grant applications were:

School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management

Reclaiming lost ground: Transitions of mobility and parking – ARC funding $190,000
This project aims to understand the role of parking in mobility, urban consolidation and transit-oriented development. Does parking supply affect travel demand, car ownership, and ultimately urban quality of life? New transitions and trends in land-use and transport, including car-sharing and automated vehicles, and the revival of urban living, raise important questions about the redesign and reuse of urban space. This project aims to give policy-makers an evidence based toolkit to determine how best to repurpose the space currently accommodating private cars.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators: Associate Professor Jonathan Corcoran; Dr Dorina Pojani; Dr Iderlina Mateo-Babiano; Professor Neil Sipe.
  • Industry partner: Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Estimating temporary populations ­– ARC funding $212,000
This project aims to develop a series of population estimates for Australian regions and localities that encompasses visitors and other temporary movements and complements existing estimates of resident populations. It will clarify user needs, evaluate data quality, apply metrics to capture key forms of temporary mobility, and integrate symptomatic data to estimate the timing and magnitude of population flux at local and regional levels. These results are expected to advance the science of population estimation and have direct practical relevance to planning, while positioning Australia at the forefront in addressing a growing global information need.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators: Dr Elin Charles-Edwards; Associate Professor Jonathan Corcoran; Professor Martin Bell
  • Industry partner: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Conserving and recovering the koala populations on NSW Far North Coast – ARC funding $232,000
This project aims to develop a socio-ecological approach for connecting landscapes and communities for the recovery of threatened koala populations on the New South Wales north coast. This should increase understanding of how local landholders and land managers respond to koala recovery programs and why they respond positively and become engaged for the long-term. The intended outcome is a spatial prioritisation framework for species recovery that integrates social and ecological values, and increased global knowledge of how to recover declining wildlife populations.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators Professor Clive McAlpine; Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes; Associate Professor Gregory Brown
  • Industry partners:  Friends of the Koala; Tweed Shire Council; Lismore City Council; Byron Shire Council; Ballina Shire Council. 

Assessing the ecosystem-wide risks of threatened species translocation – ARC funding $311,377
This project aims to develop the first quantitative risk assessment framework to improve decisions about moving threatened species to new places. Moving threatened plants and animals to new environments, or reintroducing them where they previously persisted, is a growing focus of conservation, but moving species can have unanticipated effects on other species in the ecosystem. Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature deems ecosystem-wide risk assessments essential for conservation translocations, no framework currently exists to assess these risks and inform these decisions.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigator: Dr Eve Mcdonald-Madden
  •  Industry partners: Booderee National Park; Department of Parks and Wildlife; The Nature Conservancy.

Optimising community-based climate change adaptation in the Pacific Islands – ARC funding $180,098
This project aims to evaluate community-level climate change interventions in the Pacific to provide guidelines for better practice. The effects of climate change — rising sea levels, more droughts, and more frequent and intense storm activity — have been particularly concentrated in tropical areas such as the Pacific Islands. In response, interventions to adapt to a diversity of impacts have accelerated at the community level across the region, but there has been no analysis of their long-term effectiveness in reducing livelihood and resource vulnerability to climate change.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators: Dr Karen McNamara; Associate Professor James Watson
  • Industry partners: Care International in Vanuatu; Carita Australia; Conservation Society of Pohnpei; Pacific Conference of Churches; Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre; The Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International; Wildlife Conservation Society (Fiji); World Wide Fund for Nature – Pacific.

Mapping Aboriginal routes to link landscape knowledge and cultural identity - ARC funding $247,000
This project aims to develop novel methods for Aboriginal communities to describe and share place-based knowledge of cultural landscapes using historical travel routes. This is a priority to reconnect people to their cultural identify and uncover significant heritage trails in southeast Queensland. The Wakka Wakka people will train Indigenous youth in geographic information system (GIS) technologies to collect place-based stories from elders, thus transferring knowledge between generations. The spatial rendering of cultural landscapes through story maps and participatory mapping is expected to enhance Indigenous cultural identity and awareness, build social capital, and document current and historical connections to 'country'.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators: Dr David Pullar; Associate Professor Gregory Brown; Dr Sonia Roitman; Ms Laurel Johnson
  • Industry partner: Wakka Wakka Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.

