Entry for:2019 Queensland Women in STEM Prize
1. Project summary (maximum 150 words)
I investigate the role of wetlands for sequestering carbon and for improving water quality. This information is important because it can be used to participate in carbon and nitrogen markets where we can "sell" the benefits of wetlands (nitrogen removed, carbon emissions avoided) and get funds that can be reinvested into wetland conservation. Most of my work is field-based, where I measure biogeochemical processes such as plant growth, sediment accretion, bacteria transformations of nitrogen, energy transfer through animals, and gas emissions from sediments. My main goal is to deliver science that that is useful to improve the protection and management of wetlands.
2. How does your project benefit Queensland? (maximum 500 words)
My work is in the catchments of the Great Barrier Reef where I work in collaboration with the Government (Wetland Team, Department of Environment and Science), farmers, Traditional Owners, aboriginal corporations (Girringun), and tourist operators.
During my investigations, I discovered that wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef have great potential for improving water quality by taking nitrogen that is leached from fertilisers and transforming it to gas. I also work on a project that aims at improving restoration practices on wetlands of the Great Barrier Reef and supervise two students working on the gas emissions derived from wetland conversion to other land uses.
The results from my projects have been incorporated into the management activities of wetlands in Queensland and have supported the restoration and creation of new wetlands to improve the water quality that reaches the Great Barrier Reef.
3. What STEM promotion/engagement activities do you do/have you done? (maximum 500 words)
One of my main goals is to make sure that my science is translated into better wetland protection and management. Thus, I consider essential to continuously engage the community and communicate the results of my research projects.
I am a member of the Flying Scientists Program, in which I travel to remote communities in Queensland to share my knowledge of wetlands and inspire young students to become scientists, such as last September when I went to Weipa to talk about my research in crocodiles.
I also led a science-art collaboration with artists Leah Barclay, Suzon Fuks and James Cunningham called “Wetland Wander” (www.wetlandwander.net). “Wetland Wander” was a project with the goal of engaging the public with the conservation of wetlands by showcasing beautiful videos and sounds of different kinds of wetlands. “Wetland wander” was showcased at Griffith Conservatorium in Brisbane and White Box Gallery at the Gold Coast during National Science Week 2018, and it will be showcased next September at the Quandamooka Festival in the Redland Art Gallery.
I am active and passionate in mentoring and supervising students, particularly female students in the STEM that aim to become experts in wetland science and conservation. I currently supervise three PhD female students. Finally, I have participated as a panelist in National Science Week during 2018, and will participate next month talking about my work in coastal wetlands and their value for carbon sequestration in Queensland.