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Pioneering work completed in identifying acid sulphate soils


Steve Spinks
23 May 2014
Crystal Maher has helped pioneer a cost effective technique to identify acid sulphate soils, potentially saving government and industry thousands of dollars.

Ms Maher will be awarded her PhD this Saturday, May 24, at Southern Cross University’s graduation at the Tweed Civic Centre.

“We used stable sulfur isotopes to identify and assess acid sulphate soils,” Ms Maher said.

“Research indicated sulfur isotopes could be used to identify sites where acid sulfate soils were oxidising and releasing sulfuric acid into nearby waterways. This technique would allow management and remediation efforts to be targeted at specific sites rather than adopting a large scale, broad acre approach.

“Under the supervision of Professor Leigh Sullivan I was also involved in sulfur isotope studies conducted on acid sulfate soil site in far north Queensland where remediation using seawater re-flooding has been under way for over 10 years. In this study, sulfur isotopes were used to track changes that occurred in the soil during remediation, which has significant relevance for understanding how acid sulfate soils would behave during a climate change induced sea level rise.

“Another component of my research examined sulfur isotopes in inland acid sulfate soils that were identified in the Murray-Darling Basin regions of NSW, Victoria and South Australia. This study highlighted the differences between coastal and inland acid sulfate soils and suggested that inland sites would require different management approaches to be developed and implemented.”

Ms Maher is one of four postgraduate students receiving their higher awards, including Yahya Darwish Yahya Al Ansari, Mohd Haizam Bin Mohd Saudi and Rong Zeng. There will also be more than 100 graduands across the University’s seven schools who will attend the 10am ceremony.

The occasional speaker is University council member, Murray d’Almeida. The ceremony will also be Southern Cross University Chancellor The Hon John Dowd’s AO QC, last Gold Coast graduation ceremony before he steps down from the role in September.

Photo: Crystal Maher.