UWA School of Agriculture and Environment

Changing our understanding of the world’s natural resources

 

The UWA School of Agriculture and Environment is located in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Surrounded by a wealth of agricultural, natural and mining resources, our location allows us to produce innovative research with worldwide application.

Our teaching and research benefit from a network of national and international collaborators, and our strong industry and government links are producing change in agricultural and environmental management, regional development, and urban policy and planning.

We have a strong track record in PhD supervision and external research grant success. The Australian Research Council rated Agricultural Science at UWA as 'above world standards' and Environmental Science at UWA as 'well above world standards' during the most recent Excellence in Research Australia assessment.

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1st in Australia and 18th in the world for Agricultural Sciences (ARWU 2019)

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1st in Australia and 19th in the world for Environmental Science and Engineering (ARWU 2019)

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42nd in the world for Agriculture and Forestry (QS 2019)

PhD research opportunities

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News

Digging deep for mine rehabilitation
Mon, 14 Oct 2019

Improving environmental management during mine rehabilitation and closure was the focus of a week-long field course for environmental science students from The University of Western Australia and mineral engineering students from Canada’s University of Toronto.

Thirty undergraduate students from UWA and the University of Toronto travelled to five active and closed mine sites across south-west Western Australia as part of a new international partnership between the two universities.

The sites included end pit lakes at Collie, Newmont Goldcorp’s Boddington gold mine, processing plant, and tailings storage facility, Talison Lithium’s Greenbushes lithium mine and processing plant, and a bauxite mine and residue storage facility.

The field trip was coordinated by Dr Talitha Santini, Director of the Environmental Stewardship in Mining Initiative at UWA, and Professor Lesley Warren, Director of the Lassonde Institute of Mining at the University of Toronto.

Dr Santini said the international field trip was an outstanding opportunity for students to see the challenges involved in effective mine site rehabilitation and closure.

“It has helped them understand the long-term value and benefits for the environment, regional economies and communities, as well as gain hands-on experience in dealing with these challenges,” Dr Santini said.

“This is the first step in developing a a strong partnership in mining research and education between our two universities, each of which is a global leader in this field.”

Professor Warren said mining was global in scope, scale and impact but the challenges differed depending on the country of operation.

“Having students begin to appreciate the full breadth of the challenges as well as the innovative and best practices emerging around the world, increases their competencies and develops a globalised community of talent for this vital Australian and Canadian sector,” he said. “We are excited to grow this initiative between our two universities.”

UWA Environmental Science student Gabriella Gray said the field trip provided a great experience for students, enabling them to see the mine sites and realise the large scale of their operations. University of Toronto Mineral Engineering student Sarah Kumar said the experience had given her valuable knowledge that would help her to make more insightful decisions as a future mining engineer.

Dr Talitha Santini (UWA School of Agriculture and Environment) 08 6488 1249
Jess Reid (UWA Media and PR Adviser) 08 6488 7975

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Report aims to improve best practice in mine rehabilitation
Thu, 29 Aug 2019

A first-of-its-kind report led by The Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute aims to improve mining industry practice of how to define and measure successful mine-site rehabilitation criteria.

Dr Marit Kragt, from The University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment, co-authored the report, A framework for developing mine-site completion criteria in Western Australia.

Dr Kragt said the report provided a framework for developing site-specific, risk-based criteria that mine operators could use to demonstrate they had successfully rehabilitated the site after mining.

The project responded to an industry need to understand how to best measure rehabilitation success, set achievable and measurable outcomes and appropriate completion criteria that were accepted by all stakeholders involved, according to Dr Kragt.  

“During the study we identified several bottle-necks to developing acceptable mine completion criteria,” she said.

“These included making mine closure planning an integral part throughout the life of a mine, rather than investing in rehabilitation towards the end of mining; and developing a consistent, coordinated approach to completion criteria across the various government departments involved in mine closure approvals.”

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the report was a great example of government and industry working together to deliver better rehabilitation outcomes for the State.

“It provides industry with greater clarity and consistency in the development of mine closure plans across different locations and commodities,” Mr Johnston said. “Effective mine closure is critical to ensure the long-term environmental sustainability of the industry.”

The WA Biodiversity Science Institute was established in 2015 and is an independent joint venture partnership involving Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, CSIRO, Western Australian Museum, Curtin University, Murdoch University, UWA and Edith Cowan University.

Dr Marit Kragt (UWA School of Agriculture and Environment)                         08 6488 4653

Simone Hewett (UWA Media & PR Adviser)                                                       08 6488 7975

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Wool odour could be key to protecting sheep from flystrike
Mon, 22 Jul 2019

A global research project led by The University of Western Australia in collaboration with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Western Australia has identified compounds in Merino sheep wool that are attractive to Australian blowflies.

The discovery, published in Medical and Veterinary Entomology, could help breeders develop fly-resistant flocks of sheep, which will improve animal welfare and productivity. 

Professor Phil Vercoe from the UWA Institute of Agriculture and UWA School of Agriculture and Environment said the findings could help to prevent flystrike, a distressing disease caused by blowflies which poses a significant health risk to sheep.

“This research is a step in the right direction towards the development of more clean, green and ethical approaches to preventing flystrike,” Professor Vercoe said. 

“If future studies find that the wool odour is inherited, then the compounds we’ve identified could lead to a more effective way to breed sheep that are resistant to flystrike.

“This would be a great thing for industry because it would improve the welfare of the animals and productivity and address the cost of flystrike which has been estimated to cost the agriculture industry $280 million annually.”

Dr Johan Greeff from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said that the discovery could lead to a simple test, based on the presence of certain volatile compounds in sheep’s wool that determines whether flies will be attracted to the sheep. 

“Our study shows that Merino sheep clearly have individual differences in the chemical content of their wool,” Dr Greeff said. “The fly-attractive wool contains volatile compounds that weren’t found in the non-attractive wool.”

The research was funded by Australian Wool Innovation and the Australian Research Council.

Jess Reid(UWA Media and PR Adviser) 08 6488 6876

Professor Philip Vercoe(The UWA Institute of Agricultureand UWA School of Agriculture and Environment) 08 6488 6758

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Events, seminars and workshops

The UWA School of Agriculture and Environment hosts a number of events, seminars and workshops throughout the year for students, staff and members of the public. Details of all our upcoming events can be found on our events calendar below.

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