Meet UNSW Canberra’s environmental superheroes

Posted 14 Jun 2019

Story by UNSW Canberra

Canberra is a proudly green city, with over 70% of the ACT comprising of nature parks and goals to be 100% renewable by 2020. UNSW Canberra is furthering the territory’s green aspirations, educating and inspiring environmental scientists.

Here are five UNSW Canberra environmental scientists who are making a difference to the everyday lives of Australians.

Dr David Paull – biogeography

Dr Paull’s research spans biogeography, wildlife ecology and biological conservation. He’s interested in Australian mammals and is a bandicoot expert. As a geographer, he investigates the impact that feral species have on the land and is using drones to track erosion caused by brumbies in the Australian Alps.

“I’m monitoring about 30 different water courses through Kosciuszko National Park and just into Victoria and the headwaters of the Murray River,” Dr Paull said.

Dr Sophie Lewis – climate science

Dr Lewis is interested in weather extremes and how they are linked to climate change. She is working with scientists from across the world on a report that will serve as the internationally accepted framework for climate change action.

“Often, in Australia particularly, we have a heatwave, or a bushfire, and people come out and say ‘well we can never link climate change to extremes’ – that’s just not the case anymore, that’s really old information,” Dr Lewis said.

Dr Isabel Jalón Rojas – oceanography

Dr Isabel Jalón Rojas is devising new methods of tracking debris in the ocean. She has already used these methods to track microplastics in Jervis Bay and shipping container spills off the coast of Port Stephens.

“We are working on a 3D model to track debris that moves vertically below the surface. If the tracking project is successful it could be applied to other incidents across the globe,” Dr Jalón Rojas said. “This could enable more efficient clean-up efforts.”

Associate Professor Jason Sharples and Dr Rachel Badlan – bushfires

Dr Sharples and Dr Badlan have found that the shape of a fire is an important factor in whether it is likely to turn into a firestorm. They are developing a model that will help firefighters decide which fres are more likely to develop into firestorms, which will help s0000ave properties and lives.

“Understanding fire behaviour and conditions of how a firestorm develops is critical to being able to predict when these events will occur,” Dr Badlan said.

Dr Adrian Garrido Sanchis and Professor Richard Pashley – chemistry

Dr Sanchis and Professor Pashley have developed an environmentally friendly, cost-effective method of sterilising water. The technology uses hot CO2, which considerably reduces the energy requirements when compared with boiling water.

“This new technology could become a new sterilisation technology candidate able to compete with the existing ones,” Dr Sanchis said.

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