Organic molecules dissolved in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans are essential to plant and animal life. Some of these molecules are also degraded and enter a complex cycle of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds. Surprisingly, scientists currently have a limited understanding of the fate of these molecules. Dr Daisuke Minakata and his colleagues from Michigan Technological University are involved in an ambitious programme to overcome this critical knowledge gap.
Our planet’s oceans are undergoing significant challenges. Overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and the effects of climate change are devastating some of the world’s most spectacular and diverse habitats. To inform conservation efforts for fragile marine ecosystems, we need to properly characterise the habitats and sea-life in shallow water areas. Collecting data underwater poses its own unique challenges though, so Dr Talicia Pillay and her team at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa focus on developing powerful remote sensing and computing technologies to aid ocean research.
Professor Avril Horne – Dr Andrew John | Re-evaluating How We Assess and Manage Rivers in Response to Climate Change
Understanding and successfully managing river flows is vital for sustaining human communities, the river environment, and its ecosystems. However, the methods currently used to assess river flow needs are limited in the face of increasing pressures from an uncertain and changing climate. Academics at the University of Melbourne are rethinking the approach to these assessments. This includes work by Professor Avril Horne, Dr Andrew John and their collaborators to present a more integrated and holistic method, which provides much-needed room for learning over time, and to understand the vulnerability, robustness, and adaptability of river flow regimes.
Future food security is one of the key global challenges facing society. Climate change presents significant threats to our ability to produce staple food crops – particularly in regions already vulnerable to droughts. Dr Kahiu Ngugi and his research team from the University of Nairobi and other institutions in Kenya investigated numerous varieties of sorghum – one of the world’s most important cereal crops. Their aim was to find new genes that would allow the crop to withstand both drought and a common parasitic weed.
Dr Carlos Rodriguez-Franco | Dr Deborah Page-Dumroese – Healing Abandoned Mine Ecosystems with Biochar
The Gold Rush of the 1800s is inextricably tied to USA history. Mining towns popped up wherever precious metals could be extracted, with many of these towns and mines now lying abandoned as ghostly reminders of the old wild west. Abandoned mine land poses a threat to environmental and human health, and methods to rehabilitate this land has gathered much interest over the past few years. Dr Carlos Rodriguez-Franco and Dr Deborah Page-Dumroese from the US Department of Agriculture have been evaluating the use of biochar as a sustainable method to remediate abandoned mine lands.
The earth beneath our feet is far more than just dirt. Soil is a living ecosystem filled with microbes, worms and insects, and vast networks of underground fungi filaments. Healthy soils are critical to healthy ecosystems and productive agricultural systems. Dr Joji Muramoto and researchers from the University of California have created a framework for Integrated Soil Health Management that could help suppress plant diseases without the use of harmful chemicals.