Research impact

CQUniversity's applied research focus emphasises the translation and uptake of research findings to meet external stakeholder needs – the focus is not merely on increasing academic publications and citation rates. Several aspects of our research are oriented towards real-world outcomes including: provision of high quality outcomes through translation and application of current research findings (Mental Health Nursing, Family and Domestic Violence; Population Health; Education Practice); influencing government policy and regulatory frameworks (Fatigue Management in Fly-in/Fly-out and Drive-in/Drive-out long distance commuters; Marine Biosecurity frameworks); and developing greater understanding of social issues of the day and contributing to decision-making through salient advice (Economic considerations of conflict between agrarian and resource extraction uses).

Choices Applied Theatre Project

The potential for death, injury or legal action is always lurking just under the surface during Queensland's annual Schoolies Week celebrations. Thankfully, there’s now a living laboratory enabling research which can fine-tune the most effective ways to deliver safe behaviour messages to senior school students, reducing their likelihood of taking risks. The CQUniversity Choices program is an initiative delivered by performing arts students at the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music, in conjunction with government agencies including the Queensland Police and Queensland Health. The program delivers important safety and health messages about Schoolies Week to Year 12 students in central and northern Queensland. It promotes safe behaviour for Year 12 students heading to Schoolies Week, using a comic theatre format of short skits, songs and dances, performed by CQUniversity theatre students. Uniformed police officers also participate in the performances and related panel discussions, adding credibility to the important health, safety and legal messages. CQUniversity’s Professor Judith Brown AM has been involved throughout the development of Choices and has also taken a key role in researching the effectiveness of the program. Research was conducted in relation to the program to understand if the messages being delivered were impacting rates of risk-taking behaviour, alcohol consumption, illicit drug use and rates of arrest. The research was undertaken to help tailor messages and better understand the target audience. Research of the program has found that it has helped to reduce illicit drug-taking by 50 per cent and has also reduced risk-taking behaviour by 59 per cent. In 2017, Choices won an Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award, in the Community Engagement category.

For further information contact Professor Judith Brown

Research and Supercomputing Driving Improvement in Rail Vehicle Draft Gears

The economies of global resource leaders like Australia and China rely on more than just the quality of their coal and iron ore. Transport is also a huge factor. It’s imperative that there are also improvements in the transport of key commodities to keep up with demand for energy and products. Heavy-haul rail haulage is involved in supply chains of the vast majority of the key bulk commodities. CQUniversity’s Centre for Railway Engineering (CRE) works with industry partners across the world to research and develop solutions that will help improve efficiencies and safety. It’s imperative that this research drives improvements in the transport of key commodities to keep up with demand for energy and products. With trillions of dollars at stake, the Centre has been researching the use of supercomputing for the optimisation of rail draft gears to improve design and increase service life and capability, while also reducing vehicle mass and train energy use. This has involved the development of software for dynamics simulations, genetic algorithms and particle swarm optimisation. New draft gear designs can be generated and tested in large-scale train simulation studies. Using the super computers at CQUniversity, the team can now finish simulations in a few weeks that would once have taken decades. The team has already produced optimised draft gear designs with significantly decreased coupler forces and fatigue damage. The CRE has a purpose-built laboratory rig in Rockhampton. This powerful rig can generate forces of up to 400 tonnes and can emulate both field conditions and vehicle impact conditions for draft gears. Draft gear research is part of a larger area of research known as longitudinal train dynamics. Areas of work in this area span the topics of locomotive traction, hybrid locomotives, in-train forces, rolling stock life, long train instability, derailment investigations, energy studies and train control.

