Australian Research Council (ARC) Funding Outcomes

The following Western Sydney University researchers have been awarded Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for 2016:

Linkage Projects

Congratulations to the following lead investigators and their research teams: 

Associate Professor Juan Salazar – Institute for Culture and Society

Antarctic Cities and the Global Commons: Rethinking the Gateways

Associate Professor Juan Salazar (Western), Professor Paul James (Western), Associate Professor Elizabeth Leane, Dr Liam Magee (Western), Mr Tim Short, Dr Daniela Liggett, Mr Elías Barticevic, Professor Dr Claudia Estrada Goic

This project aims to investigate how the Antarctic gateway cities of Hobart, Christchurch and Punta Arenas might reimagine and intensify their relations to the continent and each other. As pressures on Antarctica increase, five 'gateway cities' – Hobart, Cape Town, Christchurch, Punta Arenas and Ushuaia – will become critical to its future. This research is expected to create a robust custodial network of partner organisations that helps these cities care for Antarctica.

Partner Organisations: Hobart City Council; Department of State Growth; University of Canterbury, Christchurch; Christchurch City Council; Chilean Antarctic Institute; University of Magallanes

Total funding: $389,335

Associate Professor Sathaa Sathasivan – Institute for Infrastructure Engineering; School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Smart Management of Disinfectant in Chloraminated Water-Supply Systems

Associate Professor Sathaa Sathasivan (Western), Professor Brajesh Singh (Western), Associate Professor Stuart Khan, Professor Jens Coorssen (Western), Professor Linda Blackall, Professor Bruce Rittmann, Dr Maneesha Ginige, Dr Peter Cox

This project aims to develop an adaptive, real-time control system for managing disinfectant residuals in chloraminated water supply systems. While chloramine delivers microbiologically safe drinking water in warmer climates and in long distribution systems, it is largely unpredictable, costs water utilities millions of dollars annually, and has uncertain benefits. This project's control system will be guided by quantitative models formulated from multi-pronged, fundamental experiments. The project will quantify microbial chloramine decay and determine mechanisms to increase predictability. The project will develop and demonstrate a real-time control technology which delivered microbiologically safe, cost-efficient drinking water to people in warmer climates, despite warming climate and increasing population.

Partner Organisations: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO); Sydney Water Corporation; Central Seq Distributor-Retailer Authority; South East Queensland Water; Logan City Council; Unitywater

Total funding: $710,000

Discovery Projects

Our researchers will lead twelve new Discovery Projects supported by grants totalling more than $4 million.

Professor Ian Anderson – Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Characterising controls of carbon flow from trees into mycorrhizal fungi

Professor Ian Anderson (Western), Dr Jonathan Plett (Western), Dr Francis Martin (INRA - French National Institute for Agricultural Research)

This project aims to improve our understanding of below-ground carbon sequestration. A significant portion of plant photosynthate is shuttled to root-associated mutualistic ectomycorrhizal fungi in forest ecosystems. Therefore, fungal partners of forest trees are valuable carbon sinks. One problem impeding below-ground carbon accounting in forest soils is a lack of understanding concerning the genetic control of how photosynthetically fixed sugars are passed to root-associated microbes. This project aims to identify and characterise the sugar transporters that shuttle carbon in ectomycorrhizal plant-fungal interactions and investigate how these are affected by elevated carbon dioxide. It may also identify isolates of mutualistic fungi that could be paired with eucalypt hosts to maximise carbon sequestration and forest productivity.

Total funding: $371,100

Professor Simon Burrows – Digital Humanities Research Group

Mapping print, charting enlightenment

Professor Simon Burrows (Western), Professor Paul Arthur (Western), Dr Jason Ensor (Western), Professor Angus Martin (University of Sydney), Professor Dan Edelstein (Stanford University)

This project aims to reconstruct popular reading trends to revise understanding of European enlightenment and the transformational impact of print. Through an innovative, industry-wide digital survey of unprecedented scope and sophistication, tracking millions of copies of thousands of titles and all sectors of the book trade – legal, pirate and contraband – it asks: What books were widely read? Where were they produced and consumed? What was the relative scale and nature of key parts of the trade – notably religious and illegal publishing? How cosmopolitan was popular reading? The project also aims to reflect on its digital methods and develop transferable technologies for studying print's impact across time and space.

Total funding: $459,606

Professor David Ellsworth – Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

Will trees get enough nitrogen to sustain productivity in elevated CO2?

Professor David Ellsworth (Western), Dr Oula Ghannoum (Western), Dr Sonke Zaehle (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry), Dr Yolima Carrillo (Western Sydney)

The project proposes to explore how tissue nitrogen declines in future elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) by studying the availability of soil nitrogen to plants and use of nitrogen by Eucalyptus woodland trees. Plant canopy nitrogen concentrations decline in nearly every large-scale eCO2 study done on native soils. The project plans to explore how changes in ecosystem nitrogen balance occur, by investigating if leaf nitrogen declines under eCO2 due to the balance of plant activity versus changes in soil nitrogen availability. The outcomes are central to knowing the extent to which extra nitrogen 'feeds' the eCO2 fertilisation response and sustains long-term increases in productivity. Expected outcomes may support the development of management options to sustain future forest productivity.

