Catchments, Coasts and Communities

Innovative solutions for land and water management

We drive transformative environmental, social and economic change within catchments, coastal zones and their communities through impactful and engaged research. From carbon storage models and methane cycling in trees to pesticide run-off and mitigating the effects of fertilisers in our waterways, the cluster develops practical and innovative solutions to critical land and water management issues.

Professor Damien Maher

“Our world-class research is helping to resolve the complex environmental, social, and economic issues within coastal catchments.”

Coffs Harbour rocky beach

World class facilities and infrastructure

Analytical lab and Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer facilities

Collaborative research

We take a collaborative approach to research with government, industry and community

Community education

Community education and empowerment on coastal and catchment zone issues

Key research projects

The role of trees in methane cycling

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, but there are significant uncertainties as to where the methane originates from. Researchers at Southern Cross University are combining a range of techniques to unravel the plant and microbial community interactions involved in methane cycling in Australian forests.

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Dr Luke Jeffrey Conducting wetland research

Water quality

Scientists at Southern Cross University are involved in a range of research projects and development of new technology to monitor water quality within local catchment areas. Collaborating with government, industry partners and citizen scientists, this research covers flooding, environmental impacts and climate extremes.

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Technical and Laboratory Officer Roz Hagan sampling water in the Macleay River

Blue carbon

Research from Southern Cross University’s coastal biogeochemistry experts has contributed to scientific debate around the climate benefits of blue carbon and the development of carbon and methane budgets. Our researchers have also played a major role in the development of the world’s first blue carbon accounting model (BlueCAM), adopted by the Australian Federal Government.

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Mangrove forest

Flooding and intermittent coastal streams

Coastal biogeochemist Professor Bradley Eyre is currently leading four large ARC research projects, three of which are looking at the effects of extreme events such as floods on the aquatic biogeochemistry of intermittent coastal streams, tidal wetlands and inland dryland rivers.

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Lismore flood 2022

Intensive horticulture and coastal catchments

Coffs coast waterways are bearing the brunt of a nitrogen double-whammy from fertilisers and recycled sewage. Remarkably in dry periods, though, the waterways can protect downstream habitats by removing much of the nitrogen naturally, Southern Cross University researchers have found.

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Blueberry rust infected blueberry leaves showing yellow rust

Dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle

Professor Bradley Eyre is leading two Discovery Projects from the same round, worth a total of $893,000. His ground-breaking research is aimed at better understanding the global carbon cycle – which is the biogeochemical exchange of carbon between the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and fossil fuels.

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Bradley Eyre - Dryland flooding in the global carbon cycle

Managing impacts of pesticide run-off in areas of intensive coastal agriculture

Researchers from the University’s National Marine Science Centre have demonstrated that imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, can impact the feeding behaviour of prawns in a laboratory environment, leading to nutritional deficiency and reduced flesh quality. The study identifies the need for effective management of pesticide use and run-off from intensive agriculture in coastal areas with productive seafood industries.

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New study finds agricultural pesticides can affect prawns and oysters

Western Sydney's growth

The Hawkesbury River is the place where a portion of Sydney’s treated wastewater is discharged and the destination for stormwater runoff from a rapidly growing city. Understanding the river’s ability to cleanse itself as Sydney grows is key to its future.

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Damien Maher and James Sippo Hawkesbury river

Researcher profiles

Professor Damien Maher - researcher taking water samples

Damien Maher


As a specialist in hydrobiogeochemistry, Professor Damien Maher's research covers a range of topics from local water quality issues and solutions, to global biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. His research team have been working on a collaborative project with local and state government to monitor water quality in the Richmond River, and the chronic impacts of recent flooding on the NSW North Coast.

Associate Professor Joanne Oakes - researcher in laboratory

Joanne Oakes

Associate Professor

Associate Professor Joanne Oakes is acknowledged for her use of stable isotope techniques to investigate the ecology and biogeochemistry of coastal, terrestrial, and freshwater systems. Her findings are enhancing knowledge of how the processing and fate of carbon and nitrogen are impacted by conditions such as elevated nutrients, changes in faunal or microbial communities, increased temperature, and ocean acidification.

Professor Bradley Eyre - researcher in laboratory

Bradley Eyre


Professor Bradley Eyre is a biogeochemist with diverse research interests, including the flow of carbon and nitrogen through the earth-system, and changes in flow due to global change (e.g. climate change, ocean acidification, eutrophication). He works in estuaries, rivers, near-shore coastal areas, muds, permeable sands, mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs. Professor Eyre is currently leading five large ARC research projects focusing on greenhouse gas emissions from aquatic systems.

Dr Luke Jeffrey conducting research in paperbark forest

Luke Jeffrey


A postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and a recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal, Dr Luke Jeffrey’s research into tree-based methane emissions – or treethane – represents a new frontier for the global methane and carbon cycles. What’s more, his game-changing discoveries are being made close to home, in the wetlands of the far north coast of NSW.

Dr Judith Rosentreter - in boat researching mangroves

Judith Rosentreter


Dr Judith Rosentreter is one of a group of Southern Cross University biogeochemists whose research is having an impact close to home and across the world. As well as increasing awareness and enabling strategies in areas such as blue carbon, climate change, greenhouse gases and the development of carbon and methane budgets, Dr Rosentreter recently took on a leadership role as part of the Global Carbon Project.

Dr James Sippo - researcher in mangroves

James Sippo


Dr James Sippo is a biogeochemist whose research covers the role of natural systems in climate change mitigation. A key element of his research is blue carbon and its relation to greenhouse gas exchange and carbon storage. Dr Sippo played a major role in the development of the world’s first blue carbon accounting model (BlueCAM), adopted by the Australian Federal Government.