Environment Institute ARC Discovery and DECRA grant success

Congratulations to Environment Institute leaders and members involved with the following successful ARC grants.

The tally for the Environment Institute for this round stands at

  • 5 Discovery Projects (5 of 28 for UoA)
  • 2 DECRA (2 of 10 for UoA)
Congrats to all involved and we look forward to the innovative research and discoveries that will no doubt ensue.


Discovery Projects

1. Austin, Assoc/Prof Jeremy

Total Funding: $408,600.00

Project Summary

This project aims to develop and apply a novel targeted sequence capture and high throughput DNA sequencing approach to simultaneously type thousands of informative identity, ancestry and phenotype markers in a single assay to facilitate identification of unknown suspects and missing persons. DNA based human identification is both critical and central to criminal and coronial investigations, disaster-victim and missing persons identification, repatriation of war dead and counter-terrorism operations. Persistent technological and conceptual issues associated with the application of standard procedures to trace degraded DNA, or when profiles have no match in DNA databases, limit their application to real-world human identification problems.


2. Lowe, Prof Andrew J; Breed, Dr Martin F; Byrne, Dr Margaret; Lascoux, Prof Martin D; Stephen, Dr John R; Vendramin, Dr Giovanni G

Total Funding: $373,300.00

Project Summary
Using the Australian flora as our model, this project aims to tackle a central issue of evolution and conservation – what drives species adaptation? Since dispersal should override selection in populations, we predict that plants that are good dispersers will display weak signals of adaptation, but a higher capacity to adapt, than poorer dispersers. From these expectations we plan to develop a new adaptation guild classification, and test predictions using ecological genomics and functional genetics at a continental and multi-species scale. In addition to progressing a central tenet of evolutionary biology, this project aims to improve seed sourcing and biodiversity management, readily applicable to plants that can
be quickly classified by life history traits.


3. Russell, Dr Bayden D; Connell, Prof Sean D; Helmuth, Prof Brian; Kelaher, Dr Brendan P; Sara, Prof Gianluca; Harley, A/Prof Christopher

Total Funding $363,300.00

Project Summary
This project aims to bridge the gap between physiology and ecology in kelp forest species by developing mechanistic models to predict change and, in an unprecedented step, test them in long-term experiments at naturally acidified sites to understand the consequences of ocean acidification (OA) and warming for kelp forests. Ecosystem change is a frequent outcome of decadal modifications of the physical and chemical environment. Whilst these changes often involve degradation from productive states, we have a poor understanding of the mechanisms which drive change. Key stressors in marine systems, OA and warming are predicted to drive loss of kelp forests but we still don’t understand the reality of these predictions.


4. Tibby, Dr John; Moss, Dr Patrick T; Leng, Prof Melanie; Shakun, Dr Jeremy; Spooner, Adj/Prof Nigel A

Total Funding $381,140.00

Project Summary
Before the arrival of Europeans, two events shaped Australia’s current landscapes and biota more than any others: climate change during the glacial cycle and the arrival of humans on the continent. However, the full scale of these events is not well understood. High resolution analyses of two continuous 140 000 year old sediment deposits will be used in this project to fill this void and answer fundamental questions about how current Australian environments came to be.


5. Westra, Dr Seth; Johnson, Dr Fiona; Zwiers, Dr Francis; Fowler, Prof Hayley J; Lenderink, Dr Geert

Total Funding $275,900.00

Project Summary
Climate change is causing extreme rainfall intensity to increase globally. The greatest increases occur for short-duration storms lasting up to several hours, bringing a heightened risk of flash-floods that are often extremely hazardous due to their rapid onset. The project aims to develop a new spatial extreme value framework to predict extreme rainfall
patterns, using insights on future changes to rainfall triggering mechanisms (e.g. convective, frontal or orographic). The research aims to provide projections in the form of intensity-frequency-duration curves, areal reduction factors and antecedent rainfall depths. Engineers are expected to use this information to design infrastructure and urban planning policies to adapt to future flood risk.


Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)

1. Breed, Dr Martin F
Total Funding $355,000.00

Project Summary
This project aims to address a key debate on the relative roles of dispersal and selection on adaptation, testing how life history traits determine the magnitude of adaptation. Since dispersal should override selection, this project endeavours to show that plants that strongly disperse will display weaker signals of adaptation but a higher capacity to adapt. The project aims to test these predictions with ecological genomics and functional genetics at a multi-species scale across climate gradients in South Australia, using a novel design that separates dispersal (isolation-by-distance) from selection (isolation-by-ecology). This understanding will provide improved conservation planning that seeks to restore resilience to biological communities that are under increasing environmental pressures.


2. Weyrich, Dr Laura S
Total $368,583.00

Project Summary
The bacteria within the human body (microbiome) are vital to human health, and alterations to these intricate microbial communities are now associated with disease. Using ancient DNA, this project aims to examine the evolutionary history of the human microbiome by exploring ancient bacterial communities preserved in calcified dental plaque (calculus) over the past 10 000 years. This will provide valuable information that reveals how these bacterial communities respond to alterations in human diet, environment, culture, and location. By monitoring changes in a natural modern system, this project aims to determine how these microbial communities established themselves within the human body, elucidating how the microbiome may respond in the future.


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