Total funding: $355,800

Professor Katherine Gibson – Institute for Culture and Society

Reconfiguring the enterprise: Shifting manufacturing culture in Australia

Professor Katherine Gibson (Western), Dr Stephen Healy (Western), Associate Professor Jenny Cameron (University of Newcastle)

The project aims to explore the future for manufacturing in Australia in the context of sustainability. Concerned with the wider societal and planetary impacts of conducting business-as-usual, some innovative Australian manufacturers are reorienting their business towards social and environmental sustainability. The complexities involved in pursuing genuine sustainability call for shifts in the culture of manufacturing. This project plans to use qualitative research to explore the inner workings of 12 firms that are integrating different forms of sustainability into their core operations. It plans to develop business metrics and critical incident cases to unravel the negotiations involved in addressing social and environmental sustainability. In so doing, it expects to contribute to debates about the nature of enterprise in the 21st century.

Total funding: $344,885

Associate Professor Roozbeh Hazrat – Centre for Research in Mathematics

Graded K-theory as invariants for path algebras

Dr Roozbeh Hazrat (Western), Dr Pere Ara (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona), Professor Gene Abrams (University of Colorado)

This pure mathematics project focuses on Leavitt path algebras, which are structures that naturally arise from movements on directed graphs. These algebras appear in diverse areas (eg analysis, noncommutative geometry, representation theory and group theory). The aim of this project is to understand the behaviour of Leavitt path algebras and to classify them completely by means of graded K-theory. The project is an algebraic counterpart to graph C*-algebras (analytic structures that originated in Australian universities); both subjects have become areas of intensive research globally. The expected outcomes are to classify Leavitt path algebras, and to find a bridge (via graded K-theory) to graph C*-algebras and symbolic dynamics.

Total funding: $377,600

Professor Kenny Kwok – Institute for Infrastructure Engineering

Bushfire-enhanced wind and its effects on buildings

Professor Kenny Kwok (Western), Dr Yaping He (Western)

This project seeks to advance our understanding of bushfire-wind interaction to improve current design standards for buildings against bushfire-enhanced winds. Bushfire-enhanced winds have caused considerable property damage and loss of lives. The project aims to identify the mechanisms governing bushfire-wind interaction and determine the wind load effects on buildings due to bushfire-enhanced wind. It aims to do so by using advanced computation techniques and unique fire-wind tunnel test facility. This knowledge is designed to guide the development of improved building construction standards for bushfire-prone regions to facilitate the design and construction of a new generation of bushfire-resistant buildings that safeguard lives and properties against the increasing threat of bushfire due to climate change.

Total funding: $330,000

Professor Belinda Medlyn – Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

To grow or to store: Do plants hedge their bets?

Professor Belinda Medlyn (Western), Dr Remko Duursma (Western), Professor Roderick Dewar (Australian National University), Professor Mathew Williams (University of Edinburgh)

This project aims to resolve a long-standing question about the function of perennial plants: how much of the carbon taken up by photosynthesis is used immediately for growth, and how much is kept in reserve as insurance against future stress? This question is important to our understanding of how plants respond to stresses such as severe drought, and yet lack of data and theoretical modelling currently hampers our ability to answer it. By applying novel data analysis and modelling tools to recent experimental results, the project plans to test hypotheses for how plants allocate carbon between growth and storage in response to stress. Insights from the project may underpin better management of Australia's vulnerable ecosystems.

Total funding: $428,100

Professor Brett Neilson – Institute for Culture and Society

Data centres and the governance of labour and territory

Professor Brett Neilson (Western), Professor Ned Rossiter (Western), Dr Tanya Notley (Western), Professor Laikwan Pang (Chinese University of Hong Kong), Professor Stefano Harney (Singapore Management University), Associate Professor Sandro Mezzadra (University of Bologna), Professor Anna Reading (King's College London), Dr Florian Sprenger (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

Focusing on data centres in Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney, the project aims to advance understandings of how these facilities are transforming ways of living and working in the Asia Pacific. Without data centres the world stops; these infrastructures are the core components of a rapidly expanding but rarely discussed digital storage and management industry that has become critical to global economy and society. The intended outcome of the project is a broadening of debates and research practices relevant to policymaking on the digital economy. The expected benefit is increased public knowledge about the social and cultural effects of data-driven economic change and, in particular, the growing importance of private data infrastructures.