For further information contact Professor Colin Cole

Dressing Up Tech to Switch Girls onto STEM

Attracting young people to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects is an ongoing challenge for educators and schools across the nation. The need to do so has never been more critical, with new data revealing that a majority of the jobs of tomorrow will be reliant on STEM skills. In particular there is an even greater challenge to attract and retain women within this field. Seeking a solution to this challenge, education researchers from CQUniversity have been working with Bundaberg high schools and teachers to pioneer a science meets fashion approach, which gives young women in the junior years of high school the chance to explore design and technology through the creation of wearable art. A partnership between CQUniversity and the Bundaberg Regional State High Schools Careers Project enabled two successive Education Horizon Research grants to be applied for and approved, making the pilot project a reality. This pilot program, known as the Makerspace Project, coordinated through CQUniversity’s Centre for Regional Advancement of Learning, Equity, Access and Participation ( LEAP), aims to engage young women in STEM by allowing them to interact with technology such as 3D printers and software to design wearable pieces of art such as costumes and jewellery. The project enables participants to incorporate software coding into art, fashion and hairstyles – melding technology with creativity and ensuring science is connected to their everyday interests. CQUniversity education academic Dr Wendy Fasso said the students in the initial sessions have completed projects such as illuminated shadow boxes, fashion fabric sample pages, 3D printed fascinators and illuminated bracelets. The purpose of delivering this program and researching levels of engagement is to assess how the application of technology when it comes to fashion design can bolster girls’ interest in the STEM subjects. The pilot study has shown that many young women disconnect with STEM in the early years of high school due to conformity pressures. The study has shown that by combining STEM principles in the areas of design and technology, with fashion and art, young women are re-engaging with STEM and improving their skills and understanding of where STEM can take them.

For further information contact Dr Wendy Fasso

Making the Grade - Helping At-Risk Readers Thrive

International research shows Australian students still lag behind their international counterparts when it comes to reading, maths and science, despite intensive reading reforms. In fact, Australia is on a downward trajectory in these three core areas of learning. These findings have been supported by National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scores. The findings have urged a research team, led by CQUniversity’s Professor Bruce Allen Knight, to employ a new, practical, teacher capacity-focused lens to the challenge of improving reading instruction for beginner readers. A priority of the Bridging the Gap for At-Risk Readers: Reading Theory into Classroom Practice research project was to work closely with Prep to Year 3 classroom teachers to create and trial new resources and strategies to improve reading in these early years of school, providing a foundation for further learning to occur. Researchers surveyed more than 300 Education Queensland teachers and worked closely with more than 60 exemplary Mackay teachers in an attempt to improve the reading outcomes of young readers at risk of not meeting the national minimum standards for reading as outlined in NAPLAN. According to Professor Knight, impacting reading capacity in young learners must be driven both by relevant research and classroom evidence as understood by teachers. As part of this collaborative study with classroom teachers, researchers established a shared knowledge base of principles for effective reading instruction, complete with strategies and sample activities. The full resources document discusses key issues for teaching at-risk readers and provides a rationale, lists of strategies and examples of activities using the instructional principles.

For further information contact Professor Bruce Knight

Non-Invasive Assessment of Fruit - Improving Quantity and Quality

Northern Australia is famous for its sub-tropical climate. This climate allows the region to produce some of the world’s best and freshest tropical fruits for local sale and export. But, there are disadvantages – the region is far from large population-centre markets, and at the end of supply chains for labour and materials. Growers are constantly trying to find better ways to plan crops and resources, increase production, market their product, manage their supply chain and achieve better financial returns. This need has led the industry to investigate how emerging technologies may be able to help growers improve yields and on-farm efficiencies. A research team, led by CQUniversity's Professor Kerry Walsh, has been working in collaboration with fruit growers, horticultural industry bodies and technology solution providers to develop technologies that can help farmers improve their yields and potentially automate on-farm processes in the future. Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) technology was identified and developed for in-line (pack house) sorting, in conjunction with MAF Oceania Pty Ltd, and handheld (in orchard) assessment, in conjunction with Felix Instruments Inc. It was found that this technology was useful in providing an objective measure of fruit on the tree, guiding the decision on when to harvest. This type of information is invaluable to producers as harvesting too early results in immature fruit reaching market, while harvesting too late results in fruit that are softening and do not pack and transport well. The research and technology has evolved into a multi-pronged approach to assess fruit quantity and quality of fruit on tree, in the orchard, and to assist farm management decisions. Current projects include in-field machine vision for estimation of tree flowering time, and estimation of fruit number and size, and a wireless orchard temperature logging system. These measures can assist in identifying the optimal time to schedule the harvest, amount of labour required for the harvest, and resources and logistics to get the fruit to market. The non-invasive assessment of fruit quality research project uses technology to assess crop productivity and fruit quality, collating the data on an app that producers can analyse to plan their crop harvest, assign resources and improve supply chain logistics. This has led to better on-farm efficiencies and stronger yields. The research is now working towards the potential to automate crop harvests.

