Southern Cross researchers secure Australian Research Council grants

Published 13 November 2017
Professor Anne Graham Professor Anne Graham

Southern Cross University has reinforced its reputation for outstanding research with clear impact after researchers secured over $1.2 million worth of Australian Research Council grants.

Professor Anne Graham and Dr Damien Maher are each lead investigators for Discovery Projects. The ARC has also recognised Dr Douglas Tait with an Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA).

“Strategically our researchers continue to explore and develop key collaborations with national and international partners,” said Professor Susan Nancarrow, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research).

Professor Anne Graham, Director of the University’s Centre for Children and Young People, with Dr Sally Robinson and a team of international researchers, have been awarded $463,136 for ‘Beyond safety: Ethical practice involving children’ (DP180100465). This research project will generate critically important knowledge for organisations seeking to protect children and create safer environments that promote their wellbeing.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has clearly identified children’s safety in institutions as an area requiring urgent attention,” said Professor Graham.

Focusing especially on those who are at greater risk of harm, Professor Graham said the findings will help ensure current efforts are not reduced to compliance-based exercises that protect organisations, but fail to create the cultural conditions necessary to nurture and protect children.

“This research is cutting edge in that it will include the views of children and young people in helping to develop better-targeted policy and more ethically-oriented practice in working with children.”

Dr Damien Maher, from the School of Environment, Science and Engineering, leads an ARC Discovery grant worth $436,936 for ‘Beyond burial: redefining the blue carbon paradigm’ (DP180101285). The three-year project, with colleagues from Southern Cross University (Associate Professor Christian Sanders and Professor Scott Johnston), Charles Darwin University and the University of Hawaii, will investigate how mangroves can purify water in the coastal zone, and how they can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

“It’s been a huge week for me,” said Dr Maher from Rhode Island where he collected the 2017 Cronin Award for Early Achievement, an international biennial prize from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation.

“Mangroves are well known for their importance in fisheries habitats, but we are only just starting to realise some of the other benefits they provide. We believe mangrove systems may also help buffer the effects of ocean acidification in the coastal zone, providing corals – including those in the Great Barrier Reef – with protection from some of the adverse effects associated with climate change.

“This project aims to explore and quantify the importance of this process to provide government and marine managers with the information they require to better manage the coastal zone.”

The ARC has recognised early career researcher Dr Douglas Tait with a DECRA worth $392,650 for the project, ‘Is groundwater the missing nutrient source to the Great Barrier Reef?’ (DE180100535).

“At this point we only know the source of about 30% of the nutrient necessary to sustain life on the Great Barrier Reef. That means we don’t know where 70% of the nutrient action comes from,” said Dr Tait.

“Billions of dollars have been spent on improving water quality in the Great Barrier Reef, yet nutrient budgets and the sources of pollution remain poorly quantified and instances of harmful algal blooms continue to rise. This project will provide land and marine managers with crucial information to safeguard this precious resource into the future.”

Other successful Southern Cross University researchers

ARC Discovery Projects 2018

  • Dr Dirk Erler as part of the research team for ‘Unravelling the dynamics of nitrous oxide production in wastewater systems’ (DP180103369) – led by University of Queensland. This project aims to unravel the dynamics of Nitrous oxide (N2O) production in wastewater treatment systems by combining continuous stable isotope tracing techniques with innovative experimental design and sophisticated mathematical modelling.
  • Dr David Newell as part of the research team for ‘A novel modelling approach for understanding wildlife disease dynamics’ (DP180101415) – led by Griffith University. This project aims to develop a novel framework for field wildlife disease systems, applied to chytrid fungal infection of an endangered frog species as a case study.

ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) 2018

  • Professor Leslie Christidis as part of the research team for ‘Genomic library infrastructure for ancient environmental samples’ (LE180100121) – led by Griffith University. This project aims to enable automated genome recovery from diverse environmental samples, without contamination risk.


The University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said he was delighted with the ARC’s announcement.

“I am thrilled with the outcome of the ARC grants – this recognition is further demonstration that Southern Cross University is committed to conducting research that transforms the lives of those in our region – and which can also change futures around the world,” said Professor Shoemaker.

Photo: ARC success for Professor Anne Graham, Director of the Centre for Children and Young People.

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