Studies of explosive volcanic eruptions, pregnancy blood pressure, sapphires, equine surgery, lameness in horses, and feline diabetes are among six University of Queensland Faculty of Science projects attracting 2017 funding in the Early Career Researcher Grants Scheme.

The scheme encourages research by new staff members, provides seed funding to help generate external research support, and supports high quality research projects of modest financial cost.

Successful grant recipients are:

  • Dr Teresa Ubide of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences will unravel the triggers of explosive volcanic eruptions by applying state-of-the-art analytical methods. The main project impact will be in developing models to address the contemporary challenge of volcanic hazard mitigation, including human responses via policy and infrastructure.
  • Dr Marloes Dekker of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences will investigate if the gut microbiota regulate blood pressure in pregnancy, if circulating short chain fatty acids differ in gestational hypertension and if probiotics can lower blood pressure. This study may identify a cheap and easy strategy to implement in current clinical practice to prevent pregnancy complications and improving health outcomes for mother and child.
  • Dr Aaron Herndon of the School of Veterinary Science is studying a commonly diagnosed condition in cats, Feline Diabetes Mellitus.  Dr Herndon’s research will address the urgent need to develop practical, cost-effective methods to identify pre-diabetic cats which may benefit from early intervention to avoid developing clinical diabetes. Advances in diagnosing and treating feline diabetes may have application to human diabetes diagnosis and treatment.
  • Dr Aaron Palke of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences will analyse melt inclusions in sapphires from the Central Queensland Gem Fields. Many Australian sapphires contain melt inclusions (blebs of silicate liquid, or magma, trapped during sapphire growth). Australia has been a major producer of quality sapphires for well over 100 years. Understanding how sapphire deposits form will help to develop better prospecting tools for exploration or to more accurately evaluate known deposits.
  • Dr Ben Ahern of the School of Veterinary Science will investigate treatment for infections in Guttural pouches (GP), which are paired extensions of the eustachian tube (connecting the inner ear to the pharynx) in horses. GP infections are common, can be difficult to treat and life threatening. This research evaluates a laser surgical treatment in horses to develop the procedure for use in clinical cases. If successful, the technique will be adopted globally as the treatment of choice for GP disease in horses.
  • Dr Lesley Goff of the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences is using special sensors and a force plate to capture motions of the spine and limbs in sound and lame horses during gait.   The project is expected to give clinicians an enhanced ability to detect lameness in horses during gait, using non-invasive means. Better diagnosis is expected to improve treatment of equine lameness and contribute to equine sports performance and improved equine welfare.
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