Research Topic: Drought and wellbeing in Australian rural communities: implications for improving adaptive capacity and resilience to drought
Drought causes devastating environmental, social and financial impacts worldwide. Areas that experience extreme rainfall variability, such as Australia, are vulnerable to drought. Recent studies suggest a potential for increases in drought frequency, duration and intensity in Australia as a result of human induced climate change. Rural communities that rely on agriculture for economic viability are particularly vulnerable. Their survival depends on the ability to engage in effective drought adaptation. Despite the growing body of work focused on drought, there is a lack of understanding about how best to adapt to drought and increase adaptive capacity and resilience. Also, the recommendations that do exist for improving adaptive capacity and resilience to drought have (i) not been implemented or are (ii) not seen as practical or (iii) have been implemented with limited success. There are many factors that influence rural communities’ adaptive capacity, one of which appears to be the level of wellbeing. This research aims to quantify the relationship between drought and wellbeing and how this relationship impacts adaptive capacity. Based on the findings from this quantification, methods to assess adaptation options are investigated. Assessing adaptation options to ensure the most appropriate option is implemented will increase opportunities for successful adaptation actions.
Research Topic: Quantifying Uncertainties in the GCM Projections Cascading to Basin Hydrology
Assessing the hydrology of a watershed is of extreme concern for short and long term water resource planning and management especially in the arid and semi-arid regions. Conceptual hydrologic models has served adequately in flow estimations on many basins of Australia however, the extent of accuracy of prediction is questionable since the spatial disaggregation of parameters are not considered. Additionally, the distributed hydrological models (which divides the watersheds into smaller grids) has failed in the flatter basins in Australia. Furthermore for a long term water resource planning, an additional stress on the flow estimation is caused by the uncertain projections of climatic variables by the global circulation models (GCMs) and while transferring the global to station or regional scale data. Thus the uncertainty in the hydrological projections for the future time periods keeps cascading leading to blind (highly uncertain) forecasting.
In context to this existing problem (focussing Australia), my research is focussing on the estimation of the various sources of uncertainty in the future hydrological projections considering all the stressors and factors including hydrological model, GCMs, bias correction of data, digital elevation model (DEM)data etc. The output of my research will lead to the identification of the contributions of different factors on the uncertainty of future hydrological prediction in Southeast Australian basins.
Research Topic: Application of statistical methods in the assessment of the main nutrient sources contributing to water quality in a potable water reservoir.
Algae are a natural component of aquatic ecosystems; however, when present in large quantities as “blooms”, they can pose a significant potential threat to human and ecological health. These harmful algal blooms (HABs) are often composed of microorganisms known as cyanobacteria, some of which with the potential to produce toxins that can cause adverse health effects in humans and animals through the contamination of waterways used for recreational purposes and as drinking water supplies.
There is general agreement that eutrophication, nutrient enrichment with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) of water bodies, is the main source for cyanobacterial dominance and bloom formation. It has been observed that inflows to a waterbody can introduce nutrients. Also sediments can play an important role to release nutrients to water bodies. This can occur by reactivation of sediments under depleted dissolved oxygen levels during thermal stratification. Thus in order to reduce the nutrient enrichment of aquatic systems, it is important to target both the external and internal nutrient loadings in managing a water reservoir.
In this study different statistical methods will be applied to a series of data sets which have been collected from different sites of Grahamstown Dam, the main drinking water reservoir for Newcastle and the lower Hunter Region in New South Wales. The dam is filled by pumping water from the Williams River, as well as runoff from its northern side, through Seven and Nine Mile Creeks, and from its eastern side, through Campvale Canal. My research would involve calculating of the mass loadings of nutrients into the reservoir from each of the catchment sources and look at the role that stratification plays in contributing to the reservoir’s water quality. I am interested in applying my data analysis skills and experience (from my first PhD degree in Chemistry) to identify the contribution of each source of nutrients and also to identify the pattern of thermal stratification in the reservoir.
Research Topic: Linking Soil Carbon with Catchment-Scale Hydrology
RHD Student 2014-Present
Program Name: PhD (Environmental Science)
Research Topic: Relationship Between Tropical Cyclones and Climatic Variability in the South Pacific
Tropical Cyclones (TCs) represent a significant natural hazard to the 15 island nations and 2.7 million inhabitants of the Southwest Pacific (SWP), accounting for 76% of reported disasters in the region since 1950. There is no doubt that TCs are highlight variable (spatially and temporally) which leads to difficulties in planning for and responding to these extreme events. This variability is fuelled by large-scale coupled ocean-atmosphere climate modes operating within the South Pacific and Indian Ocean, including; El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), ENSO Modoki , Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). These drivers all act to modulate the geophysical parameters required for tropical cyclone formation (tropical cyclogenesis).
Andrew’s RHD project investigates the interaction between large-scale climate modes and TC activity in the SWP. A contemporary climatology and an improved understanding of these interactions will allow for a holistic insight into TC behaviour for the region. Given the extreme impacts of TCs, any improvements in understanding these interactions may help TC forecasting methods and improve disaster risk management and preparedness for the nations and territories of the SWP. Andrew’s other research interests include; climate adaptation, societal implications of TC activity and the use of weather related traditional knowledge to inform TC prediction.
Research Topic: East Coast Lows (ECLs): Formation, Impacts, Historical Variability and Future Projections
RHD Student 2014-Present
Program Name: PhD (Environmental Science)
Research Topic: Reconstruction of Climate and Environmental Setting at the Time of the Neanderthal “Altamura Man”
The objective of my research is to contribute to the reconstruction of palaeoclimate and palaeoenvironmental changes of the Mediterranean region during the Middle to Late Pleistocene transition using proxy data obtained from speleothems (i.e. stalagmites). My studies focus on two cave sites both located on the Adriatic seaboard: Frasassi Cave in Central Italy and Lamalunga Cave in South Italy. From the palaeoanthropological perspective, this period of time is very important as Neanderthals were continuously occupying Europe. It is therefore important for understanding Neanderthal colonization of Europe to reconstruct a climatic framework and provide precise dates of their occupations. In that regard the Italian peninsula has a special importance having a strategic position between Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and continental Europe.
The main site of my research, Lamalunga Cave (Altamura, South Italy), contains a complete Early Neanderthal skeleton, the “Altamura man”, dated 130 ka (minimum age). This fossil is coated by coralloid speleothems, which potentially archive paleoclimate but do not provide a continuous record. In addition, the cave does not have stalagmites growth prior to 130 ka which is when the human population related to the Altamura man was settled in Italy. For this reason, a second cave site with similar climatic setting has been selected: Frasassi cave, famous for being extremely well “decorated”. The stalagmites sampled in Frasassi cover a time frame spanning almost continuously from 350 ka until 95 ka. With these samples I will obtain a climate record for the Central Mediterranean region during the last 350 ka that, combined to the study of the coralloids of Lamalunga Cave, will enable to derive a robust interpretation of climate conditions during Neanderthal settlements in the Italian Peninsula.