Environmental Research grants awarded and project summaries

This program supports applied research related to local environmental problems.

Project summaries

Organisation Project title Amount $
Australian National University Measuring connectivity and ecohydrology across the Darling River system $150,000
Big Scrub Landcare Improving genetic diversity to secure rainforest restoration outcomes $200,000
Charles Sturt University Cultural burning and new soil health knowledge for improved fire management $200,000
Macquarie University Predicting the impacts of groundwater abstraction on groundwater ecosystems $198,162
Mothers Ancestral Guardians Indigenous Corporation Cultural burning and new soil health knowledge for improved fire management $149,875
University of New South Wales Optimising biodiversity sampling by citizen scientists $166,996
6 projects totalling $1,065,033

Australian National University

Measuring connectivity and ecohydrology across the Darling River system – $150,000

The Darling River system is under pressure from extractions and climate change. Management interventions such as environmental flow releases require a strong understanding of the connectivity and ecohydrology of floodplains and wetlands. This project will analyse several decades of spatially detailed (<25m) satellite and airborne observations to develop locally-relevant and highly detailed insight into wetland connectivity, water requirements, return flows and water use. This will achieve environmental benefits by better anticipating imminent and long-term threats to ecosystem condition, help decide on management activities and assess the likelihood of water license breaches with lesser uncertainty, and improve the representation of floodplain ecohydrology in the river models that underpin water sharing.

Big Scrub Landcare

Improving genetic diversity to secure rainforest restoration outcomes – $200,000

Big Scrub Landcare, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Firewheel Nursery and community partners are applying science to save critically endangered lowland subtropical rainforest by developing genetically diverse seed plantations: essentially living seed banks that produce seed with optimal genetic diversity for use in the restoration of critically endangered lowland subtropical rainforest. The project applies the latest DNA sequencing and genome science to identify locations and individuals of key structural tree species that have the optimal genetic diversity to facilitate ecological community adaptation to climate change, and resist shifts in levels of insect predation and plant diseases. Cuttings from individuals in specific locations will provide the planting stock for a plantation that will produce seed for commercial and community nurseries that produce the planting stock for large-scale rainforest restoration in the Big Scrub region and elsewhere.

Charles Sturt University

Society and science: a new approach to wildlife disease surveillance – $200,000

Wildlife diseases are of significance to conservation, agriculture and human health. Effective surveillance for wildlife disease is recognised as instrumental to its management and mitigation. Australia's wildlife health system underpins our biosecurity and trade but is resource-intensive, has considerable gaps in taxonomic and spatiotemporal coverage, and is of limited utility to many stakeholders including conservation entities and the public. We are undertaking a completely novel approach to developing a model wildlife health surveillance system in the Riverina, NSW. We will initially create knowledge about the perceptions and values of wildlife health biosecurity, the needs and potential uses of wildlife health surveillance, and the capacity to contribute to wildlife health surveillance in an unprecedented diversity of stakeholders (including community groups). This knowledge will be used to design, build and test an innovative new wildlife health surveillance system.

Macquarie University

Predicting the impacts of groundwater abstraction on groundwater ecosystems – $198,162

The lowering of groundwater tables due to overuse of groundwater and aquifer interference from extractive industries is widespread in NSW, yet the effects of groundwater extraction on the ecosystems that exist within aquifers are poorly known. This project will build and test a new, predictive model of how lowering water tables affects the microbes, invertebrates (stygofauna) and ecological processes in groundwater ecosystems, and demonstrate the consequences of losing microbes and stygofauna to the delivery of clean, usable groundwater. This project aims to provide an evidence-based, globally-adaptable tool that quantifies the risks associated with lowering of water tables, which will provide quantitative evidence of environmental water requirements, reduce impacts of water-intensive industries and lead to long-term sustainable management of groundwaters in New South Wales.

Mothers Ancestral Guardians Indigenous Corporation

Cultural burning and new soil health knowledge for improved fire management – $149,875

Cultural burning has contributed immensely to sustaining the Australian environment over millennia, yet we have stopped applying these practices in NSW. Little data exists on the use of cultural fire for bushfire management and our objective is to fill that knowledge gap. Addressing bushfire management benefits starts with creating opportunities to help people reconnect with better environmental practices. This project looks at generating new information about the benefits of applying cool burns for soil health and how to integrate cultural and scientific knowledge for sustainable fire management in the Willandra region. It will do this by measuring changes in soil health properties under different cultural burning regimes. The new knowledge will be shared with all partners to use.

University of New South Wales

Optimising biodiversity sampling by citizen scientists – $166,996

Citizen science – and the associated 'big data' – is shaping the future of conservation. Inevitably, natural resource and landscape management will rely, in part, on citizen science data to make informed, adaptive, on-ground management decisions. But professional scientists are still uneasy about using citizen science data as a primary research tool, highlighting the necessity for research which quantifies the legitimacy of citizen science. This reluctance from scientists is due to several biases – spatial and temporal – which exist within the data. We propose a framework in which citizen scientists can increase the value of their citizen science contributions. This project will:

