Assoc. Prof. Joanne Oakes

Joanne Oakes

Research interests 

My research focuses on the processing and fate of carbon and nitrogen within a range of coastal environments from the arctic to the tropics and from bare sediments to seagrass beds and mangrove forests.

My specific area of expertise is the application of innovative stable isotope techniques and enriched stable isotopes to trace carbon and nitrogen into novel sediment compartments and sediment-water and sediment-air fluxes.

I have used stable isotopes as deliberate tracers and at natural abundance to determine the distribution of anthropogenic inputs (e.g., treated wastewater, pulp mill effluent) and the effects of these inputs on ecosystem functioning (e.g., sediment fluxes, food web relationships). I have also published a range of papers investigating sediment microbial interactions, specifically the transformation and fate of carbon and nitrogen produced by benthic microalgae (microphytobenthos). This has included tracing microalgae-derived carbon into sediment carbohydrates, and providing evidence for its potential long-term storage within coastal sediments.

My current research projects include further investigation of sediment microbial interactions, particularly with regard to nitrogen processing, quantifying the uptake and fate of carbon and nitrogen within mangrove forests, and investigating fluvial pathways for loss of stored carbon from degraded peat swamp forests in Sarawak.

Major Research Grants

ARC Discovery

 - $322,000 (DP200100546) "Effect of elevated nutrients on carbon and nitrogen cycles in seagrass beds" 2020-2023. Lead CI of 2.

 - $320,000 (DP0878568) "Unravelling pathways of nitrogen cycling in the muddy sediments of shallow coastal systems using biomarkers, stable isotope tracer experiments and modelling" 2008 to 2010. CI 2 of 2.

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

- $375,000 "Unravelling the transformation pathways and fate of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in shallow coastal sediments" 2012 to 2014.


- $240,000 (LE130100153) "A liquid chromatography/ gas bench: isotope ratio mass spectrometer for new and novel carbon and nitrogen research in coastal systems" 2013. CI 3 of 5

- $250,000 (LE120100156) "A high precision, automated system for studying greenhouse gas cycling in coastal environments" 2012. CI 4 of 5.

- $170,000 (LE100100013) "Eddy Correlation Lander Array" 2010. CI 5 of 12.

- $220,000 (LE0989952) "A Wet Chemical Oxidation-Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (WCO-IRMS)" 2009. CI 6 of 6.


- $37,000. “Resolving fluvial pathways for carbon loss from degraded peat swamp forests” 2017. ANSTO access grant. CI 1 of 4.

- $126,000. “Vasse Wonnerup Investigation Node proposal” 2014. CI 3 of 3.

- $88,100. "Ecological health monitoring of Skennars Head wastewater treatment plant outfall" 2009 to 2010. CI 2 of 2.