Women leading charge in research grant success

The University of Tasmania is helping local researchers at the cutting edge of the sciences, health and the humanities.

The University was awarded more than $5.5 million for 14 new research projects – 11 of which are led by women – from the Australian Research Council’s highly competitive Discovery Projects round for 2022.

The projects will tackle issues such as understanding how brain cells adapt to support lifelong learning, exploring how the ocean’s carbon cycle will respond to climate change, and investigating the role of mathematical talk in the early years of schooling.
University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said an application success rate of 30 percent, the highest of any university in the country, highlighted the strength, excellence and impact of the University of Tasmania’s research program.
“This outstanding result signals the depth of research talent here in Tasmania, with our people leading research that has a real impact in our home state and on a global scale,” Professor Black said.
“The fourteen diverse, new projects span the fields of sciences, humanities, social sciences and health. We look forward to starting this research and welcome the funding that allows this important work to take place.”
Associate Professor Kaylene Young, who leads the Brain Health and Disease theme at the University’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research, said she was thrilled to be helping to build understanding for how brain cells adapt to support lifelong learning.
“Having grown up in Tasmania and carried out research interstate and overseas, it’s wonderful to be back home leading a team of dedicated and skilled researchers.
“This project is looking at how to solve the challenge of becoming more forgetful as we get older, which almost all of us will face. People can also suffer from conditions where the brain can deteriorate at any age, and this project will give us clues on how we can counteract that happening.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Anthony Koutoulis said it was especially pleasing to see 78 percent of projects led by female chief investigators, and 50 percent led by mid-career researchers.
“Increasing gender diversity and supporting emergent research talent in research is critical not just for reasons of fairness and equity,” Professor Koutoulis said.

“We know – thanks to research – that greater gender diversity means more diverse perspectives, more new ideas, more accurate and higher quality science, more innovative solutions and more opportunities to grow the STEAM workforce so vital for our future of a prosperous and sustainable Tasmania and world.”

All University of Tasmania-led projects receiving 2022 ARC Discovery Projects funding are:

* Old brain cells perform new tricks to allow life-long learning (Associate Professor Kaylene Young, Dr Carlie Cullen and Dr Nicholas Blackburn)

* Governing during an ocean climate crisis: Building integrative capacity (Dr Joanna Vince, Prof Marcus Haward)

* Australia’s variable rainfall – how dry or wet can it really get? (Dr Tessa Vance)

* Carbon in – carbon out: can carbon inputs keep up with losses in peatland? (Professor Mark Hovenden)

* Using the last glacial cycle to understand carbon-climate feedbacks (Professor Zanna Chase, Dr Taryn Noble)

* How plants open up: revealing the evolution of stomatal opening mechanisms (Dr Frances Sussmilch, Professor Tim Brodribb)

* Extinction, Survival, Resurgence: Indigenous and colonial histories (Associate Professor Rebe Taylor)

* Optimising biodiversity conservation in managed forest landscapes (Dr Susan Baker, Dr Vanessa Adams, Professor Menna Jones)

* Universal properties and application of species size distributions (Dr Asta Audzijonyte, Dr Nils Krueck, Dr Shane Richards)

* Talking Maths: Bridging the gap through talk in Early Years mathematics (Dr Carol Murphy, Associate Professor Tracey Muir, Dr Damon Thomas)

* The drowned: cultural and political geographies (Professor Elaine Stratford)

* Micro-electrofluidic platforms for monitoring 3D human biological models (Professor Brett Paull, Dr Estrella Sanz Rodriguez)

* Unlocking telomere effects on life, death and fitness in a warming world (Professor Erik Wapstra)

* Creative Antarctica: Australian Artists and Writers in the Far South (Professor Elizabeth Leane, Dr Carolyn Philpott, Dr Martin Walch, Dr Hanne Nielsen)

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