  1. quantify the interest-level and extent to which citizen scientists are willing to sample more meaningfully in time and space
  2. implement algorithms which assign relative value to citizen science contributions in real time with the goal of optimising citizen scientists' sampling.
Organisation Project title Amount $
Deakin University Advancing fauna conservation in post-fire environments $148,900
NSW Department of Primary Industries Estimating population size and density with a sensor network: koala case study $52,577
La Trobe University Does mammal reintroduction reconstruct arid zone food webs? $149,951
Macquarie University Building with nature: using potato waste to restore NSW oyster reefs $148,542
Macquarie University Evaluating and reducing the risk of floodplain wetland disconnection $133,706
Macquarie University Evaluating resilience of swamp communities to environmental change in the Sydney Basin $149,993
Office of Environment and Heritage Ecological and conservation significance of Warrumbungle springs $149,594
University of Newcastle The opportunistic physiology of harmful algal blooms in Port Stephens $149,980
University of New England Managing environmental flows for biodiversity at landscape scales $120,267
University of Technology Sydney Boosting NSW's peri-urban biodiversity credit supply to offset losses from urban development $148,615
10 projects totalling $1,352,125

Deakin University

Advancing fauna conservation in post-fire environments - $148,900

Ground-dwelling fauna are experiencing a contemporary extinction crisis in Australia. Key threats include bushfires and predation by introduced foxes and cats. Further, there is emerging evidence that these 2 threats interact, with vulnerable fauna experiencing increased predator impacts in recently burnt areas. Predator control is difficult and outcomes are unreliable; new methods are needed to protect native fauna from predators in fire-prone landscapes. This project will experimentally test how ground-dwelling mammals respond behaviourally and numerically to both natural and artificial refuges in post-fire environments.

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Estimating population size and density with a sensor network: koala case study - $52,577

It is notoriously difficult to estimate animal density, yet it is fundamental for understanding their ecology and improving management. This is particularly so for cryptic or threatened species that may occur in low numbers or are difficult to detect. Recent advances in technology, especially acoustic sensors, make the detection of animal populations cost-effective when coupled with software that can recognise species-specific calls. We propose to extend use of acoustic sensors using arrays to estimate koala density in different landscapes, given the expense and imprecision of traditional surveys. Our project will not only be a proof of concept for the method, but will also provide valuable estimates of koala densities in very different regions of New South Wales. If successful, such methodology increases the feasibility of using new technology to undertake frequent and detailed monitoring of species in different landscapes.

La Trobe University

Does mammal reintroduction reconstruct arid zone food webs? - $149,951

Millions of dollars are spent annually building predator-proof reserves and conducting reintroductions for Australia's threatened mammals. However, we have little understanding of the impact of these reintroductions on ecosystems, particularly for the 'other 99%' of species (invertebrates and fungi). Understanding how species interact in food webs is critical for managing reintroduction. New reintroductions in New South Wales offer an opportunity to test how food webs change. Advances in genetic techniques allow the comprehensive investigation of trophic relationships, which will help us to better understand carrying capacities for reintroduced mammals, and the immense changes in Australian ecosystems following the demise of native mammals.

Macquarie University

Building with nature: using potato waste to restore NSW oyster reefs - $148,542

Oysters once formed extensive reefs across coastal New South Wales but less than 10% remain. Restoration projects aimed at increasing substrate for reef growth typically deploy oyster shell in plastic mesh bags. We will test the applicability of 3D mesh constructed from potato waste for rehabilitating lost NSW oyster reefs, and their important ecosystem services, across a range of seascape settings. The mesh biodegrades slowly so has the potential to leave behind oyster reefs with no remnant debris. If successful, the technology will not only boost oysters and their associated ecosystem services but also mitigate considerable amounts of plastic waste entering the environment.

Macquarie University

Evaluating and reducing the risk of floodplain wetland disconnection - $133,706

River channel over-enlargement due to erosion threatens to disconnect floodplain wetlands from vital overbank flows. Wetland disconnection diminishes the efficacy of environmental water entitlements and management actions aimed at supporting aquatic ecosystem functions and values. This project uses a novel geomorphological approach to channel analysis and stream-power modelling to determine channel-to-wetland connectivity, hotspots of erosion, and the trajectory of channel change affecting flow and inundation in the Macquarie Marshes and Gwydir Wetlands. Our validated, end-user focused assessment protocol aims to evaluate and reduce the risk of channel erosion and wetland disconnection as part of water and conservation decision-making across New South Wales.

Macquarie University

Evaluating resilience of swamp communities to environmental change in the Sydney Basin - $149,993

Impacts on swamps can disrupt vital ecosystem services, including nutrient and hydrological cycles. However, there is a paucity of fundamental information on how these systems respond to anthropogenic disturbance. We use a genetic and ecological approach with a geomorphic template across Sydney Basin swamps to assess:

  1. macroinvertebrate biodiversity and its relevance for ecosystem functioning
  2. the adaptive capacity of functionally dominant species
  3. community sensitivity to species loss.

This will provide end-users with a range of tools that quantify the health of swamp ecosystems and their sensitivities to a range of environmental stressors across multiple spatial scales.

Office of Environment and Heritage

Ecological and conservation significance of Warrumbungle springs - $149,594

Warrumbungle Mountain Range and surrounding areas contain springs that are suspected to play an integral role in supporting local and regional biodiversity, particularly during periods of drought. There is a lack of information on the location of these waterbodies and their biodiversity and conservation significance. The value of these sites is likely to become increasingly important in the future amid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts. This project will map and assess the biodiversity and conservation value of these waterbodies via a combination of survey techniques targeting a range of aquatic and terrestrial fauna, while providing standardised monitoring and training to landholders.

University of Newcastle

The opportunistic physiology of harmful algal blooms in Port Stephens - $149,980

Toxic cyanobacterial blooms are a constant threat to freshwater. Over the last couple of decades, we have come to understand how cyanobacteria produce deadly toxins However, we are still no closer to understanding why these microbial populations proliferate in our wetland ecosystems. This project will apply modern 'omic' technologies to determine the interplay of all microbial populations present in cyanobacterial blooms to better understand the flux of nutrients and genetic information during these transient but destructive events. Community interactions of microalgae form the basis for their proliferation and will provide a means for their control.

