SCU ‘well above world standard’ in six research areas

Published 6 December 2012

Peter Lee

Southern Cross University’s research in six key areas has been given the highest possible classification of ‘well above world standard’ in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2012 national report released today.

The top rating of five for ‘well above world standard’ was given in the specific research fields of geochemistry, zoology, crop and pasture production, and forestry sciences. Nursing research has been rated as ‘above world standard’ and tourism research at ‘world standard’.

In the broader research fields, the University received the top rating of ‘well above world standard’ in earth sciences, and agricultural and veterinary sciences.

This places the University among the top two universities in the country for research in crop and pasture production, in the top three universities in the country for zoology, top four in agricultural and veterinary sciences and forestry sciences, and in the top five in the field of geochemistry and earth sciences.

The University also received the rating of ‘above world standard’ in the broader research field of biological sciences, and ‘world standard’ in studies in creative arts and writing.

Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee said these were outstanding results for Southern Cross University, and indicated the depth of its research capacity across a diverse range of areas.

“This is a tremendous result and I congratulate all the researchers and support staff who have contributed to this success,” Professor Lee said.

“Southern Cross University has placed a strong emphasis on building its research capacity and these results are evidence of the contribution we are making both regionally and internationally. This builds on from our classification as a research intensive university.”

Professor Neal Ryan, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), said the result was exceptional.

“Southern Cross University provides an outstanding example of the capacity of regional universities to contribute to Australia’s high quality world research,” Professor Ryan said.

The ERA 2012 report is a comprehensive review of research across all Australian universities. It provides an evaluation, over time and relative to world standards, to measure the quality and range of research areas in Australia.

SCU results in detail


Geochemistry (Specific Field of Research 0402)
The top rating of five in the field of geochemistry reflects the expertise and contributions from researchers in Southern Cross GeoScience, the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research, the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, the National Marine Science Centre and the Marine Ecology Research Centre. Southern Cross University is conducting a broad range of research in the geochemistry field covering biogeochemical cycles at local, regional and global scales, soil and sediment science, water quality in oceans, estuaries and rivers, and landform evolution. The research has included a major study in the Murray Darling Basin, aimed at providing a fundamental understanding of how the wetlands are impacted by drought and what the risks are to the environment and the sustainability of communities. Other major studies include greenhouse gas emissions from, and carbon storage in, Australia’s coastal systems and understanding how coral reefs will respond to ocean acidification. This research is highly relevant in Australian and other countries around the world including Cambodia and Vietnam.

Zoology (Specific Field of Research 0608)
The University’s research in the field of zoology is focused on the impacts of environmental change – both natural and human induced – on animal diversity. Located in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, the Marine Ecology Research Centre and the National Marine Science Centre, the research is looking at a range of areas including: the impacts of land clearing, road building and urbanisation on marsupials; how Australia’s bird fauna have evolved and adapted over time; the impacts of climate change; and ocean acidification on marine organisms.

Crop and pasture production (Specific Field of Research 0703)
This research, conducted predominantly through the special research centre Southern Cross Plant Science, is focused on applying genetic and genomic approaches to analysing variation in crop plants and their close relatives. This provides essential underpinning knowledge for crop breeding, and includes pre-breeding activities. The research is also focused on understanding crop domestication traits, and analysing and generating novel variation from Australian native plants.

Forestry sciences (Specific Field of Research 0705)
Southern Cross University’s forestry research is investigating the full range of products and services that forests can provide and how these can be produced sustainably and with minimal impact. It investigates the role forests play in the environment, with particular emphasis on birds, marsupials and amphibians. It also examines possibilities and consequences of tree breeding including genetics, gene flow and pre-breeding strategies. Researchers from the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, the Forest Research Centre, Southern Cross Plant Science and other research centres contribute to this field.

Earth Sciences (Broad Field of Research 04)
This broader field includes the geochemistry research as well as oceanography research undertaken in the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research and physical geography and environmental geoscience through Southern Cross GeoScience.

Agricultural and veterinary sciences (Broad Field of Research 07)
This broader field of research includes forestry and crop production research, as well as fisheries and aquaculture research conducted at the National Marine Science Centre.


Nursing (Specific Field of Research 1110)
Areas of research reflected in this field are the professional practice of nursing, clinical training and education and specific areas of health care practice. This research is conducted predominantly by the School of Health and Human Sciences. The research has focused on the improvement of clinical practice by investigating workplace relations within the healthcare team, management roles and professional boundaries together with issues of bullying and violence. Research in the area of improving clinical practice has been to determine training needs and curriculum review to improve teaching of future health practitioners. Specific areas of practice which have been explored are mental health problems and aged and palliative care.

Biological sciences (Broad Field of Research 06)
Southern Cross University’s contributions in this field include research in ecology, genetics, plant biology and zoology.


Tourism (Specific Field of Research 1506)
The main themes of tourism research include tourism and leisure planning and policy; destination management; event management; sustainable tourism; and gambling, and especially problem gambling, gambling policy and impacts, and harm minimisation. Researchers have been engaged in field studies in Australia and overseas, often supported by significant industry and government grants.

Studies in creative arts and writing (Broad Field of Research 19)
Research in this area is in the multi-disciplinary arts of film and television music, screen sound, live audio-visual performance and the analysis of popular music and the music industry. In addition there is also research in creative writing, digital media and fine arts.

Photo: Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee.

Media contact: Sharlene King media officer, Southern Cross University Lismore, 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.