Researchers from The University of Western Australia have established the first Critical Zone Observatory in the southern hemisphere joining an international think tank to learn more about the earth's outer skin.
The UWA Future Farm in Pingelly, 200km southeast of Perth, has been selected as the site of the new Avon River Catchment Critical Zone Observatory. The research site is part of an international network of environmental observatories (CZEN) that scientists around the world use to study what they call Earth's "Critical Zone".
Assistant Professor Matthias Leopold, from the UWA School of Earth and Environment and the UWA Institute of Agriculture is coordinating the Avon River Catchment Observatory.
"The Critical Zone is basically the Earth's outer skin," Professor Leopold said. "It's the zone where soil interacts with rock, water, the atmosphere and living organisms. The critical zone is essential for all terrestrial life because it produces food, influences water quality and regulates microclimate.
Currently there are 51 registered Critical Zone Observatories in the international network located mostly in Europe and the United States. Until now there were none in the southern hemisphere and no Australian universities were part of the network of research sites. The new Avon River Catchment Observatory will help make the network of research sites truly global."
The UWA School of Earth and Environment and Institute of Agriculture's Associate Professor Deirdre Gleeson described the new Avon River Catchment Observatory as helping to make the network of research sites truly global.
"Soils and landscapes in Australia are different from Europe and the United States. Our soils and landscapes are older and our climate and land management are different," Associate Professor Gleeson said.
To launch the research program at Australia's first Critical Zone Observatory, UWA is hosting an International Workshop in April. The workshop will bring together local researchers and international experts in Critical Zone Observatories.
Keynote speakers at the International Workshop will include Professor Steve Banwart from the University of Sheffield, who is the Project Coordinator of SoilTrEC (the European network of observatories) and Dr Tim White from Pennsylvania State University, who is the National Program Coordinator of the network of observatories in the United States.
The workshop is being funded by UWA, the UWA School of Earth and Environment, the World Universities Network, the Perth USAsia Centre and the Perth Convention Centre. A spring school for PhD students is also planned for September 2014.
Assistant Professor Matthias Leopold (UWA School of Earth and Environment / The UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 2769
Associate Professor Deirdre Gleeson (UWA School of Earth and Environment / The UWA Institute of Agriculture) (+61 8) 6488 3593
David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716