University of New England

Managing environmental flows for biodiversity at landscape scales - $120,267

A central goal of environmental flows is to protect or enhance aquatic biodiversity across multiple spatial scales. Currently, we have a poor understanding of how environmental flows influence spatial variation in biodiversity (beta diversity). Fish are valuable indicators of biodiversity responses to flow regime change, yet assessments of environmental flow outcomes currently focus on species-specific population responses (e.g. recruitment). We will use 3 datasets to test how flow regimes influence fish beta diversity in New South Wales. These answers will contribute to increasing adoption of broad-scale ecological processes in the planning and evaluation of environmental flows to enhance landscape-scale biodiversity.

University of Technology Sydney

Boosting NSW's peri-urban biodiversity credit supply to offset losses from urban development - $148,615

In Western Sydney, current landholder interest in investing in biodiversity credit supply appears to be low. Low uptake of conservation programs is often linked to a lack of consideration of landholders' characteristics. Our project aims at understanding landholders' barriers, constraints and opportunities in the face of urban development. Using Office of Environment and Heritage's existing landholder typologies, the project will study landholders' values, attitudes, knowledge, social capital, and property characteristics. Findings from ethnographic fieldwork will be evaluated using institutional analysis, informing multi-pronged approaches for increasing landholder interest in investing in credits. Research outputs will equip our 3 end-users with a set of actionable end-user recommendations.

In the 2017 round the Environmental Trust approved 9 grants, totalling $1,266,428.


Organisation Project title Amount $
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

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, bio-accumulative 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:

  • working with environmental experts to enhance, implement and document Caring-as-Country mechanisms
  • inspiring local users to Care-as-Country through building awareness of the area’s cultural, environmental and historical significance
  • 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:

  • which stewardship behaviours have the greatest impact on biodiversity?
  • which behaviours are people most likely to adopt?
  • what strategies motivate people to adopt stewardship behaviours?
  • 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:

  • the health of cutaneous bacterial communities of captive frogs
  • the health of cutaneous bacterial communities of frogs in the field post-release
  • 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 state-wide 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. 


In the 2016 round the Environmental Trust approved 10 grants, totalling $1,458,247.


Organisation Project title Amount $

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

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:

  • designing and constructing a laboratory-scale prototype of the biohydrometallurgical system
  • determining achievable base metal leaching rates and yields using biogenic ferric iron oxidant and sulfuric acid
  • determining achievable base metal recovery yields from bioleach liquors through selective step-wise metal sulphide precipitation using biologically generated hydrogen sulphide
  • 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 bio-accumulative. 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 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.


In the 2015 round the Environmental Trust approved 11 grants, totalling $1,559,111.


Organisation Project title Amount $

Australian National Botanic Gardens

Seed biology, cytology and production of threatened Pomaderris

143,777

CSIRO – Land and Water Flagship

Estimating coastal values using multi-criteria and valuation methods

150,000

Macquarie University

The ecological benefits of blackwater

146,112

Macquarie University

Developing a new cross-cultural environmental monitoring tool

146,653

University of Canberra

Are populations of key threatened NSW fishes native or introduced?

84,300

University of Canberra

DNA-based identification for routine aquatic bio-assessment

149,911

University of New South Wales
Delivering a beach erosion forcasting system 141,486

University of New South Wales

Predicting swamp community persistence after underground mining

149,133

University of Sydney

Increasing landholder collaboration for landscape scale conservation 149,435
University of Technology Sydney Cleaning contaminated environments using effective social engagement 148,559

University of Western Sydney

Rapid on-site identification of hazardous organics at fire scenes 149,745

11 projects totalling

$1,559,111

Australian National Botanic Gardens

Seed biology, cytology and production of threatened Pomaderris – $143,777

Eleven southeast NSW Pomaderris species are listed as threatened in Commonwealth and State legislation. Many are in a precarious position in terms of survival, and others in decline. This project aims to better understand their seed biology, cytology and optimise seed and non-seed production techniques to deliver a strategy for assuring long-term security of several endangered species. This project will guide species recovery through the scientifically informed use of seed banking, plant production and population enhancement. These activities will address actions identified in three National Recovery Plans and for several species in the NSW Saving our Species program.

CSIRO Land and Water Flagship

Estimating coastal values using multi-criteria and valuation methods – $150,000

Coastal areas have a range of uses and users, some of which are competing. Effective resource management requires balancing these to maximise socio-economic benefits. While some benefits of use can be easily quantified in monetary value, others have non-monetary values that are often overlooked. Placing appropriate values on these uses and assets is complex, which results in less effective management decisions. In this project, two approaches will be developed, one derived from multi-criteria decision analysis and the other from traditional economic valuation approaches. These will aim to quantify a range of social, economic and environmental values for NSW coastal assets.

Macquarie University

The ecological benefits of blackwater – $146,112

One of the most deleterious risks associated with environmental flows is the production of blackwater; carbon-rich and often oxygen-poor water returning to the river from flooded wetlands. However, blackwater may not be all bad all of the time: river ecosystems may depend on blackwater in small doses. This research will follow the fate of carbon in blackwater returning to the river stem in the lower Murrumbidgee river to see if blackwater carbon is incorporated into river food-chains. The research will increase the range of watering options available to water managers, by differentiating the preconditions of positive and negative outcomes.