From tailings to soil: in situ remediation in mine site rehabilitation – ARC funding $325,000
By enhancing and guiding abiotic and biotic processes of soil development, this project aims to accelerate the in situ remediation of bauxite residue (alumina refining tailings). Over seven gigatonnes of tailings are produced globally every year, comprising complex mineral assemblages at extremes of pH and salinity with minimal biological activity. This project will build detailed knowledge on the chemical, physical, and biological properties of bauxite residue and apply this to develop field-scale in situ remediation strategies. This research will also advance understanding of soil development and primary succession of microbial communities in extreme, anthropogenic environments such as those presented by tailings.

  • Science Faculty chief investigators: Dr Talitha Santini; of the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management; Professor Gordon Southam of the School of Earth Sciences; and Professor Gene Tyson of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, in a Sustainable Minerals Institute-led application.
  • Industry partners: International Aluminium Institute; Alcoa of Australia Limited.

School of Biological Sciences

Operationalizing marine reserve design for rebuilding tropical fisheries – ARC funding $287,771
This project intends to maximise the scope for rebuilding reef fisheries in Indonesia while ensuring short-term fishery yields do not become too low. Marine reserves allow fish populations to recover and replenish fished areas, however, because reserves remove fishing grounds, fish catches tend to decrease in the short-term while fish recover in reserves; a process that can take a decade. Loss of yield can be so burdensome that managers abandon fisheries. This research is intended to improve the economic security of fishers and food security, and inform World Bank and Australian aid programs.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigator: Professor Pete Mumby
  • Industry partners: World Wildlife Fund US; Wildlife Conservation Society; World Wildlife Fund Indonesia.

The ecology of trace metal contamination in native Australian mammals - ARC funding $325,000
This project aims to evaluate the impacts of mined trace metals on the health and performance of native Australian mammals in a tropical ecosystem and to determine how each species’ ecology contributes to their risk of contamination. The research also aims to give local Indigenous Rangers scientifically-based strategies to improve wildlife conservation on their land. Australia’s long-term health relies on its ability to minimise the environmental costs of mining, particularly in areas characterised by high biodiversity, unique native species, or species of cultural or touristic value. Anticipated outcomes are better, more targeted strategies for conservation in mining areas.

  • Science Faculty Chief Investigators: Associate Professor Robbie Wilson; Dr Diana Fisher; Dr Simon Blomberg
  • Industry partners Anindilyakwa Land Council.

Successful projects with Faculty of Science collaboration
Faculty of Science researchers were chief Investigators in successful applications led by other Schools and research centres. Projects and Science researchers were:
Rapid functional and taxonomic skin microbe characterisation – ARC funding $388,000
This project aims to develop methods to detect and characterise bioactive molecules released by skin microbes, and a novel microspectroscopy method for rapid taxonomic identification. This project will acquire independent spectra and develop classification algorithms, and participate in strategic planning for applications and product development. The expected outcomes from this project are research tools for skin microbiome modulation of immunity, and proof-of-concept data for future commercial product development. Potential commercial applications include microbial characterisation for biosecurity, agriculture, environmental and soil biology.

  • Science Faculty chief investigator: Professor Philip Hugenholtz, of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, is a chief investigator on this Diamantina Institute-led application.
  • Industry partners: Agilent Technologies Australia Pty Ltd.

