Soil Scientists shine at major national and international events

Published 16 October 2019

UNE teams made an outstanding impact at the 7th National Soil Judging Competition and at the international Soil Organic Matter Symposium (SOM2019), held earlier this month.

The National Soil Judging competition, sponsored by Soil Science Australia, is an annual event in Australia/New Zealand. University teams compete to accurately describe and assess a series of soil types and determine their constraints and capability for several land uses including agriculture.

UNE entered two teams in the competition. The teams competed in a field of 15 across 10 Universities from Australia and New Zealand.

Coached by PhD candidate in Environmental and Rural Science (ERS), Ivanah Oliver and Associate Professor Brian Wilson (Faculty of Science, Agriculture, Business and Law), the teams consisted of both undergraduate and higher degree research students - Kirsten Drew, Sajanee Gunadasa, Robin Shannon, Josiah May, Roshan Ojha, Mary Garrard and Karishma Parmar.

After two practice days and a fiercely contested “competition day”, the UNE teams secured third and second placings in the competition (close behind the overall team winners Southern Cross University).

“Such a strong result from both the UNE teams is testament to the commitment and skills of the students involved and the strength of the soil science discipline here at UNE,” A/Prof. Wilson said

The Soil Organic Matter Symposium is the premier international conference for soil scientists across the globe working in the area of soil organic matter dynamics (essential to soil health, fertility and sustainability). The biennial symposium provides the opportunity to meet and network with scientists from all over the world and learn from the highest quality, current research.

As a key conference sponsor, UNE had an exceptionally high impact at the conference, which was held in Adelaide, Australia.

A delegation of nine UNE representatives comprising A/Prof Brian Wilson, Yui Osanai, Ivanah Oliver, Roshan Ojha, Mary Garrard, Apsara Amarasinghe, Rubeca Fancy, Katherine Polain and Md Noor E Alam Siddique contributed quality posters and oral presentations.

A/Prof Brian Wilson, who is also on the SOM2019 organising committee, provided a keynote address to the conference on “Soil organic matter in a climate stressed environment (NSW)”. He also chaired both Plenary Sessions and the largest concurrent session on “The Ecological Significance and Function of SOM”.

HDR candidates Ivanah Oliver and Mary Garrard (ERS) represented UNE as student ambassadors, co-chairing sessions throughout the conference and interacting with student mentors to network with high profile scientists from all over the world. The teams also participated in an international early career researcher-networking event.

Apsara Amarasinghe, HDR candidate in ERS, won the prize for best student poster at the conference, which was hailed a great success by all who attended, both from Australia and internationally.

The team’s achievement underlines the international significance and quality of soil science research undertaken at UNE.

UNE contribution

  • 1 x Keynote
  • 4 x oral presentations
  • 3 x poster presentations
  • UNE Name badge sponsor


  • 2nd Place – 7th National Soil Judging Competition (UNE Team – 2: Mary Garrard, Roshan Ojha, Karishma Parmar)
  • 3rd Place - 7th National Soil Judging Competition (UNE Team – 1: Kirsten Drew, Sajanee Gunadasa, Robin Shannon, Josiah May)
  • Best student poster at Symposium (Apsara Amarasinghe)
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