Macquarie University

Developing a new cross-cultural environmental monitoring tool – $146,653

Indigenous natural and cultural resource management is the fastest growing conservation sector in Australia, offering significant environmental and socio-economic benefits. Enhanced monitoring, accountability and strategic planning is increasingly demanded by funding bodies however there are no culturally meaningful and user-friendly tools available to build local capacity in these areas. In collaboration with Indigenous Protected Areas and Rangers of northern NSW this project will develop, apply and refine new data collection and visualisation technologies to assess eco-cultural outcomes of their work. The culturally meaningful and user-friendly decision support tools produced will boost the monitoring and reporting capacity of Indigenous land managers and enhance transparency, accountability and adaptive management processes. Such advances will not only provide environmental and socio-economic benefits but also facilitate greater Indigenous engagement in mainstream environmental decision-making.

University of Canberra

Are populations of key threatened NSW fishes native or introduced? – $84,300

Many NSW freshwater fishes have experienced extreme declines, with around a quarter of the freshwater fishes threatened with extinction. Here we target 3 native fishes that were once widespread across NSW, but today are listed as either Endangered Species (Purple Spotted Gudgeon) or Endangered Populations (Olive Perchlet, Darling Hardyhead). Existing data have been unable to clarify whether some populations are natural or translocated, and thus recovery efforts are stalled until the native status of these populations are resolved. Our project will clarify their native status and provide key information on how to best manage genetic diversity.

University of Canberra

DNA-based identification for routine aquatic bio-assessment – $149,911

Current freshwater bio-assessment relies on coarse resolution invertebrate data as indicators of ecological condition, but costs of morphological identification are high and prone to errors. Using molecular techniques, we will compile an invertebrate barcode library, which is a prerequisite to accurate, high-throughput, low-cost molecular identification methods. We will test the method detection performance by extracting and amplifying invertebrate DNA from unsorted invertebrate samples and comparing them to results from samples of known species composition and the traditional style of analysis. DNA-based identification has great potential to improve existing bio-assessment practice for assessing risks to aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity.

University of New South Wales

Delivering a beach erosion forecasting system – $141,486

Millions of people and billions of dollars of natural as well as built assets in NSW are presently at risk of damage caused by erosion from coastal storms. A lack of suitable numerical modelling prevents both researchers and coastal managers forecasting the impacts of impending coastal storms. This project will build and trial a beach forecasting system based on 40 years of beach profile data and wave data collected at Collaroy–Narrabeen Beach. The resulting beach forecasting system will be able to provide a probability distribution of the extent expected for predicted storms. Ultimately this will increase the capacity of researchers and coastal managers to prepare for and respond to coastal erosion events.

University of New South Wales

Predicting swamp community persistence after underground mining – $149,133

Upland Swamps are groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Component species have evolved to reproduce with sustained and predictable water resources. Their likelihood of persistence may decline in response to disruption of surface flows and groundwater following underground mining. The project will establish rigorous long-term hydrological data under natural and undermined conditions. It will investigate whether altered hydrological regimes affect persistent soil seedbanks and vegetative reproduction. It will also investigate the effect of natural and undermined hydrology on germination success of indicator species of swamp communities. The project will produce baseline data to predict the likelihood of alternative stable states under different hydrological regimes.

University of Sydney

Increasing landholder collaboration for landscape scale conservation – $149,435

This two-year project will develop models for incentivising on-ground collaboration on cross-property conservation and production activities. The focus of this pilot study is the NSW Central West due to the existing relationships between the project team and landholders. The funding will be used for:

  • social analysis to identify types of activities and organisational structures that foster collaboration
  • landscape spatial analysis to determine how these activities could be linked strategically to deliver landscape-scale impacts outcomes
  • the development of an online GIS-based tool for use by landholders and other stakeholders in identifying opportunities for collaboration.

University of Technology Sydney

Cleaning contaminated environments using effective social engagement – $148,559

NSW has an estimated 30,000 contaminated sites; at least 1,600 of which may be significantly contaminated. NSW Government has identified an urgent need for decision-support tools for effective and efficient risk communication and engagement strategies with affected communities about site clean-up. In collaboration with NSW EPA and local councils, this project combines data on residents’ perceptions and experiences of contamination with policy analysis in order to develop a tool to engage communities about their attitudes and behaviour towards risks, and engage them in decisions to enhance human health, land-use processes, flora and fauna, and soil and water quality. This decision-support tool will be of use to remediation practitioners and others involved in the process as it will help stakeholders to understand and incorporate community perceptions of risk in the remediation-planning process.

University of Western Sydney

Rapid on-site identification of hazardous organics at fire scenes – $149,745

Factory and similar fires are an ongoing issue for the protection of water-dependent ecosystems and human health. It is critical that highly-discriminating and rapid on-site monitoring tools are available for the detection and identification of toxics at low levels, to allow NSW OEH, NSW EPA and FRNSW to provide quick, reliable advice to stakeholders, and to ensure fire scenes are assessed and managed appropriately. Such tools are not currently available to these agencies. The project addresses this by evaluating an advanced person-portable analytical method that can identify low-level toxic compounds in water and air samples in minutes. 


In the 2014 round the Environmental Trust approved 11 grants, totalling $1,477,846.


Organisation Category Project title Amount $

Australian Museum

Biodiversity and native vegetation

Arresting declines of woodland birds through noisy miner control

149,572

Australian Museum

Biodiversity and native vegetation

Koalas: Applying conservation genomics to manage an iconic species

149,499

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research Pollution

Atmospheric particles in Sydney: model-observation verification

150,000

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Threats to environment

Regional 21st century sea level projections for the NSW coast

150,000

Charles Sturt University

Biodiversity and native vegetation

Using agronomic principles for understorey restoration

150,000

Macquarie University Biodiversity and native vegetation

Ecological impact of myrtle rust on native vegetation

146,962
NSW Department of Primary Industries Biodiversity and native vegetation

Does thinning regrowth restore habitat for biodiversity?

