Laboratory Technologies

Adapting to Future Climate Scenario’s-The Role of the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

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The University of Western Sydney is leading the world in the field of climate change research thanks to a groundbreaking new research facility, The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.
The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment implemented the SEAL AQ2+ Discrete Analyser to analyse, among other things, NO3, NH4 and PO4 availability in soils. The Hawkesbury Institute is conducting research into how high temperatures and drought affect carbon cycling and storage and biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems, and how to improve the management of newly planted and natural ecosystems to support sustained carbon storage.
The Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment’s comprehensive research facilities were developed as a result of a $40 million grant to the University of Western Sydney- an initiative of the Australian Government as part of the Nation-building Stimulus Package in 2009.

There are a number of key research areas:

  • Plant, animals and interactions
  • Ecosystem function & integration
  • Soil Biology and Genomics

Key Research Areas:

Plants, Animals and Interactions - The question of how environmental change affects the biology, ecology and complex interactions between the flora and fauna that inhabit the earth’s majestic forests and vast grasslands is being explored using a combination of state of the art laboratory and field-based experimental facilities. By exploring fundamental genetics, biochemistry, physiology and ecology of plants, insects and larger animals, the Hawkesbury Institute can determine the impact of environmental change on individual species, key interactions between species, and overall biodiversity. This, in turn, helps researchers predict and manage ecosystem functions and services.

Ecosystem Function and Integration - A whole ecosystem experimental approach in combination with modelling is being used to investigate the impact of environmental change on ecosystem function and to produce decision support systems to mitigate risks arising from climate change. The newly constructed Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment in mature eucalypt woodland, together with other field and laboratory based facilities, allows the Institute to collect crucial information about the responses of forests, savannahs and grasslands to rising CO2 and climate change in a water- and nutrient-limited environment.

Soil Biology and Genomics - this theme focuses on how environmental change influences the amazing diversity of life in soils, including its fungi, bacteria and animals. By linking DNA-based methods with techniques that investigate the activities of microorganisms in soil, the Institute is gaining unprecedented insights into life in Australian soils in our changing environment and how soil organisms influence the ecology, growth and diversity of plants and animals. The Institute can then apply this knowledge to generate improved future strategies for ecosystem management, increased plant production, carbon sequestration, and remediation of contaminated soils.

The SEAL AQ2+ Discrete Analyser is currently used in the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment to analyse, among other things, NO3, NH4 and PO4 availability in soils. The SEAL Discrete Analyser allows reactions to be brought to complete reaction emulating manual and segmented flow methods and ensuring the lowest possible detection limits and good reproducibility. With the help of the AQ2 Researchers aim to better understand the role of soil microbes in facilitating nutrient exchange within Australian soils, which are highly weathered, and often of low nutrient status. Ultimately this will allow researchers to develop sustainable strategies to adapt to future climate scenarios

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