View all news

Inaugural conference showcases diverse University postgraduate research


Sharlene King
15 October 2012
The fate of released lobsters; food eaten by prehistoric man in northeast Thailand; how NSW local councils are implementing climate change adaptation plans; and movements of a critically endangered rainforest snail are some of the studies being undertaken by Southern Cross University postgraduates.

Thirty PhD and Masters students will present their research at the inaugural School of Environment, Science and Engineering Postgraduate Conference at the Lismore campus on October 16 and 17.

The theme is ‘Exploring Boundaries in Environmental Science and Management’.

“The School has run conferences in the past but this is the first one that focuses solely on the work of our postgraduates,” said Professor Jerry Vanclay, Head of the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

“We have drawn together an impressive number of presentations covering a wide range of topics.”

The research topics range from laboratory-based environmental chemistry, cultural heritage and humpback whales, as well as:

• Jesse Leland with ‘Damage and physiological stress to juvenile Eastern Rock Lobster (Sagmariasus verreauxi) discarded after trapping and hand collection’

• Nelum Kanthilatha with ‘Preliminary results of a study of ancient fatty acids preservation in a prehistoric site in northeast Thailand’

• Dale Fallon with ‘Managing Future Risks: NSW Local Government’s Climate Change Adaptation Plans’

• Jonathan Parkyn with ‘Movement patterns of Thersites mitchellae: Research at a snail’s pace’

Australia’s Eastern Rock Lobster is the largest spiny lobster species in the world and can grow to over 8kg. They are commonly found on the menu of top restaurants and are highly prized by recreational fishers.

PhD candidate Jesse Leland said the results of his research into released lobsters were positive and supported the current approach to exploitation control through bag, size and sex regulations.

“Although damage often occurred during capture and handling, we found that survival among released eastern rock lobsters was high and that the stress experienced did not affect their health,” Mr Leland said.

Conference chair Dr Amanda Reichelt-Brushett said the gathering was an opportunity for students to share ideas, support each other and hone their presentation skills.

“The postgraduate pathway at times can be a lonely road partly because we don’t have clear cohorts of students and also because every single post graduate student is focused on a very specific research project.

“If students know about the details of each other’s work then they may be able to discuss ideas and problems and help each other find solutions,” Dr Reichelt-Brushett said.

Giving the keynote address is Alumni Dr Joanne Wilson, who has returned to Australia after five years based in Bali as the lead scientist with the Nature Conservancy organisation working on reefs and marine protected areas across the Indonesian archipelago.

After being awarded a PhD from Southern Cross University in 1999, Dr Wilson worked as a coastal ecologist and an environmental consultant before heading to Bali.

“My career certainly hasn’t followed a typical ‘academic’ path, but I can show that there are many ways to do and use science to help conserve the environment while sustaining livelihoods for local people," said Dr Wilson.

The two-day conference is divided into four sessions:

Session 1: Marine Ecology, Fisheries and Aquaculture
Session 2: Environmental Chemistry, Paleochemistry and Geosciences
Session 3: Socioeconomics, Sustainability, Information Technology and Governance
Session 4: Forestry, Rainforest Ecology and Agriculture

The conference is free of charge. University students and staff and the wider the community is welcome to attend.

“The open invitation helps students to foster interactions between each other, community, staff and future employers,” said Dr Reichelt-Brushett.
Photo: PhD candidate Jesse Leland studies a moulted shell from an Eastern Rock Lobster. Media opportunity: Media are welcome to attend the conference.