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Research at the forefront of national agenda with over $3.5 million in new funding


University of Tasmania researchers have been awarded almost $4 million for discovery projects and infrastructure, highlighting Tasmania’s reputation for the highest quality research that contributes to the nation and world.

Five research teams have received a total of $2.8 million in the Australian Research Council’s 2024 Discovery Project scheme, and two further bids for ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) funds have been awarded, valued at $970,000 in total.

University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said this funding success was a testament to the important work the University’s world-class researchers undertake every day.

“Our Tasmania-led discovery projects include the investigation of ecological conservation covenants, detection of small planets across the Milky Way, uncovering the secrets of black hole ‘jets’, critical Antarctic-based science and the protection of marsupials from viruses through advanced immunology.

“The new infrastructure will contribute to multidisciplinary research capability across environmental sciences and health sciences and will help to advance the Tasmanian research community’s ability to contribute to solving global challenges that impact us all.

“I’m very proud that our local team is leading the way with cutting-edge research that will benefit our community in Tasmania, but also people and environments nationally and internationally,” Professor Black said.

2024 ARC Discovery Project Scheme 

Researchers from the University of Tasmania will lead five projects, ranging from three to four years in length:

  • Project 1

Team: Professor Andrew Cole; Professor Jean-Philippe Beaulieu

The project will explore a unique aspect of exoplanet detection: searches for cold planets of Earth mass and larger in the densest stellar fields of the inner Milky Way. Infrared cameras will be used to detect small planets in this extreme galactic environment. The project will open a new era of infrared microlensing (visual warping caused by the gravitational fields of stars and planets) observations from the ground and supply critical data in preparation for the next generation of microlensing from space.  It will greatly improve our understanding of planet formation down to terrestrial-mass planets and improve techniques for cold planet detection with gravitational microlensing.

Value: $563,000

  • Project 2

Team: Dr Andrew Flies; Dr Ruth Pye; Professor Gregory Woods; Professor Chiara Palmieri; Professor Dr Mark Cragg; Associate Professor Magdalena Dunowska; Dr Matthew Perrott

Disease is increasingly a driver of wildlife population declines in Australia. However, basic immunology tools for more than 99% of vertebrate species are scarce, limiting our ability to prevent and respond to emerging and endemic diseases, such as devil facial tumour disease and wobbly possum disease. This project will improve wildlife health and fill the marsupial immunology gap by developing a long-overdue multispecies marsupial immunology toolbox. The toolbox is needed to accelerate devil facial tumour disease vaccine progress and conservation immunology research. It will expand our knowledge of wobbly possum disease virus that is increasingly reported in Tasmania and the risk posed by the virus to other possum species.

Value: $500,495

  • Project 3

Team: Associate Professor Helen Phillips; Dr Annie Foppert; Professor Nathaniel Bindoff; Associate Professor Paul Spence; Professor Jae-Hun Park; Professor D. Watts; Dr James Girton

Southern Ocean currents are barriers to the oceanic transport of heat toward Antarctica. This barrier breaks down at key locations along their path and the poleward heat transport is enhanced. Changing winds are expected to accelerate heat transport, threatening ice shelves that protect Antarctic glaciers from ocean-driven melt. This project will advance understanding of the small-scale processes that control heat transport across the Southern Ocean. By combining funded international field campaigns that harness new advances in observing systems with next-generation numerical modelling, this research will create a step-change in our ability to predict Southern Ocean environmental change.

Value: $923,447

  • Project 4

Team: Professor Benjamin Richardson; Professor Afshin Akhtar-Khavari; Dr Phillipa McCormack; Dr James Fitzsimons

This project will investigate the role of conservation covenants in facilitating ecological restoration and adaptation to climate change. Referencing international experiences, this project will examine Australia's legal experience with conservation covenants, with case studies in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria. The project will generate new theoretical insights and practical knowledge about the obstacles and opportunities for enabling covenants to play a more ambitious role in meeting biodiversity conservation and recovery goals. This should generate significant benefits to Australia in meeting its international environmental obligations, and improving collaboration between governments and community and landholder stakeholders.

Value: $301,846

  • Project 5

Team: Associate Professor Stanislav Shabala; Professor Christopher Power; Dr Tessa Vernstrom; Professor Raffaella Morganti

This project targets relativistic jets powered by supermassive black holes - the most powerful systems in the Universe. Theoretically, the enormous energies released by them have a profound influence on how galaxies evolve; empirically, observations reveal signatures of their impact across cosmic time. However, fundamental questions remain about how these jets are triggered and what impact they have on galaxies. The project will address these questions using novel supercomputer models of black hole jets in realistic cosmological environments, then confront these predictions with new data from Square Kilometre Array (SKA) pathfinding radio telescopes. This will substantially enhance Australia’s leadership capacity in a strategically important area of space science.

Value: $547,250

2024 Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) 

Awarded for: Advanced High Resolution Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry facility for Tasmanian researchers for use in marine, Antarctic and environmental sample investigations.

This facility is essential for continued analysis of ultra-trace elements and isotopes in challenging samples from southern environments. The new instrument will allow Tasmanian researchers and their collaborators to undertake world-leading research, enhancing competitive profiles in a diverse range of research areas including oceanography, analytical chemistry, Antarctic studies, environmental assessment and geochemistry.

Value: $470,000

Awarded for: Acquisition of an advanced Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorter for Tasmania.

This flow cytometry infrastructure will help the University of Tasmania to establish next generation, single cell sorting capability to study the impact of ageing and environmental stressors on human, animal and plant biology.

Value: $500,000

See the full list of ARC Discovery Projects research scheme recipients, and the full list of LIEF grant recipients.

Media contact: Miranda Harman 0427 199 562

Information released by:

Communications Office

University of Tasmania