Young researcher awarded to propel methane-reduction study

Wednesday, 27 March, 2019

Young researcher awarded to propel methane-reduction study

A young South Australian will investigate how to improve the operation of wastewater sludge-drying lagoons by reducing their methane emissions. The research will be conducted at SA Water’s laboratory based in Adelaide’s CBD. Management of human waste and its impact on the environment is a critical international issue and it is hoped that results from the study will have a positive impact on the wastewater industry globally.

Conducting her PhD research with SA Water and the University of Queensland, Sarah Aucote said promoting the activity of natural microorganisms that consume methane may reduce emissions and help contribute to climate change mitigation efforts.

“Sludge-drying lagoons are commonly used around the world to treat wastewater sludge and form biosolids for agricultural application such as fertiliser, but they’ve recently been shown to contribute to the carbon footprint of wastewater treatment plants,” she explained.

“As a young researcher, it’s incredibly satisfying to work on such a fantastic project that I believe will be beneficial not only to SA Water, but to other water utilities around the world.”

Sarah received the prestigious Water Research Australia (WaterRA) Nancy Millis Memorial PhD Scholarship at the industry association’s annual international Research and Innovation Gala Dinner, which provides $25,000 in project funding and travel support. The award is given in memory of the late Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis, a pioneer for Australian women in science, and recognises students who have demonstrated exceptional qualities and a passion for research.

“The experience and insight I will gain, along with the motivation of achieving this award, will help me to develop as a researcher and make a positive contribution to the water industry,” Aucote said.

“I’m extremely thankful to WaterRA for the award, and appreciative of the opportunities my supervisors have provided me throughout the project — the continual guidance and support they have offered has been integral to my development.”

Aucote’s passion for research has seen her flourish at SA Water, and her recent achievement builds on the Student Water Prize she received at the 2018 Australian Water Awards for her Honours project through Flinders University.

Aucote is supervised by SA Water Lead Scientist Environment and Wastewater Dr Ben van den Akker, alongside Professor Zhiguo Yuan AM and Dr Shihu Hu of the Advanced Water Management Centre at the University of Queensland.

Dr van den Akker said, “Her desire and commitment to helping improve the water industry through research is second to none, and we’re so proud [that] her efforts and qualities have been recognised through this terrific accolade. The win was a significant achievement and reflects her individual brilliance and initiative, and it will further inspire her to keep contributing to the betterment of the water industry.”

Image courtesy of SA Water.

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