SCU snags federal funding

SOUTHERN Cross University has received $303,000 in new national funding for a project to assist in the management of tropical coastal waterways.

The university’s Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research plans to use the funding to continue its mission of being a world-leader in biogeochemical research that is regionally relevant and globally significant.

“This allows the continuation of a project we have been doing in the Cook Islands which has the potential to provide cheap alternatives for treating waste water, and an extension of a project we have been doing at Heron Island, in Queensland, looking at nitrogen cycling in permeable sands,” said Professor Bradley Eyre, director of the University’s Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research.

“We are looking at the links between the groundwater system and what flows through the beach sand into the coastal waters.

“In particular, we are looking at how the nutrients sourced from the groundwater are processed within those permeable sands.

“Our results to date show that coral sand has a unique ability to process nutrients. The whole idea is that in developing countries, such as the Cook Islands, we could use those sands for treating waste water,” he said.

Professor Eyre said many Pacific Island nations relied heavily on their pristine marine environments to support tourism-based economies but they were under threat from poor sewage treatment and nutrient contamination of groundwater.

“The capacity of coral sands to process nutrients may also be the saviour of developing Pacific Island nations,” Professor Eyre said.

The funding through the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects scheme was announced on June 23 by Senator Kim Carr, federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. The total cost of the three-year research project is $528,000, which includes a new ARC Fellowship for Dr Dirk Erler.

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