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Southern Cross University researchers have gained two Australian Research Council grants, totalling $1.2M, to develop environment-focused projects that will reduce ammonium/nitrate-nitrogen levels in coastal waterways and transform abattoir waste into agricultural soil improver.

Bradley Eyre at Moreton Bay, Queensland
Professor Bradley Eyre at Moreton Bay, Queensland

The first project, led by Professor Bradley Eyre, Founding Director of the University’s Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry, in collaboration with University of Western Australia and Healthy Land & Water Ltd, will use new innovative measurements and modelling to investigate nitrogen removal pathways of the coastal zone. The aims are reducing the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and helping restore impacted wetland ecosystems.

The three-year project is expected to start late 2021 and will centre on south-east Queensland’s estuaries and wetlands.

The second grant, coordinated by Associate Professor Dirk Erler, is to research the transforming of meat residues into agricultural soil improver. Collaborators are the Casino-based Northern Cooperative Meat Company, QUT, Justus-Liebig University of Giessen, and the Department of Regional NSW.

Associate Professor Dirk Erler
Associate Professor Dirk Erler

Australia’s red meat processing industry is facing significant challenges, including growing volumes of organic residues that are an economic and environmental liability. The current industry standard is to compost organic residues and apply them to land, but compost does not retain soil nutrients and can promote greenhouse gas emissions. 

This research aims to develop a new technology that can transform the organic residues from red meat processing into engineered hydrochars, which will be customised to store soil nutrients, improve plant growth, and actively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

‘The new Southern Cross Research Plan commits the University to producing regionally relevant, globally significant research. These Linkage-funded projects reflect this direction,’ said Professor Mary Spongberg, SCU’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research).

The ARC’s Linkage Projects scheme supports academics to work with industry, government and community organisation partners to tackle complex problems and fast-track solutions.

‘The new Faculty of Science and Engineering is committed to the circular economy whereby what was once considered waste is recycled and reused, ensuring maximum benefit from our region’s valuable resources and providing long-term economic, social and environmental benefit,’ Prof Spongberg said.