Leadership with a global goal
In May 2022, biogeochemist Dr Judith Rosentreter completed a Research Fellowship at Yale University in the US and then returned to Southern Cross University. The experience enhanced her scientific reputation and fuelled a new challenge informed by global urgency.
Under the Global Carbon Project’s REgional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes (RECCAP2) initiative, Dr Rosentreter is part of an extraordinary project that is uniting the international research community.
“We are building towards a complete picture of the Global Carbon Cycle and human influence on it,” she said. “In the RECCAP2 initiative, there are teams for specific regions of the world and the aim is to produce greenhouse gas budgets for each region, thereby bringing a global view to knowledge and policy around this vital issue.”
Dr Judith Rosentreter
Dr Rosentreter is leading RECCAP2’s Estuaries and Coastal Vegetation Group in which she and her team produce coastal greenhouse gas budgets at regional (including the Australia-New Zealand region) and global scales. It finds her in good company with colleagues at Southern Cross University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering.
For example, in November 2021, Dr Rosentreter was among Southern Cross University coastal biogeochemists whose lead and co-authored publications were used to support the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) on Climate Change Assessment Report 6, commissioned by the United Nations to provide policymakers with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge on climate change.
Dr Rosentreter’s contribution – highlighting the importance of considering methane emissions when evaluating the climate benefits of blue carbon – was used to develop The Global Methane Budget.
“Blue carbon refers to carbon burial in coastal ocean ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass and salt marshes,” she said. “Efficient as they may be, they do produce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, and these need to be accounted for.”
Born in Germany, Dr Rosentreter grew up in the famous university city of Göttingen and felt connected to the academic environment from childhood. However, finding which academic path to follow was less immediate.
“It was only after attaining degrees in economics and education that I decided to pursue my real passion – biology,” she said. “I loved that my degree had so many strands to it, giving me a solid grounding in fields such as zoology, anthropology, botany, and physics. I did my thesis in freshwater science, looking at carbon cycling in riverbeds.
“After graduating, I wanted to maximise my career opportunities, so I worked hard on improving my English and set my sights on Australia, Canada, or the US. I came across Southern Cross University through the work of Professor Bradley Eyre.”
Accepted for a PhD, Dr Rosentreter investigated carbon dioxide and methane emissions from mangrove-dominated estuaries and tidal creeks. Since then, much of her research has targeted blue carbon and related aspects, including methane, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and greenhouse gas budgets.
In November 2020, Dr Rosentreter secured a prestigious Yale Hutchinson Fellowship within the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies at Yale University in Connecticut, New York, where her research included a global paper around uncertainties in global methane sources and sinks.
As one of five research fellows selected from thousands of applicants, Dr Rosentreter worked on Theme II: Climate and Greenhouse Gases, which aspired to –
• contribute to understanding of the generation and management of greenhouse gases
• build a cohort of postdoctoral fellows to advance knowledge of production and control of methane losses from natural and human managed systems
“It was a really exciting opportunity to work on such important concepts and to learn from global leaders in biogeochemistry like Yale’s Professor Peter Raymond,” said Dr Rosentreter.
“However, on a personal level it was challenging. My time at Yale coincided with the global pandemic, which meant my partner and I were separated by travel restrictions for more than a year. To cope with that, I just had to immerse myself in the science.”
Which she did, and now happily continues to do as a Senior Research Fellow at Southern Cross University.
“The quality of the scientific work at Southern Cross University cannot be understated or underestimated, especially in relation to environmental research,” said Dr Rosentreter. “It is great to be a part of that commitment.”