SCU sci­en­tist hon­oured

Only third Aussie to get top award

The Northern Star - - NEWS - Marc Stapelberg marc.stapelberg@north­ern­star.com.au

SOUTH­ERN Cross Uni­ver­sity lec­turer Dr Damien Ma­her will be awarded a pres­ti­gious prize in Amer­ica for his ex­ten­sive re­search on coastal ar­eas.

The CERF Sci­en­tific Cronin Award for early achieve­ment recog­nises the sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ments of an es­tu­ar­ine sci­en­tist who is in the early stages of his or her ca­reer de­vel­op­ment.

The lec­turer will only be the third Aus­tralian re­cip­i­ent of the award in its 20-year his­tory.

Dr Ma­her said the broad swathe of re­search he did saw him travel all over the world, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Asia, Amer­ica and Europe.

He said it had ap­peal to the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee be­cause of its en­gage­ment with the com­mu­nity, and the broader im­pli­ca­tions of the re­search.

In the five years since he com­pleted his PhD, Dr Ma­her has done work on car­bon cy­cling and how cli­mate change is in­flu­enc­ing the car­bon cy­cle in rivers, estuaries and the coastal sys­tems, as well as re­search on coral reefs, sea grass sys­tems and man­groves. He has also in­ves­ti­gated the ground wa­ter/sur­face wa­ter con­nec­tion and how util­is­ing those ground wa­ter re­sources can in­flu­ence the bi­ol­ogy and ecol­ogy of rivers and estuaries.

“I have been do­ing a broad sweep of re­search across a bunch of re­ally im­por­tant and rel­e­vant ar­eas,” he said.

“I was re­ally ec­static when I heard I had won – it is such an hon­our to win this award.”

It was the first time Dr Ma­her had en­tered and it was his re­search on how coal seam gas de­vel­op­ment might in­flu­ence down­stream rivers that was high­lighted by the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee.

“Any­thing that in­flu­ences ground wa­ter flow or the sup­ply of ground wa­ter to sur­face wa­ter and how that flows from moun­tains to the coast has im­pli­ca­tions for the coastal sys­tems,” Dr Ma­her said.

“You have to look at these things much more broadly be­cause what hap­pens up­stream af­fects down­stream.”

But it has not all been smooth sail­ing for Dr Ma­her, who has often had to deal with dif­fi­cult con­di­tions to con­duct his re­search.

“I have done a lot of work in man­groves, for ex­am­ple, which is hot and steamy with lots of mos­qui­toes and midges,” he said.

“And you are sit­ting out there on a boat for a cou­ple of weeks tak­ing sam­ples very reg­u­larly and not sleep­ing so much and get­ting eaten.”

PHOTO: MARC STAPELBERG

SCIENCE’S SHIN­ING EX­AM­PLE: Dr Damien Ma­her will be pre­sented with the pres­ti­gious CERF Sci­en­tific Cronin Award for his coastal and es­tu­ar­ine re­search.

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