Project summaries: 2017 Environmental Research

OrganisationProject titleAmount $
CSIRO – Land and Water Flagship Compostable plastics in green wastes: the lowdown on their breakdown $150,000
CSIRO – Land and Water Flagship Ecotoxicology of per–/poly-fluorinated alkyl substances in sediments $150,000
Macquarie University Darug Caring-as-Country – Creating Local Environmental Stewards $141,024
Macquarie University Scaling up green seawall designs $149,152
University of New England Soil biodiversity benefits from environmental plantings $149,956
University of Queensland Promoting stewardship: identifying pathways to greater participation $145,868
University of Wollongong Let them eat Carotenoids: boosting corroboree frog immunity $98,379
University of Wollongong Modelling fire risk to fauna $149,607
Western Sydney University On-site analysis for intelligence gathering at pollution incidents $132,442
9 projects totalling $1,266,428

2017 project summaries

CSIRO – Land and Water Flagship
Compostable plastics in green wastes: the lowdown on their breakdown
$150,000

Production of compost from green, or food and garden organic (FGO), waste collection is increasing in New South Wales. This FGO waste contains compostable plastics that are manufactured with a range of chemicals to achieve their desired characteristics, which is ultimately transferred to a final compost product.

This project aims to characterise compostable plastics being used in New South Wales and their contribution of chemicals to final compost products under a range of scenarios.

The research outcomes will be critical in ensuring the ongoing quality of compost produced in New South Wales for compliance with regulatory composting orders and minimisation of hazards to the terrestrial environment.

CSIRO – Land and Water Flagship
Ecotoxicology of per-/poly-fluorinated alkyl substances in sediments
$150,000

Per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs, including PFOS/PFOA) are highly persistent, bioaccumulative and potentially toxic to a wide range of aquatic organisms. Widespread usage has caused major contamination problems globally and in New South Wales (e.g. Williamtown). PFASs accumulate in sediments but minimal information exists on their risk to benthic organisms.

This project aims to provide chronic toxicity effects thresholds for PFASs in a range of coastal marine sediments. The water-sediment partitioning of PFAS will be characterised to enable prediction of exposure routes and toxicity. The project outcomes will allow risk assessment for sediment biota in PFAS-contaminated sediments for the first time.

Macquarie University
Darug Caring-as-Country – Creating Local Environmental Stewards
$141,024

Yellomundee reserve in western Sydney is being 'loved to death' – heavily recreated, overrun by weeds and pollutants. Yellomundee, however, is of great significance to Darug people.

Building on the momentum of a range of current initiatives at the site, this project's Indigenous-led whole-of-community approach aims to enhance, document and model greater environmental stewardship to facilitate important connections between Darug custodians and youth, environmental experts, management authorities and users, by:

  1. working with environmental experts to enhance, implement and document Caring-as-Country mechanisms
  2. inspiring local users to Care-as-Country through building awareness of the area's cultural, environmental and historical significance
  3. developing an adaptive model of cross-cultural environmental stewardship for use by National Parks and Wildlife Service, community groups and Aboriginal custodians of other sites in New South Wales.

Macquarie University
Scaling up green seawall designs
$149,152

This project will evaluate a new approach for transforming entire seawalls into eco-friendly structures, which can be applied both in New South Wales and globally. Seawalls are the dominant feature of many urbanised NSW coasts and typically support lower biodiversity relative to the natural habitats they replace.

The biodiversity of existing seawalls may be enhanced using ecologically friendly designs, but such approaches have only been trialled at small scale (10s of centimetres). We will test the effectiveness of a new technology for enhancing native biodiversity at the scale of whole seawalls (10s of metres).

University of New England
Soil biodiversity benefits from environmental plantings
$149,956

Soil is a fundamental component of functioning ecosystems. However, work investigating environmental benefits derived from native tree/shrub plantings in Australian landscapes has largely focused on above-ground features:

  • habitat provision
  • biodiversity
  • biomass-carbon.

It is often speculated that below-ground (soil) biodiversity will also improve following native tree/shrub establishment but this hypothesis has never been fully tested.

Using a series of cutting-edge techniques, we will measure the trajectory and magnitude of change in soil properties, micro- to macro-biota under a unique network/chronosequence of environmental plantings and paired reference sites (agriculture, native-vegetation) across New South Wales to determine optimum soil biodiversity outcomes of environmental plantings.

University of Queensland
Promoting stewardship: identifying pathways to greater participation
$145,868

Environmental stewardship is an essential component of solutions to loss of biodiversity. Despite calls for an increase in the proportion of Australians participating in conservation stewardship, there is uncertainty about which stewardship behaviours to prioritise, and effective strategies to maximise participation. Our project addresses the following questions:

Q1. Which stewardship behaviours have the greatest impact on biodiversity?
Q2. Which behaviours are people most likely to adopt?
Q3. What strategies motivate people to adopt stewardship behaviours?
Q4. How does volunteering influence uptake of additional stewardship behaviours?

This project will provide critical knowledge about the best strategies to promote more effective environmental stewardship.

University of Wollongong
Let them eat Carotenoids: boosting corroboree frog immunity
$98,379

The southern corroboree frog is one of Australia's most critically endangered vertebrates, and the rapid spread of the amphibian chytrid fungus has been a prominent cause of the species' decline. Our team recently discovered that providing captive corroboree frogs with a broad-spectrum dietary carotenoid supplement significantly enhanced cutaneous bacterial communities, which are thought to play a vital role in amphibian immune function and disease resistance.

This study will test the effect of specific dietary carotenoids on:

  1. the health of cutaneous bacterial communities of captive frogs
  2. the health of cutaneous bacterial communities of frogs in the field post-release
  3. the prevalence of chytrid-infection and survival of frogs post-release.

University of Wollongong
Modelling fire risk to fauna
$149,607

High frequency fire is a major key threatening process, yet the existing tools can only approximate its influence indirectly. We will use a biophysical fire behaviour model to predict fire influence on species' dynamics from mechanical and ecological principles, showing the way that fire behaviour determines the survival probability of wildlife due to both direct mortality, and subsequent loss of habitat quality.

Our model will provide a comprehensive approach to determination of risk, when used in conjunction with knowledge of species-level population dynamics. We will test this approach using diverse case studies, and integrate it into statewide management.

Western Sydney University
On-site analysis for intelligence gathering at pollution incidents
$132,442

Pollution incidents require fast, strategic investigations from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA)/ Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to best protect the environment and human health. To achieve this, the EPA establishes an incident management team, aimed specifically at tackling emergency pollution incidents.

On-site analysis tools, capable of providing presumptive identification of pollutants, are critical to inform the incident management team on immediate site risk assessment and management. Such advanced tools are currently not employed by the EPA/OEH.

The project addresses this by evaluating person-portable equipment that can rapidly identify pollutants on-site, providing the incident management team with critical intelligence to ensure a targeted and efficient investigation.

Page last updated: 22 December 2017