Researchers backed by funding

TWO emerging Southern Cross University researchers have been given nearly $1.1 million in funding between them by the Australian Research Council.

Senator Kim Carr, the Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, presented the money at a ceremony in Canberra to Dr Scott Johnston from Southern Cross GeoScience and Dr Joanne Oakes from the Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry.

Dr Johnston, 40, received an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship worth $709,212 to explore the controls on arsenic behaviour in coastal floodplain groundwater. Dr Oakes was a recipient of an inaugural Discovery Early Career Research Award worth $375,000 for her investigation into carbon and nitrogen cycling in coastal systems.

Dr Johnston's four year project would take him to Switzerland and the US and was hoped to improve water quality for people in part of Asia, particularly around the Mekong and Ganges deltas, whose groundwater was contaminated by arsenic every time seawater flooded over the iron-rich soil.

Dr Joanne Oakes, 30, received the Discovery Early Career Research Award, which would give her the funding to pursue her study, entitled 'Unravelling transformation pathways and fate of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen in shallow coastal sediments'.

"This project will significantly advance our understanding of the cycling of dissolved organic carbon and dissolved organic nitrogen in shallow coastal sediments, which is potentially a major part of global carbon and nitrogen cycles," said Dr Oakes, who will sample locally on the North Coast and at Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

She said rivers and estuaries were a major source of dissolved organic carbon and dissolved organic nitrogen to the oceans.

"These inputs are intercepted and modified by shallow coastal sediments. Processes occurring in shallow coastal sediments therefore determine the form and quantity of carbon and nitrogen in the ocean - and therefore are a potentially major, but overlooked, part of global carbon and nitrogen cycles."



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