For further information contact Professor Kerry Walsh

Creating Change Through Reforming Giving, To Grow Indigenous Empowerment

Strategic philanthropy could help transform community-based Indigenous service provision, if Australian charity law was amended to recognise a range of Indigenous considerations. That’s the recommendation of a national research project led by CQUniversity’s Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie, who continues to work collaboratively with philanthropic and Indigenous organisations to achieve these changes. The research, to better understand how current Australian charity law impacts on philanthropic support for Indigenous community-based organisations, engaged with organisations across the Indigenous not-for-profit community, and with government and legislative bodies, to better understand obstacles and opportunities for driving Indigenous philanthropy. Associate Professor Marrie and her team assessed the structure and systems of more than 5000 charities and not-for-profit organisations across the Indigenous community sector. After analysing relevant policies and surveying both Deductible Gift Recipients (DGR) and non-DGR Indigenous organisations, Associate Professor Marrie held collaborative workshops and consultations for community groups and peak bodies across Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria. The initial report, Balancing Culture and Money Business: Reforming Australian Charity Law to Enable Indigenous Charities and Not-for-Profit Organisations to Better Access Donor Support, highlights challenges for Indigenous organisations as mainstream service providers to grow revenue by targeting Indigenous service provision. The research found many Indigenous communities, particularly in remote areas, felt threatened by this trend, as Indigenous-led community-based organisations struggled to continue without this income. The research findings prompted recommendations to introduce a new "Indigenous empowerment" category to the Charities Act 2013. Now, backed by CQUniversity, Associate Professor Marrie is working with Indigenous communities and Philanthropy Australia to carry out final consultations to seek support for the proposed amendment, for consideration by Federal agencies and ultimately the Federal Parliament. Associate Professor Marrie hopes that adoption of the amendment would allow more meaningful measurement of the impact made by Indigenous community organisations, and better understanding of their work within philanthropic Australia.

For further information contact Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie

Improving Cross-Agency Responses to Domestic Violence and Abuse

A spotlight is shining on how Australia responds to domestic and family violence, with a range of new initiatives to take on the confronting issue at state and national level. With an average of one woman killed every week by their partner or ex-partner, and hundreds of thousands of adults and children impacted by domestic and family violence every year, many lawmakers, decision makers and leaders are labelling the issue as a national emergency. In Queensland, one key project for change is a series of ‘integrated service response trials’, driving collaborative, coordinated responses between community, government agencies and non-government domestic and family violence support services. Recommended by Queensland’s Not Now, Not Ever report, in 2016 the Queensland Government commissioned researchers from CQUniversity’s Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research (QCDFVR) to evaluate and report on these trials. Led by CQUniversity academic Dr Heather Lovatt, the QCDFVR research project is undertaking an 18-month evaluation of the integrated response trials in Logan-Beenleigh, Cherbourg and Mt Isa, focusing on the co-design and the development of new response models at each site. Delivering six-monthly reports to the Queensland Government, the researchers’ findings will also guide improvements to the trial sites’ procedures, and inform a state-wide rollout. As part of the project, QCDFVR will review the trialling of a suite of tools, including an information sharing protocol, a common risk assessment framework, and a process for managing high-risk cases. These will help ensure people affected by domestic and family violence receive consistent support that meets their needs. Not Now, Not Ever is an opportunity to really transform how domestic and family violence victims are supported, and ensuring the integrated response model is effective and research-based is crucial to achieving that.

