Over $1million in ARC grants awarded to UNE researchers

Published 30 October 2015

UnknownThe University of New England was today allocated research project funding of more than $1 million by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The successful research projects will examine the survival strategies of mammals in rapidly changing environments; the impacts of climate change on Australian ecosystems and explore genotype-environment interactions, including human genetic response to changing environmental factors and adaptations of farm and wild animals to changing environments.

Two of the research projects were successful in their bid for funding through the ARC’s Discovery Projects scheme and the third through the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award scheme, awarded to Dr Clare Stawski.

UNE’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan congratulated Associate Professor Nigel Andrew, Dr Sang Hong Lee and Dr Stawski who are the lead researchers on the projects.

“This is a great result for research at UNE,” Professor Duncan said.

“The funding from the ARC will allow these researchers to continue with their work in areas that are of vital significance on both a local and global scale.”

In what is a critical research area for Australia, A/Prof Andrew’s research will assist in more clearly understanding the impact of climate change on ecological communities.

Dr Lee’s research will deliver statistical models and software programs which will broadly benefit the field of complex trait genetics, addressing fundamental questions in biology, expanding Australia’s knowledge base and increasing our international competitiveness.

Dr Stawski’s work will determine how individual mammals cope behaviourally and physiologically with a rapidly changing environment by revealing important habitat and climatic characteristics that are vital to the survival of Australian mammals.

“We have many truly wonderful researchers here at UNE but these funding grants will go a long to assist Dr Lee, Dr Stawski and A/Prof Andrew continue with their valuable work.” Professor Duncan said.

The ARC’s Discovery Programme provides funding for research projects that can be undertaken by individual researchers or research teams. More information about the scheme can be found at www.arc.gov.au/discovery-programme


Details of research project grant recipients

UNE Researcher: Dr Clare Stawski

Title: Key mammalian survival strategies in a rapidly changing environment

Proposal Summary: The aim of this project is to quantify behavioural and physiological traits in mammals that are crucial for survival in a changing environment.  It aspires to identify the most influential habitat and climatic factors that determine the relationship between individual
foraging effort and energy saving mechanisms.  Understanding how individuals manage their daily energy needs – a crucial aspect of an animal’s life history – will provide a significant understanding of how individuals survive to reproduce and ultimately sustain thriving populations. This new knowledge is of vital importance as habitat degradation and introduced predators in Australia have irreversibly altered ecosystems and resulted in half the world’s recent mammalian extinctions.

Impact Statement: In determining how individual mammals cope behaviourally and physiologically with a rapidly changing environment, this project will reveal important habitat and climatic characteristics that are vital to the survival of Australian mammals.  This novel scientific knowledge will enable managers of protected areas and threatened species in Australia and worldwide to develop informed policies to ensure positive interactions between natural and human systems and to sustain biodiversity.

Total funding awarded: $372,000


 

UNE Researcher: A/Prof Nigel Andrew

Title: Future Keepers: impacts of climate change on ecosystem function providers

Person Participant/s: Nigel Andrew (Lead CI – UNE), Alan Andersen (CSIRO), Nathan Sanders (University of Copenhagen), Robert Dunn (North Carolina State University USA)

Proposal Summary: The aim of this project is to predict how key ecosystem service providers may change under resource limitation and thermal stress.  We will assess how common species respond to climatic fluctuations and resource limitations when competing for resources in familiar and novel environments along six biogeographic transects throughout Australia.  In combination with hypothesis-driven field, laboratory and transplant experiments, we will use citizen science to create a formidable longitudinal data set of what constraints are put on dominant and functionally important species.  Practically, the project seeks to enable more robust forecasting of biological responses to
environmental change by integrating both empirical and theoretical capabilities.

Impact Statement: Our intended research seeks to reveal the areas in which common and dominant species, that provide critical ecosystem services, will respond to a changing climate.  Understanding the impact of climate change on ecological communities is a critical research priority for Australia and globally.  The research activates outlined will actively engage the public (using citizen science), enhance the research training of high quality graduates and expose them to a dynamic international collaboration.

Total funding awarded: $325,600


UNE Researcher: Dr Sang Hong Lee

Title: Estimating genotype-environment interaction using genomic information (DP160102126)

Person Participant/s: Sang Hong Lee (Lead CI – UNE), Julius Van Der Werf (UNE)

Proposal Summary: This project aims to develop statistical methods that can explore genotype-environment interaction at the genomic level using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms or sequence data.  The methods will estimate how with changing environmental conditions the effects of genetic variants change and how overall genetic variance changes due to changing effects in specific gene regions. The project will deliver statistical models and methods as well as innovative design, and an efficient algorithm implemented in software for this purpose, which will broadly benefit the field of complex trait genetics.

Impact Statement: Methods to estimate genotype-environment interaction effects at the genomic level will help elucidate complex biological systems, including human genetic response to changing environmental factors and the potential adaptation of farm and wild animals to changing environmental conditions.  This project addresses fundamental questions in biology, expanding Australia’s knowledge base and research capability and increasing the international competitiveness.

Total funding awarded: $331,600