FINE WORK: Post graduate student Kirsten Cowley and research scientist for Coastal Biogeochemistry at SCU Dr Damien Maher.
FINE WORK: Post graduate student Kirsten Cowley and research scientist for Coastal Biogeochemistry at SCU Dr Damien Maher. Jacklyn Wagner

A wonderful chance for students to work in the field

SPENDING your summer at science school might not seem like fun, but for Kristen Cowley it has been an "amazing learning curve".

Kirsten did her masters degree through Charles Sturt University, writing her thesis in Cambodia about arsenic in groundwater.

She now works as an environmental officer for an energy infrastructure corporation.

But at the moment she's learning new things at Southern Cross University's Science Summer School.

For the past week Kirsten and Dr Damien Maher from the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry Research have been on a boat, cruising along North Creek at Ballina to take samples of greenhouse gas fluxes in three different zones along the creek.

"We've been in the field with our instruments," she said.

"I am loving it. It's giving me a really good grounding because I've been considering doing further study in geoscience."

Dr Maher and his team have made some surprising discoveries in their research.

There are three distinct land-use zones along North Creek - urban in the lower catchment, mangroves in the mid-section and agriculture in the upper system.

"We've done some extensive surveying over the last few days," Dr Maher said.

"We have found that in the mid-estuary there are high concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane.

"It is a natural phenomenon.

"That's because there is a lot of organic matter and biomass, which gets broken down.

"But it was surprising to see how high the concentrations were."

Dr Maher said the research was important in looking at climate change but he also said more work needed to be done.

Eight students are currently involved in SCU's Science Summer School, which gives undergraduates, or recent graduates, the opportunity to team up with one of the university's leading researchers to undertake a short, science-based project over four weeks.

It is an opportunity to develop valuable field and laboratory skills.



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