Project summaries: 2016 Environmental Research

Updated 31 May 2017

OrganisationProject titleAmount $   

Australian National University

Adaptive evolution of eucalyptus trees under future climates

120,408

Australian National University

Knowledge to Action: co-design of climate adaptation strategies 149,888
CSIRO - Land and Water Flagship Biohydrometallurgical metal recovery from e-waste 150,000

CSIRO - Land and Water Flagship

Predicting leachability of perfluorinated chemicals from NSW soils

145,406

Office of Environment and Heritage

Improving Aboriginal engagement through cultural science

149,119

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

Increasing the adaptive potential of restored plant assemblages

148,312

University of New South Wales

Dioxin biodegradation for harbour sediment remediation

149,322

University of Newcastle

Developing a theoretical model for improving waste management

146,292

University of Sydney

Transgenerational plasticity and epigenetics - ocean change adaptation

150,000

Western Sydney University

A scientific basis for assisted gene migration under climate change

149,500

10 projects totalling

$1,458,247

2016 project summaries

Australian National University
Adaptive evolution of eucalyptus trees under future climates
$120,408

Over 800 species of eucalyptus trees in Australia that occupy varying climates. Knowledge regarding potential adaptation of eucalyptus trees to future climates is essential to aid in restoration efforts within NSW. This project seeks to understand whether E. camaldulensis (river red gum) genotypes from different climates of origin have evolved different solutions to maximize photosynthetic biochemistry of carbon dioxide fixation during heatwaves and drought. We will determine the thermal limitations of photosynthetic carbon dioxide fixation and its influence over tree growth, so that we can provide land managers with crucial information on matching genotypes with climate to maximise success in restoration projects.

Australian National University
Knowledge to Action: co-design of climate adaptation strategies
$149,888

Human-induced climate change is already affecting NSW climate averages and extremes. More change is likely, impacting on the NSW environment including systems such as agriculture. Adapting to these changes will be increasingly important. However, current approaches to climate adaptation do not seem to be working well because of issues including relevance, complexity and timescales. We will co-develop with the Holbrook Landcare Network rules-of-thumb for adaptation decision-making to re-frame climate adaptation to address now not the far future, demonstrating the benefits of a dynamic approach to climate risk management. We will test this approach with a broader range of NSW decision-makers.

CSIRO Land and Water
Biohydrometallurgical metal recovery from e-waste
$150,000

The project aims to develop a biohydrometallurgical process for recovering metals from electronic waste (e-waste). The project includes:

  1. Designing and constructing a laboratory-scale prototype of the biohydrometallurgical system.
  2. Determining achievable base metal leaching rates and yields using biogenic ferric iron oxidant and sulfuric acid.
  3. Determining achievable base metal recovery yields from bioleach liquors through selective step-wise metal sulphide precipitation using biologically generated hydrogen sulphide.
  4. Developing a process flow sheet and conducting a preliminary techno-economic evaluation of the process.

Experiments will be carried out with printed circuit boards, but the process could be extended to other e-wastes.

CSIRO - Land and Water Flagship
Predicting leachability of perfluorinated chemicals from NSW soils
$145,406

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs or PFAS) such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)/perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) are highly persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative. Their widespread usage has caused major contamination problems globally and in NSW (e.g. Williamtown). Assessing the leachability and mobility of PFAS is critical to assessing risk and determining remediation options at contaminated sites.  Due to their unique properties, conventional rules for predicting contaminant mobility do not work for PFAS. This project aims to identify key soil properties that determine the sorption, mobility and leachability and develop a locally-based and cost-effective predictive model to rapidly assess the mobility of PFAS in NSW soils. Such predictive capability is essential for improved outcomes from site assessment and remediation projects.

Office of Environment and Heritage
Improving Aboriginal engagement through cultural science
$149,119

Aboriginal Culture may provide the missing element for long-term successful engagement in environmental issues. We will investigate how to integrate Aboriginal Culture into the social engagement process and document the changes that take place. A core group of Aboriginal Champions will closely collaborate with cultural scientists to co-develop a Cultural Process Model inspired by Aboriginal Lore and Kinship Systems.  On-Country activities will be developed and monitored using the model. For the first time, Aboriginal Culture will also be integrated in a social Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) framework to assess the strength and sustainability of meaningful, cultural engagement in addressing long-term environmental issues.

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust
Increasing the adaptive potential of restored plant assemblages
$148,312

The objective of ecological restoration is to produce self-sustainable, resilient plant assemblages that can adapt to changing environmental conditions. Seed collections form an invaluable role in obtaining material for restoration. However, little information on the evolutionary suitability (such as genetic diversity) of this material exists. This multi-species comparison will use genotypic data and glasshouse experimentation to answer two key questions. How representative is the genetic diversity within sampled seeds of the diversity found within the original source population? Are there associative patterns between climatic origins, germination success and genetic provenance? This crucial information will guide seed collecting for future restoration.

University of New South Wales
Dioxin biodegradation for harbour sediment remediation
$149,322

Industrial activity on the Rhodes Peninsula has resulted in long-term contamination of harbour sediments with dioxins. Dioxins are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic organochlorines that accumulate in biological tissues. Dioxin contamination is severe enough to justify a complete commercial fishing ban in Sydney Harbour, likely to be in place for decades. This project will develop and test bacterial cultures that can be deployed in harbour sediments to accelerate the natural biological degradation of dioxins. The ultimate goal is to reduce the period over which dioxin levels in Sydney Harbour are a legitimate environmental and human health concern.

University of Newcastle
Developing a theoretical model for improving waste management
$146,292

The aim is to challenge existing waste management strategies in construction. The primary objective is to evaluate existing strategies and secondly develop a theoretical model to substantially reduce environmental impacts of unsorted waste materials leaving construction sites. Currently construction produces more than 19 million tons of waste, 45% of which is deposited in landfill. This results in increased energy consumption, contamination, landfill reliance and depletion of new finite resources. Alternative propositions include reconfiguring the value chain, potentially benchmarking processes from alternative sectors including baggage handling technologies and ‘uber’ type logistic. The overall outcome will be a plan for change.

University of Sydney
Transgenerational plasticity and epigenetics - ocean change adaptation
$150,000

This project on transgenerational plasticity in the response of sea urchins and oysters to climate change will characterise the capacity that parental conditioning and transmission of environmentally induced DNA methylation from parent to offspring will facilitate climate adaptation in commercially and ecologically important species. Developmental acclimation and epigenetic change in DNA will be investigated in analysis of phenotypic performance and DNA methylation in offspring generated from parents conditioned in present and future warming and acidification environments. Understanding how transgenerational plasticity alters offspring phenotype is crucial to identify species with the capacity to adapt to climate change and to provide strategies to help climate proof associated industries.

Western Sydney University
A scientific basis for assisted gene migration under climate change
$149,500

Understanding the capacity of trees to respond to climate change is essential for the maintenance of biodiversity, forest health and productivity. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of droughts, which has resulted in tree death and negatively affected essential ecosystem services. Adaptive land management is urgently needed in order to mitigate the risk of large-scale drought mortality in a rapidly changing climate. Assessing genetic adaptation and physiological tolerance to drought across species distributions is critically important if we are to develop management tools, such as assisted gene migration, for sustainable and productive forests in a drying climate.

Page last updated: 31 May 2017