Despite being based in a regional centre many hundreds of kilometres from the coast, the investigations being conducted by Professor Bernadette McCabe and her team is central to the preservation of ocean health through research around converting organic waste into valuable products.
“What we’re working on really centres on the reduction of greenhouse emissions using renewable energy, like biogas, and also organic fertilisers, in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor McCabe said.
“The ocean is disproportionally impacted by carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, so any work we can do to better understand how we operate in land-based, agricultural activities are going to have really positive impacts on the ocean,” she said.
“These emissions cause changes in water temperature, ocean acidification and deoxygenation which change ocean circulation and chemistry”.
The work by Professor McCabe’s team is supported by a State Government grant from the Waste to Biofutures Fund as well as the Fight Food Waste CRC and Rural R&D for Profit program.
“Ultimately this work is a win win for the environment as it is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and turn it in to a renewable energy form and organic fertiliser which will help displace the use of fossil fuels and synthetic fertiliser,” Professor McCabe said.
As National Science Week is celebrated around Australia this week, Professor McCabe said it was a great opportunity to reflect on the cyclic nature of environmental impacts, both positive and negative, and the role science can play.
“Our work as scientists and as global citizens has a real full circle effect on the people who are actually going to be providing food for the future. We know that climate change weakens the health of the ocean, coasts and marine life that provide critical ecosystem services such as food, carbon storage and oxygen generation.
“Basically, climate change adaptation starts in the ocean, and sustainable production of food and the ecosystems we need to survive rely on healthy waterways – and our work here at USQ is playing a part in building a more sustainable world.”