Research, Development & Collaboration
Research and Development
What factors influence nitrogen loss in agricultural soils?
Murrang Earth Sciences worked alongside Harden Murrumburrah Landcare Group and CSIRO's Agriculture Flagship to research nitrogen dynamics in the Harden-Murrumburrah region. Australian agriculture has been heavily dependent upon nitrogen fertilisers for decades, but it is well known that only a small proportion of fertiliser nitrogen added is actually taken up by plants. In our study, we found that most of the fertiliser nitrogen added was converted to organic nitrogen in the soil rather than being taken up by plants. Our work demonstrated that organic nitrogen (non-fertiliser nitrogen) was the most important source of nitrogen for crops in the area. Improving stores of organic nitrogen could therefore be key to improving nitrogen uptake in crops in the region.
Understanding the origins of salinity in Wybong Creek, NSW
We investigated the drivers of salinity in the Wybong Creek catchment in NSW over three years. Our study involved extensive fieldwork in which a mobile laboratory was used to assess soil, surface water and groundwater parameters including major and minor ion concentrations and isotope concentrations. Hydraulic conductivity including phase and hydraulic head analysis were also undertaken. This work identified key geological drivers of salinity in the catchment and was published in the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences.
Community and Education
Taking action against fruit fly in Harcourt Valley, Victoria
Murrang Earth Sciences worked with the Harcourt Valley Landcare to develop their first Fruit Fly Action Plan. We worked closely with a representative of the Landcare group to engage stakeholders across all parts of the local community and horticulture value-chain in developing and editing an Action Plan. This included developing a draft plan based on the Victorian template, engaging and eliciting feedback, and developing and running a stakeholder workshop to address the feedback. We have also supported the Landcare group through Council meetings and the Action Plan launch. Murrang Earth Sciences continues to support the Action Plan and the Landcare group through partnership opportunities to enact the plan. You can find more about this project on Page 11 of The Core or here, and a copy of the Action Plan is available here.
Ecology and conservation education
Murrang Earth Sciences is committed to sharing information about our natural ecosystems. The thriving and easily accessible natural habitat that defines living in Canberra makes it a great place to educate people on the importance of conservation. For instance, the Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve has some of the best examples of box-gum grassy woodland habitat in the world, while Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve is a haven for migrating birds.
In consultation with curriculum managers and teachers, we developed educational toolkits based on the Australian school curriculum for teaching ecology and conservation to primary school-aged children. The toolkits were adapted for both classroom and field-based teaching and we provided options for flexible learning.