For further information contact Dr Heather Lovatt

Diving in to Support Gladstone Harbour's Health

Over recent years, CQUniversity’s environmental, social and economic researchers have worked side-by-side with community and industry to keep the Gladstone Harbour flowing towards a healthy future. Professor John Rolfe, who is the chair of the Independent Science Panel for Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership (GHHP), said although the University had played a role in the harbour’s health for 20 years, it recently intensified its monitoring through several research projects. Two CQUniversity research teams are working together as part of the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership (GHHP) to monitor and assess the health of the Gladstone Harbour, assessing social, cultural and economic aspects of the Harbour, and the health of mud crabs in the catchment. The data collected through the various GHHP research projects is compiled into an annual report card and presented to the GHHP, which consists of 26 partners representing community, Traditional Owners, industry, harbour management and government. The CQUniversity researchers are part of a larger group, including industry and community, which contribute to the report card. The Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership and the Independent Science Panel put together the report card from all available information. This provides government, industry and community with a snapshot of the condition of the harbour and trends over time. ‘It is important because this knowledge can help transform policy and improve outcomes for members of the community and the industries that rely on the Harbour,’ said Professor Rolfe. The 2016 Gladstone Harbour report card revealed that despite some issues with seagrass and coral health, largely due to the 2013 flood, the economic performance and social grading of the Harbour had improved due to better community perceptions towards air and water quality and increased shipping and tourism scores. CQUni’s combined research is having positive flow-on effects by keeping both stakeholders and the community informed of changes in the Harbour.

For further information contact Professor John Rolfe

Ecology and Conservation for Central Queensland Koala Habitats and Populations

Operating since 1994, the koala research group at CQUniversity has recently been working to understand the ecology and conservation biology of koalas in regional and remote Queensland. This has involved study of ranging behaviour, habitat use, tree selection and food choices; population dynamics, longevity and diseases as well as trends in abundance; genetic relatedness among populations; and conservation planning and management of populations and habitat. Koala Research - CQ Adjunct Research Fellow Dr Alistair Melzer said the team has been busy working at sites across Central Queensland including Biloela, Springsure, Tambo, Hughenden, Nebo, Central Queensland coastal islands, and St Lawrence to pursue the regional scale assessment of koala habitat health, and of threatening activity – especially around highways. As part of this we have mapped and modelled the distribution of koala habitat across the Central Highlands, Rockhampton, Livingstone and Isaac local government areas. The habitat health study involves the use of air photography as well as satellite-born sensors. Dr Melzer said that his team had worked on a diverse range of koala research projects from radio tracking to habitat analysis, just to name a couple. Current research collaborators are Earthwatch Institute, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Rockhampton Regional Council through the Rockhampton Zoo, University of Queensland, Deakin University and Central Queensland Koala Volunteers. Koala research is ongoing and long term but the findings learnt along the way, have helped to guide decisions and policy-making to ensure koala habitats and populations are protected through conservation activities and community education across Central Queensland.

For further information contact Dr Alistair Melzer or Koala Research - CQ

Assessing the Effectiveness of Treatments to Combat the Root-Knot Nematode

Following the removal of chemical nematicide products from the market in recent years due to concerns about toxicity impacting on human and environmental health, the agricultural industry and in particular the sweet potato industry has become increasingly threatened by the invasion of the root-knot nematode (RKN). The worm-like parasite found in the soil is estimated to cause more than $100 million in losses per annum  to the Australian agricultural industry. The urgent need for growers to access effective and reliable treatment to combat this costly challenge has led CQUniversity researcher Dr Yujuan 'Jady' Li to collaborate with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Australian Sweetpotato Growers to determine new insights into control methods. Dr Li, who has also worked with industry bodies including Syngenta, Organic Crop Protectants and Bio John Rural, has been leading three research projects surveying the presence of different plant-parasitic nematode species in sweet potato growing areas. In a first-time approach in Australia, the research has also assessed the effectiveness of alternative management practices including the use of fungal applications to control root-knot nematodes in both sweet potato and ginger crops. Sweet potato growers have been eager for new insights with more than 50 Bundaberg region growers, as well as state and national industry representatives recently turning out to inspect the progress of the collaborative trial between CQUniversity and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. With limited nematology expertise in Australia, the research collaboration between Dr Li and key industry partners is of vital importance to Queensland’s $2.4 billion horticulture sector. The critical review on the effectiveness of control methods has produced a complex picture of the variability faced by producers when determining the most suitable control product for their crops. The research is the first step in providing growers with a wider range of options however more research is needed to determine the causes of such variability in product performance. The next stage of the research will investigate the causes of this variability, with further products and applications rates to be tested before best practice recommendations can be made to growers.

For further information contact Dr Jady Li