Water conservation and student literacy receive funding boost

The Fortescue River in the Pilbara region of Western Australia

Flinders University is excited to announce that three Flinders researchers have won a total of $1.2m in funding as part of the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Projects grants.

Professor Craig Simmons and Professor Peter Cook from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training have received $620,000 to conduct research into the interaction between surface water and groundwater in northwest Australia. A particular focus of their research will be on how this interaction affects the ecology of ephemeral streams.

“Ephemeral streams are intermittent by nature and sometimes do not flow for months or even years,” Professor Craig Simmons says.

“However, they are an important recharge source for groundwater in the Pilbara and help support vital ecosystems.

“In turn, groundwater is vital to the $50b iron ore industry in the Pilbara.

“As such, we want to learn more about the interaction between ephemeral streams and groundwater resources and the impact of mining activities and climatic events on their flow regimes and ecology.

“These are critical issues for future policy in sustainable land and water management,” Professor Craig Simmons says.

Findings from the study, which is being led by Pauline Grierson and Greg Skrzypek at the University of Western Australia in cooperation with Rio Tinto, will be used to prevent unwanted environmental outcomes of mining on the Pilbara’s aquatic ecosystems.

Meanwhile Professor Martin Westwell from the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century has won $546,000 in conjunction with the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne to help improve student literacy.

Professor Westwell’s project team will investigate how student learning and teaching quality can be improved in Australian primary schools by coaching teachers in effective feedback practice.

“Research so far has shown that the constructive use of student feedback is one of the most powerful ways of improving learning outcomes in the classroom,” Professor Westwell says.

“This latest grant will allow us to test a feedback model that has the potential to improve teacher capability and significantly enhance student performance in primary schools nationally.”

In addition to the two ARC Linkage Project grants awarded above, five of Flinders’ aged care experts have joined the new $3m ARC Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living announced in this week’s latest round of ARC funding.

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