145,340

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

Biodiversity and native vegetation

Predicting representative habitat for provenance sourcing

88,754

Southern Cross University

Threats to environment

Maximising environmental outcomes of coastal infrastructure upgrades

99,869

Southern Cross University

Biodiversity and native vegetation

Reef restoration: conservation solutions for critical habitats

97,950

University of New South Wales

Pollution

Forecasting air pollution impacts from hazard reduction burns

149,900

11 projects totalling

$1,477,846

Australian Museum

Arresting declines of woodland birds through noisy miner control – $149,499

Aggressive exclusion of birds from woodland and forest habitat by abundant noisy miners is a key threatening process. It has severe impacts on an extensive range of threatened woodland bird species, with flow-on effects for threatened eucalypt-dominated grassy-woodland communities. Noisy miners prefer edge-dominated habitat patches, including much of the state’s remnant woodland as well as habitat-reconstruction projects targeted at woodland bird conservation. This project will quantify the efficacy, determine the cost-effectiveness, and establish benchmarks of success in removing noisy miners from selected woodland patches to promote persistence of threatened woodland birds.

Australian Museum

Koalas: Applying conservation genomics to manage an iconic species – $149,572

This project will use data gained from the recently established Koala Genome Consortium to develop a genetic assay for wild and captive koala populations and assess their genetic diversity for direct application to conservation decisions and captive breeding programs. The project also includes a genetic assessment of both koala retrovirus infection and chlamydial infection status in tested koalas. Finally, we will create a genetic tissue bank of all koalas sampled as part of this project (representing NSW koalas) which will be extended where possible to form the first Australia-wide genetic repository of koala material.

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Atmospheric particles in Sydney: model-observation verification – $150,000

Airborne particle pollution is of concern to NSW communities and is a recognised as a significant health risk. Air quality modelling is an important tool for understanding particle pollution, but is limited by uncertainties. This project will develop quantification and understanding of uncertainties in atmospheric organic particles in the NSW Greater Metropolitan Region (GMR). This will improve the advice available to regulators and policy makers to develop policies for cleaner air in the GMR, provide a better knowledge base for the community to understand these issues and identify key areas for investment in future monitoring and modelling activities to assist with further improvements.

CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research

Regional 21st century sea level projections for the NSW coast – $150,000

Sea levels have been rising globally, in Australia and along the NSW coast during the 20th century. Globally, the rate of rise was about 1.7 millimetres per year, which is an order of magnitude larger than the average rate over previous millennia. Sea levels are projected to continue to rise during the 21st century and beyond. However, the regional distribution from ocean dynamical changes during the 21st century is poorly understood. The available projections from coarse resolution models indicate a higher rise off the southern NSW coast than off northern NSW. This project is specifically designed to assess if these larger offshore rates of sea level rise apply and examine underlying processes for any regional sea-level projection differences along the NSW coast.

Charles Sturt University

Using agronomic principles for understorey restoration – $150,000

This project will develop low-risk, low-cost options for establishing understorey in revegetation initiatives that allow the creation of less weedy and more complex communities and habitats. It will evaluate agronomic principles of plant population, spacing, density, competition, seed treatment and seedbed requirements to develop establishment and management guidelines and information packages. The principles and on-site/off-site benefits of more complex understories (weed reduction, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), shelterbelts, connectivity) will be demonstrated through collaboration with agencies and landholder groups undertaking revegetation initiatives. The project will work across Southern and Central NSW with a key focus being the wheat belt where greater landscape complexity is critical.

Macquarie University

Ecological impact of myrtle rust on native vegetation – $146,962

Myrtle rust is an exotic pathogen that is now established along the east coast of Australia. It affects plants in the abundant and structurally important Myrtaceae family, and hence has the potential to significantly impact a wide range of plant communities, including endangered communities and species. This project will investigate the impact of myrtle rust on plant communities of eastern NSW and on key host and threatened species. Glasshouse and field experiments will test the impact of myrtle rust on seedling recruitment and re-sprouting after fire. Guidelines for management strategies of native vegetation and threatened species will be developed.

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Does thinning regrowth restore habitat for biodiversity? – $145,340

Restoration of degraded habitats can take many forms, but there have been growing calls to thin dense regrowth to restore habitat values. This is especially the case for cypress forests in western NSW, because it often regenerates as dense ‘wheatfields’, but then locks up in a state that does not change for decades. Currently, the science is lacking to identify the benefits of thinning for biodiversity and this hinders providing guidance to managers. Our research will provide key ecological data to assess biodiversity impacts/benefits of thinning cypress and it will guide how thinning could be used for restoration. This will be achieved by sampling biodiversity at sites previously thinned and by establishing an experiment to provide a base-line for measuring future changes. Radio-tracking a sensitive, threatened species will help identify retention levels of un-thinned stands.

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

Predicting representative habitat for provenance sourcing – $88,754

This project will identify representative habitat to guide provenance-informed and climate-ready ecological restoration processes. Environmental Niche Models (ENMs) will be developed for more than 200 species commonly used in restoration across NSW. For each species, modelling will predict extant habitat, how it shifts, and how species are likely to respond to change based on their life histories and land use. Findings will also define sampling strategies needed for defining the evolutionary potential and provenance boundaries of each species (as targeted in a broader project: Restore & Renew NSW). Modelling interactions between multiple species will help better predict potential changes in community composition.