Total funding: $433,790

Professor Phillip O'Neill – School of Social Sciences and Psychology

Australia's role in global financial and production networks

Professor Phillip O'Neill (Western), Dr Eric Knight (University of Sydney), Professor Dariusz Wojcik (University of Oxford)

The project intends to address a major deficit of knowledge about the ways financial centres develop and compete among a network of international centres. Australia's long-term economic future is closely tied to providing financial services throughout Asia. Yet very little attention has been given to analysing the structures and networks that enable internationalisation, in particular the performance of Sydney and Melbourne as competitive financial centres within a network of financial centres in East and South-East Asia. Using specialist industry databases and intensive case study methods, this project plans to examine the processes underpinning the growth of this network, map scenarios for the next two decades, and advise on policy implications arising from the 2013-14 Financial System Inquiry.

Total funding: $236,172

Professor Margaret Somerville – Centre for Educational Research

Naming the world: early years literacy and sustainability learning

Professor Margaret Somerville (Western), Associate Professor Annette Woods (Queensland University of Technology), Dr Iris Duhn (Monash University), Pauliina Rautio (University of Oulu)

The project seeks to produce knowledge about new forms of literacy emerging in sustainability education. For children born in the 21st century, the enmeshing of natural and human forces in the survival of the planet requires conceptual and practical innovation. Early childhood education can be a fundamental driver in this process. This project aims to integrate literacy and sustainability to produce powerful new learning for young children. It plans to theorise new forms of literacy emerging in sustainability education, articulate innovative pedagogies, and inform national and international policy and practice to address 21st century learning imperatives.

Total funding: $278,038

Professor Yang Xiang – School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics

Modelling surface stresses in crystalline plates

Professor Yang Xiang (Western), Dr Chee Lim (City University of Hong Kong)

This project intends to improve our understanding of the influence of surface stress on bending in anisotropic crystalline plates. Micro/nanoelectro-mechanical systems as transducers, switches, logic gates, actuators and sensors are widely used in fields of biotechnology, medicine, automotive, civionics, avionics and defence. A key issue that affects the accuracy and reliability of these systems is how to correctly predict the size-dependent surface stress of the structural components in the systems. The project aims to quantify the relations between the change in surface stress and the bending of structures with micro/nanoscale thickness and arbitrary crystallographic symmetry. Expected project outcomes may lead to significant advancement in overcoming the current shortcomings in designing micro/nanoelectro-mechanical devices.

Total funding: $180,000

Associate Professor Xinqun Zhu – Institute for Infrastructure Engineering

Development of a novel mobile sensory system for bridge health monitoring

Associate Professor Xinqun Zhu (Western), Professor Bijan Samali (Western), Professor Siu-seong Law (Beijing Jiaotong Universtiy)

The aim of this project is to provide accurate, rapid and cost-effective 'health checks' for bridges. Transportation infrastructures are subject to continuous degradation due to the environment, ageing and excess loading. This project plans to develop a vehicle equipped with sensors as a mobile sensing platform to catch the dynamic interaction between the vehicle and the bridge. The interaction information would be used to assess the health of the bridge infrastructure through substructuring techniques. The expected output of this project would enable managers to monitor the structural conditions and provide an economical infrastructure asset management scheme to protect the structure and human lives.

Total funding: $225,000

Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards

Three of our researchers have been awarded Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs).

Dr Kristine Crous – Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

How will Australian rainforest species cope with climate warming?

Dr Kristine Crous

This project plans to investigate how, and how much, rainforest tree species will adjust to warmer temperatures. Understanding the temperature dependence of physiological processes of Australian rainforest trees and how they are related to climate variation is critical. This should enable prediction of how species will adjust to warmer temperatures, what their thermal tolerances are and how future species distribution ranges may change.

Total funding: $379,500

Dr Sylvie Nozaradan – The MARCS Institute

How musical rhythms entrain the human brain

Dr Sylvie Nozaradan

This project is designed to investigate the brain mechanisms that allow humans to feel the beat in musical rhythms. Although such activity facilitates pro-social and therapeutic effects, the underlying brain mechanisms remain unknown. The project intends to examine the interface between musical rhythms, behaviour and brain activity to increase knowledge on a fundamental process of brain function: the dynamic coupling between perception and body movement. The project aims to provide insight into how psychological, environmental and neural mechanisms affect entrainment to rhythmic events and inform practices for education and clinical rehabilitation.

Total funding: $373,536

Dr Jessica Whyte – School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The invention of collateral damage and the changing moral economy of war

Dr Jessica Whyte

This project aims to provide a novel philosophical account of the invention of the concept of collateral damage in war. It seeks to understand the historical and institutional processes that have produced a moral distinction between deliberate harm inflicted on non-combatants, and the non-intentional harm that is seen as an inevitable side effect of modern warfare. Drawing on archival material and military manuals, and combining insights from the history of human rights and contemporary European political philosophy, the project aims to produce a sophisticated philosophical framework for understanding the social and political implications of conceiving civilian deaths as collateral damage to contribute to public debate about the human costs of war.

Total funding: $346,434