JCU Researchers receive $180 000 grant

By Judith Aisthorpe and Kyla Whitmore

Two James Cook University Researchers have received grants to investigate their chosen topics of research through the Queensland Government Accelerate Program.

The grant will award each researcher $180 000 over a three year period.

Post Doctoral Research Fellow Tine Carl will investigate the use of algae in aquaculture waste filtration, a process known as “Algo-Bio-Remediation”.

Current Queensland laws require new aquaculture farms to meet a ‘net zero discharge’ requirement, where all wastewater must contain the same nutrient content as the original source.

Dr Carl spent the last year at JCU cultivating and researching a newly discovered species of algae for consumption and commercial properties.

Her research will attempt to create an economically viable yet sustainable waste-water prototype using the algae at prawn farms in the Burdekin region.

“You have to come up with a technique or a certain way to clean up the water so you can actually farm fish, prawns whatever you want and … then [you] are actually allowed to discharge this water,” Dr Tine says.

Algae research at James Cook University

Dr Tine says the Accelerate Program allows her to study a field that interests her with funding to support her research.

“It’s pretty good. First of all it’s obviously quite competitive to get it,” she says.

“It feels quite nice to know you made the cut, which is quite nice in science where it’s quite competitive and so forth.”

Dr Alexandra Roberts of the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine & Rehabilitation Sciences also received a grant to continue her research into the health of Queensland’s frogs.

She has spent the last 18 months looking into the microbiology of species infected with Chytrid Fungus.

Frog populations around the world have been decimated due to the spread of Chytrid Fungus.

Dr. Roberts’ research will focus on six species of Queensland frogs seriously threatened by the fungus’ introduction into Australia. 

“Because [frogs are] so sensitive their skin can take up whatever’s in the water supply,” says Dr Roberts.

“So if there’s fertilizers or pesticides in there it can really affect the frogs.

“It [the grant] gives exposure to the problem, a lot of people don’t know the frogs are in trouble and in decline so that’s one good thing.

Green frogs at James Cook University“It also ensures that we have funding for the next few years, so that I can stay on this project.”

Dr Roberts and her team hope the funding will allow them to advance the knowledge of the disease.

“We’re really trying to develop new treatment strategies, develop new drugs and vaccines against the fungus,” she says.

“Hopefully at the end of the project we will be able to trail some drugs that we have developed to see if they work in captive populations.”

The Honourable Ian Walker, Minister for Queensland Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, visited the lab of Dr Roberts’ recently.

“At this point, the programs’ development is to make sure we keep bright minds in Queensland and that we continue to encourage them into projects that give real outcomes for Queenslanders,” he says.

Walker says he is astonished by the “range of tropical-related scientific research that we have in North Queensland”, and that the research shows how the Accelerate Program fosters scientific innovations to improve Queensland’s economy, lifestyle and environment.