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Grassroots solutions to the fore as CQUni reps engage at prestigious event

Published:22 August 2019

CQUni reps L-R Emily Bryson, Sanjaya Timilsina and Associate Professor Anita Milroy pictured at Parliament House.

As an increasing population faces limited resources, CQUniversity scholarship recipients have tapped into a prestigious national event which seeks to find workable solutions.

Postgraduate researchers Emily Bryson and Sanjaya Timilsina recently joined CQUni researcher Associate Professor Anita Milroy as scholarship awardees at the recent Crawford Fund Annual Conference in Canberra.

Ms Bryson is researching the potential for home composting of dog poo as a way to reduce faecal pathogens and plastic bag waste while recovering soil nutrients and organic matter for small-scale food production.

She said that climate change issues and the UN Sustainable Development Goals were prominent at the Crawford event.

"Messages that stood out were around evidence that our climate has already changed and that data from the past is not indicative of what is likely to happen in the near future," Ms Bryson says.

"It’s becoming increasingly important to factor in the health of soil, water, production, animals, and people to ensure we all have enough nutritious food."

Ms Bryson said she particularly enjoyed having a mentor from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to help make introductions with relevant people.

"I have a number of potential collaborations to follow up, particularly around small-scale food production and the Planetary Health/One Health concept.

"I’ve already joined the RAID network (Researchers in Agriculture for International Development) and look forward to staying connected with the people I’ve met."

Associate Professor Milroy, a trans-disciplinary art, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and industry academic, said the Crawford scholars were provided with a variety of opportunities, including networking for future collaborations.

"We were also provided with a mentor, and I was extremely lucky to have Professor Shaune Coffey as mine," she says.

"Professor Coffey has a history with CQUniversity and a wealth of agricultural and training knowledge that he was generous enough to share.

"I was impressed by the calibre of Crawford Scholars and pleased to see young people proactively involved in innovative local, national and international agricultural industries and initiatives.

"It seemed very appropriate to be in the great hall in Parliament House listening to experts talk about how climate has changed and what we can do now and how to go about planning for a future which will be characterised by climate conditions which haven't been previously experienced.

"Professor Ross Garnaut's keynote on 'Weathering the Perfect Storm' was extremely thought provoking, and in particular his observations caused me to pause and think more deeply about what the future could look like, from both a local (Central Highlands) and global perspective.

"He noted there is immense potential for storing more carbon in the vast range lands of Australian, but that there is great uncertainty about the potential and what is needed to secure it, and that we need research to find the possibilities to maximise the value of production from this land."

Postgraduate researcher Sanjaya Timilsina, who is assessing the drought tolerance of spice and condiment crops, said he appreciated the chance for professional networking and felt blessed to have CSIRO scientist Dr Kathy Dibley as his conference mentor.

"The key message that stuck with me would be that it’s not about ‘climate change’ anymore. Its ‘climate changed’ and we are already late and our best hope could be to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius at the best," he says.

"The other thing that I noticed is that there is no silver bullet to solve these problems. It’s mind-boggling to just think how much solar waste we will have in next decade without the proper mechanism in place to recycle or reuse solar panels.

"Also, it's ironic how sources of clean energy like hydroelectricity dams have been limiting fish migration along the Mekong river in Laos, leading to decline in fish output and causing risk of nutrition insecurity among poor fishermen families.

"The point is that nothing is a panacea. A new technology will for sure bring its own set of challenges and we have to be vigilant to keep on coming up with new ways to mitigate those problems.

"I also appreciated the story of how the Indian government was trying to promote LED bulbs and solar water pumps but was failing to gain momentum until the government approached the business sector and gave incentive and investment security for the businesses to promote these LED bulbs and solar panels. It has been a huge success.

"The business sector is the least thought of regarding the issues of  international development efforts but my learning was how businesses actually are one of the biggest forces in making the change happen."