Southern Cross University

Maximising environmental outcomes of coastal infrastructure upgrades – $99,869

To protect valuable assets from coastal inundation the NSW Government will need to upgrade frontline coastal protection infrastructure (e.g. break walls, training walls and groynes). If done well, these upgrades can enhance marine biodiversity, provide additional habitat for vulnerable species and improve aesthetic values, recreational amenity and tourism opportunities. This project will use the current and proposed upgrades of Coffs Harbour break walls to determine materials and structures that maximise the environmental benefits of coastal protection upgrades. The outcomes of this project will greatly benefit future work on public marine infrastructure throughout regional NSW.

Southern Cross University

Reef restoration: conservation solutions for critical habitats – $97,950

NSW has extensive subtropical coral reefs, which are unique due to their high-latitude location. These reefs provide critical habitat structure but environmental perturbations can threaten biodiversity. Reef restoration can re-establish damaged areas, but has traditionally relied on using coral fragments, which is costly, restricted to small areas and limited to branching species. This project will use innovative surface micro-topographies to optimise the recruitment of coral larvae as a source for reef reseeding, providing a more viable alternative. The development of these techniques will ensure that NSW environmental agencies are equipped to adaptively manage threats to reef biodiversity, including commercially important taxa.

University of New South Wales

Forecasting air pollution impacts from hazard reduction burns – $149,900

Air pollution events associated with bushfires have been associated with extreme health impacts, including increased hospital admissions and death. Hazard reduction burns are vital to reduce the severity of bushfires. However, if undertaken during unfavourable meteorological conditions, they too have the capacity to trigger extreme air pollution events. This research will produce a tool for forecasting air pollution impacts caused by hazard reduction burns over the Greater Sydney region. The tool will improve planning of burn times to reduce extreme pollution risk to the community, while still allowing NSW land managers and fire agencies to carry out this vital work. 


In the 2013 round the Environmental Trust approved 6 grants, totalling $885,704.


Organisation Category Project title Amount $

Fenner School of Environment & Soceity (ANU)

Biodiversity and native vegetation Quantifying effectiveness of on-farm environmental management

150,000

Macquarie University

Rivers, wetlands and coasts Rapid detection of pathogens in recreational environmental waters

149,193

Office of Environment and Heritage

Threats to environment NSW beach-dune erosion and inundation under severe coastal storms

150,000

University of New England

Rivers, wetlands and coasts Cost-effective environmental water for NSW wetlands and rivers

149,848

Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)

Biodiversity and native vegetation Towards restoration of missing underwater forests

138,451

University of Wollongong

Threats to environment Maximising return from environmental plantings in flammable systems

148,212

6 projects totalling

$885,704

Fenner School of Environment & Society (ANU)

Quantifying effectiveness of on-farm environmental management – $150,000

This project will significantly expand current knowledge on the most effective ways to design and manage plantings, native vegetation and biodiversity on farms. It will leverage past investments in NSW temperate woodlands research to undertake strategic new research that makes breakthrough discoveries about the size, shape and location of plantings and maximizing management effectiveness of remnant woodland. We will analyse existing and new datasets to answer questions about plantings and native vegetation for enhanced habitat quality, connectivity, and ecosystem services. We will communicate discoveries as practical information that ensures land managers can proficiently design, implement and manage significantly better plantings.

Macquarie University

Rapid detection of pathogens in recreational environmental waters – $149,193

Our goal is to establish a rapid assay technique and develop portable instrumentation to enable pathogen detection and quantification in environmental waters for in-field monitoring, without the need for lab testing and microbial culture. This novel capability will be applied to specific monitoring of faecal contamination (by Enterococcus) in environmental waters, and it could be further adapted to other environments and pathogen species. Current Enterococcus detection methods are based on culture growth which requires more than 24 hours to be completed. Our new methodology of nanoparticle-based biosensors will reduce the detection and quantification times to single hours. It will also enable ‘on the spot’ detection, helping to identify and trace sources of contamination and to protect public health in NSW.

Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet

NSW beach-dune erosion and inundation under severe coastal storms – $150,000

NSW dune-beach erosion and inundation currently threaten coastal communities and degrade ecosystems. The severe storm in June 2007 on the coast between Newcastle and Wollongong caused catastrophic coastal inundation and erosion resulting in total damages of $1.35 billion. With changing storm-wave climate and rising sea level, NSW coastal erosion/inundation is likely to accelerate in the future. To minimise future losses on the coast, this project aims to develop an advanced tool to predict coastal erosion/inundation under a wide range of coastal storms on the NSW coast. The project outcome will be used to better inform NSW coastal planners, policy-decision makers, relevant government agencies and local councils about impacts of coastal hazards to enable them to quickly respond to hazard-related risks and minimise their impacts on the NSW coast.

University of New England

Cost-effective environmental water for NSW wetlands and rivers – $149,848

Important but costly efforts are underway to recover and deliver environmental water to protect threatened ecosystems around NSW wetlands and rivers. It is vital then that conservation goals be pursued at least cost. Past cost-effectiveness studies in this area overlooked cost impacts from path dependencies (where decisions constrain subsequent adaptability), so are unreliable guides for future policy. The project involves case studies of three environmental water programs administered by the NSW Government. It represents the first application of a comprehensive framework and procedure developed by the applicant to increase the cost-effectiveness of policy and governance choices in managing environmental systems. The knowledge gained will enable greater value for money to be achieved from NSW and national programs of environmental water recovery, allocation and delivery.

Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS)

Towards restoration of missing underwater forests – $138,451

Habitat degradation has caused major losses of biodiversity and ecosystem function globally, resulting in a critical need for ecological restoration in environmental management. Programs aimed at restoring habitat-forming species mostly target terrestrial ecosystems, but loss of marine habitat-formers such as temperate seaweeds is now a global issue. Restoration efforts for seaweed habitats are in their infancy, and so understanding the ecological processes that allow for their successful reestablishment and that of associated biodiversity is crucial for management. We will determine the critical processes necessary for the successful reestablishment of the habitat forming seaweed Phyllospora comosa (crayweed), currently missing from Sydney, resulting in an enhancement of biodiversity and tools to scale-up restoration for the conservation of NSW coastal resources.

University of Wollongong

Maximising return from environmental plantings in flammable systems – $148,212

Significant investment is being made in environmental revegetation for the purpose of conservation and carbon sequestration. The impacts of fire on revegetation success are often overlooked when planning revegetation activities. However, the landscapes in which revegetation occurs are fire prone and fire will be paramount in determining planting success. Furthermore, revegetation may alter fire regimes via changes to fuel loads and connectivity. Understanding the effect fire has on revegetation and vice versa will be critical if revegetation is to achieve its stated goals. Our project examines:

  • how environmental values, fuel loads and regeneration capacity changes as plantings age
  • how revegetation will alter potential fire behaviour
  • whether plantings can be designed and managed to minimise losses from fire and maximise the environmental return on investment. 

In the 2012 round the Environmental Trust approved 12 grants, totalling $1,030,888:

  • 5 seeding grants, totalling $92,750
  • 8 major grants, totalling $938,138.

Organisation Category Project title Amount $
Seeding grants
Australian Museum Biodiversity and Conservation Invasive and non-invasive lineages in the mussel Xenostrobus securis

19,700

Office of Environment and Heritage,
Department of Premier and Cabinet
Climate Change Testing methods for estimating carbon sequestration in wetlands

20,000

University of New South Wales Biodiversity and Conservation Using stable isotopes to understand weed invasion processes

13,650

University of Sydney Biodiversity and Conservation Metabolic profiling as an indicator of ecosystem function and health

19,400

University of Technology, Sydney Resource Efficiency and Sustainability Hybrid solar air-conditioning systems: modelling and control

20,000

5 projects totalling

$92,750

Major grants

Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research

Climate change - biophysical Polyploidy and the adaptation of native plants to climate change

45,517

CSIRO - Climate Adaptation Flagship

Climate change - biophysical Green infrastructure for climate adpatation in Western Sydney

199,915

CSIRO - Climate Adaptation Flagship

Biodiversity and conservation Vegetation dynamics and changing fire regimes in South East NSW

95,784

Environment Protection Authority

Biodiversity and conservation Grassland islands as a key to survival for Bristlebirds in North East NSW

99,227

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Resource efficiency and sustainability Potential use of animal waste for biofuel production

99,200

Office of Environment and Heritage

Biodiversity and conservation Do the Piliga Forests contain functioning refuges of koala?

99,028

University of Sydney

Climate change - biophysical

Physiological effects of climate change stress on adults and offspring

199,955

University of Wollongong Biodiversity and conservation Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for frog conservation 99,512

8 projects totalling

$938,138

Grand total

$1,030,888

Australian Museum

Invasive and non-invasive lineages in the mussel Xenostrobus securis – $19,700

The small black mussel Xenostrobus securis is invading the upper reaches of estuaries around the world. Genetic lineages known to invade overseas environments have been found in Port Jackson and the Georges River, but most NSW populations consist solely of lineages not found elsewhere. This project will define research priorities for X. securis by investigating:

  • the range of the invasive lineages
  • the species status of invasive and non-invasive lineages
  • the effect of invasive lineages on estuarine biodiversity
  • whether invasive or non-invasive lineages act as reservoirs of infection for important protistan parasites of mussels and oysters.

Office of Environment and Heritage, Department of Premier and Cabinet

Testing methods for estimating carbon sequestration in wetlands – $20,000

The project aims to assess the carbon sequestration potential of a large floodplain wetland receiving environmental water. We will measure plant biomass production and carbon burial in the soil across an inundation gradient in the Macquarie Marshes, during and following an environmental watering event. These measures will be taken in the core reed beds of the northern nature reserve. The measures will be used to help calibrate remotely sensed estimates of biomass production, and also estimate the quantity of carbon sequestered in the soil of the wetland following an environmental flow.

University of New South Wales

Using stable isotopes to understand weed invasion processes – $13,650

Why is Pittosporum undulatum taking over in Sydney’s urban bushland? Bush-regeneration manuals recommend removing the native shrub Pittosporum undulatum because it creates shady conditions that suppress regeneration of other native plants. However, we have found this species dominating in bushland with relatively high soil nutrients. We propose using stable isotope analysis to compare the water use efficiency and nutrient cycling processes of Pittosporum with other plant species to determine why it has a competitive edge in urban bushland.

University of Sydney

Metabolic profiling as an indicator of ecosystem function and health – $19,400

Metabolic profiling of ecosystems shows great promise as a non-destructive means of assessing ecosystem function. Ecosystem metabolism is possibly one of the best predictors of ecosystem health because metabolism (of an ecosystem or its constituent species) is affected well before species have been gained or lost. Recent advances in technology mean that it is now theoretically feasible to obtain metabolic profiles of key ecosystem components such as soil. This project will develop methods for metabolic profiling and investigate feasibility of using ecosystem metabolism as an indicator of ecosystem function and health. To test the effectiveness of metabolic profiling for indicating ecosystem health we will contrast areas with different land uses.