Eco-engineering soil from mine tailings for native plant rehabilitation – ARC funding $590,000
This project aims to develop integrated and low-cost eco-engineering technology to purposefully accelerate in-situ formation of soil from tailings for sustainable native plant community rehabilitation at metal mines. Soil shortages at mines cost the Australian mining industry billions of dollars in sustainable rehabilitation of tailings, and threaten the industry’s ecological and commercial sustainability. Building on recent findings of critical processes in soil formation from copper/lead–zinc tailings, this research will use key biogeochemical and rhizosphere processes in the tailing-soil to create a functional 'technosol'. This technology is intended to be used in Australian metal mines to offset the soil needed to rehabilitate tailings landforms with native plant communities

  • Science chief investigator: Professor Gordon Southam, of the School of Earth Sciences, in a Sustainable Minerals Institute-led application
  • Industry partners: Karara Mining Limited; Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority.

Engineering the strength and consolidation of reclaimed soft soil – ARC funding $365,000
This project aims to strengthen reclaimed soft soils by controlled desiccation. Soft soil is a significant engineering challenge for many industry sectors in Australia and worldwide. The disposal of dredged soft soil is costly and time-consuming, and failure of soft mine tailings is an environmental catastrophe that can cause loss of life and interrupt mining production. This project will research the underlying processes of material behaviour, by developing new electromagnetic measurement and modelling methods to predict material strengths at the micro and macro scales during desiccation. The new approach is expected to lead to innovative solutions to bearing capacity and settlement problems associated with soft soils.

  • Science Faculty chief investigator: Dr Harald Hofmann, of the School of Earth Sciences, in a School of Civil Engineering-led application
  • Industry partners: Ju-Hui Technology Pty Ltd; Golder Associates Pty Ltd; Hohai University, China; Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd.

Successful projects collaborating with other universities
School of Biological Sciences researchers also were chief investigators in three successful applications led by other universities.  Projects and School researchers were:

Associate Professor Richard Fuller is a chief investigator in a project led by RMIT University – ARC funding $321,000

This project aims to determine mechanisms linking urban design to socio-ecological benefits from green spaces. Ecological restoration in urban green space could attract more biodiversity into urban environments, reduce maintenance costs, provide market advantage for the development industry and improve a sense of place for residents. However, how best to encourage biodiversity using urban design is poorly understood, and little is known about how green spaces create health and well-being. This project will alter levels of green space design explanatory variables in modular experimental plots, in both Royal Park, the City of Melbourne’s largest public green space, and Melbourne’s CBD; conduct biodiversity and human wellbeing experiments; and develop urban design recommendations that support biodiversity and human wellbeing.

  • Industry partners: Arup Pty Limited: Melbourne City Council (City of Melbourne); Phillip Johnson Landscapes; Greening Australia Ltd.

Associate Professor Richard Fuller is also a chief investigator in a project led by Melbourne University – ARC funding $320,000
This project aims to explore the effects of different urban tree types and plantings on people and wildlife in Melbourne, Moreland and Ballarat so they can better plan their future urban forests. Local governments spend millions of dollars planting and maintaining urban trees every year. Research provides little guidance to these land managers when making critical decisions in a rapidly changing social and physical environment. This project will combine tree inventory data with new information on the social and ecological effects of trees (for example, human well-being, bird diversity). This research is expected to guide future tree management decisions that have better social and environmental outcomes for Australia’s cities.

  • Industry partners: Melbourne City Council (City of Melbourne); Moreland City Council; Ballarat City Council; Royal Botanic Gardens and National Herbarium of Victoria.

Professor Catherine Lovelock is a chief investigator in a project led by Deakin University – ARC funding $326,000
This project aims to develop decision tools to predict how different management plans could affect the persistence of coastal ecosystems and their capacity to sequester carbon. Coastal ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems (seagrasses, saltmarshes, mangroves) are among Earth’s most efficient carbon sinks, but coastal development and climate change threaten their capacity to sequester carbon. Resource managers urgently need guidance to manage coasts to minimise carbon losses and maximise gains. This project is expected to develop knowledge of how to manage blue carbon ecosystems to achieve maximum carbon sequestration capacity, and to put Australia at the forefront of international efforts to incorporate coastal carbon within carbon dioxide mitigation strategies.

  • Industry partners: The Trustee for the Nature Conservancy Australia Trust; Park Victoria; DELWP.

 

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