New laboratories reinforce leading role of research partnership

Published 16 December 2010

torbaysheldrakeThe opening of new laboratories at the University of New England this week marks a milestone in a collaborative research program that is attracting millions of dollars of government and industry funding for research into reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

Dr Richard Sheldrake, the Director-General of Industry & Investment NSW, officially opened the new laboratories on Monday 13 December, saying that the regionally-driven research program was “unparallelled in Australia”.

The UNE-based National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research, a joint venture between UNE and Industry & Investment NSW, was officially launched in May 2009. The Centre’s new home, named the “UNE Carbon and Climate Change Research and Learning Facility”, has been established in UNE’s Agronomy Building with funding of $2 million provided to UNE through the Commonwealth Government’s “Better Universities Renewal Funding” scheme, and matching funds for essential analytical equipment provided by Industry & Investment NSW.

The Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, said that the Centre was an “offspring” of the Primary Industries Innovation Centre, also based at UNE, and further developed the collaborative mission of the University and Industry & Investment NSW to address the challenges that climate change presented to primary industries. “This Centre is a testament to our research strengths, and will set the University up for increased opportunities to work in partnership with Industry & Investment NSW in the future,” he said.

Dr Sheldrake emphasised the “world-class” expertise of the scientists and support staff undertaking research at the Centre – research including a project aimed at reducing methane emissions from beef cattle that has received $1.58 million funding from the Commonwealth Government and an additional $120,000 from Meat & Livestock Australia. “For these scientists to reach their full potential they must have access to modern equipment and facilities,” he said. “It is for this reason that I particularly welcome the opening of the Carbon and Climate Change Laboratories here at the campus today.” The facility also supports more than 20 PhD candidates, with a growing number of PhD projects at UNE related to soil carbon and greenhouse gas research.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, thanked Dr Sheldrake, saying: “The Department of Industry & Investment has been a friend and partner of UNE over many years. Today’s opening is a celebration of our ongoing mutual achievements that lead the way in science and research.”

“These Carbon and Climate Change Laboratories will be invaluable to the National Soil Carbon Project,” Professor Barber said. “I am very proud of the continued efforts and commitment of the team here.”

Dr Sheldrake congratulated the Director of the National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research, Professor Annette Cowie, on her recent appointment to the Domestic Offsets Integrity Committee – the committee that will accredit methods employed by farmers to earn carbon credits under the Commonwealth Government’s new Carbon Farming Initiative. He said the appointment was “recognition not only of her international reputation in this field, but also of the quality of the science being undertaken collaboratively by our two organisations here at UNE through the Primary Industries Innovation Centre and the National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research”.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows UNE’s Chancellor, Richard Torbay (left), with Dr Richard Sheldrake in front of the plaque marking the opening of the new laboratories. It expands to include (from left) Professor Jennie Shaw (Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Professor Jim Barber, Professor Annette Cowie, Renata Brooks (Executive Director, Agriculture & Primary Industries, Science & Research for Industry & Investment NSW), and the Armidale Dumaresq Mayor,  Councillor Peter Ducat.