University of Technology Sydney

Hybrid solar air-conditioning systems: modelling and control – $20,000

Buildings are responsible for about half of the total energy consumption of our modern society. Summer air-conditioning represents a growing market world-wide for both commercial and residential buildings. New installations with small capacity, although economically attractive, do not usually achieve the expected energy savings due to unreliable controls. This project aims to identify operational characteristics of a direct expansion hybrid solar air conditioning system that has been recently developed at the University of Technology Sydney, to model its components and optimally control its performance. The research outcomes will be a thorough proof-of-concept to minimise the energy cost and to maximise the greenhouse gas emission savings for air-conditioning residential buildings using green automation technologies. 

Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research

Polyploidy and the adaption of native plants to climate change – $45,517

Around 50% of all flowering plants contain more than two sets of chromosomes, a condition known as polyploidy. Polyploidy increases stress resistance, and so under increasingly severe future climates the adaptive capacity of polyploid species and populations will be of immense importance to biodiversity across Australia. This project will combine a review of polyploid advantage with a world-first experimental comparison of the adaptability of model diploid and polyploid plant populations in a new CSIRO climate facility to better understand whether knowledge of ploidy level can improve conservation and restoration of Australian vegetation under future climate regimes.

CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship

Green infrastructure for climate adaptation in Western Sydney – $199,915

The ‘Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036’; aims to locate 70% of new homes within existing urban areas, mostly in western Sydney. In the context of climate change, the risk is that more people will be exposed to extreme heat, and without the cool sea breezes experienced by those on the coast, will be heavily reliant on the quality of future urban development for protection. This project will quantify the role of ‘green infrastructure’ for climate adaptation to extreme heat, identifying the influence of urban form and testing scenarios of future urban planning and design.

CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship

Vegetation dynamics and changing fire regimes in South East NSW – $95,784

Extensive vegetation survey data collected throughout NSW over many years for vegetation mapping has assumed that vegetation composition is static, despite increasingly compelling evidence from national and international research that fire regimes strongly influence both structure and composition, and even type in some cases. This study will combine existing vegetation datasets with a comprehensive fire history database available for National Parks in NSW to investigate the role that components of fire regimes play in vegetation dynamics. Projected changes in climate and fire regimes mean this understanding will be of critical importance to fire and land-managers in coming decades.

Environment Protection Authority

Grassland islands as a key to survival for Bristlebirds in North East NSW – $99,227

Embedded in the rainforests of northern NSW and south-eastern Queensland are naturally-occurring islands of grassy woodlands, key habitat for the highly endangered northern eastern bristlebird (NEBB) and a range of other species. These islands appear to be declining in both condition and extent through insufficient fire, further endangering their dependant biota. This project will synthesise evidence of the distribution and attributes of grassy islands, apply targeted fire regimes and monitor the response in vegetation, NEBB and their key food resources. The project will lead to improved fire management of these unique communities and contribute to recovery of the NEBB.

NSW Department of Primary Industries

Potential use of animal waste for biofuel production – $99,200

Most of the three million dry tonnes of livestock manure produced annually in Australia, is either stockpiled, composted or applied to soils. However, nutrient and microbial contamination of water and soil, generation of odours and greenhouse gases (GHG) diminish its benefits and appeal. Manure contains up to 50% cellulose, making it an ideal feedstock for second generation biofuel production. This scenario presents the livestock industry with an innovative pathway towards a waste-to-energy solution and a means of mitigating GHG emissions. The proposed project investigates the utility of livestock manure for biofuel production within a biorefinery framework.

Office of Environment and Heritage

Do the Pilliga Forests contain functioning refuges of koala? – $99,028

The iconic Pilliga forests of north-western NSW were hailed in the 1990s as carrying the biggest population of koalas in NSW. Now, koalas are anecdotally thought by independent sources to have drastically declined to rarity, seemingly from the recent drought and the fire of 2006. This matter will gain an even higher profile as coal-seam gas extraction expands in these forests. This project will draw on past surveys to locate any refuge koala populations, refuges will be described, and we shall survey surroundings lands. We shall conclude with actions for managing refuge koala populations and publicise the results.

University of Sydney

Physiological effects of climate change stress on adults and offspring – $199,955

Climate-driven ocean acidification and warming will impact vital marine resources of NSW. Preparation for these impacts relies on understanding temperature and acidification thresholds that have irreversible effects on ecologically and commercially important species. Understanding current conditions biota experience in coastal habitats is crucial to application of climate change scenarios. This project addresses this knowledge gap through field monitoring of temperature and pH/pCO2. Sub-lethal effects of ocean change stressors on health of adults and their progeny will be determined by use of biomarkers. Impacts of parental acclimation in climate change conditions on progeny performance will reveal if acclimation conveys cross-generational resilience.

University of Wollongong

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for frog conservation – $99,512

Environmental change is causing unprecedented rates of species extinction, presenting a major threat to global biodiversity. Although high extinction rates have been reported for all vertebrate classes, amphibians have been the most severely affected. Of Australia’s endangered and critically endangered frog species, over 45% (15 out of 33) are from NSW. Captive-breeding programs have played a key role in maintaining populations of several endangered species, but in most cases reproductive rates are too low to support long-term re-introduction programmes. To address this problem, this study will develop sophisticated Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to enhance the propagation and genetic management of endangered NSW frog species. ART is a powerful new approach to ex situ conservation that will ensure the preservation of NSW unique amphibian biodiversity.