From fire to gut bugs and antibiotic resistance: ARC grant results

November 16 / 188

Savanna grasslands in northern Australia are under investigation in one of the University's recently awarded ARC grants. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Savanna grasslands in northern Australia are under investigation in one of the University's recently awarded ARC grants. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The University of Melbourne has received Australian Research Council grants totalling more than $44 million for projects including understanding the pre-contact environmental impact of fire, antibiotic resistance in soil, and how bacteria affects gut function. 

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Julie Willis said the range and variety of projects that received funding from the ARC in this round was very exciting.

“As a research-intensive University, Melbourne has always taken great pride in the breadth and depth of research that is conducted here,” she said.

“That we are able to recognise the success of projects covering everything from art history to dark matter to antibacterial resistance is further proof of this.” 

The University was awarded:

Future Fellowships worth $5.5 million;

$8.3 million in Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards;

$1.2 million in Discovery Indigenous grants;

$26.7 million in Discovery Projects; and  

Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities worth $2.7 million.

Dr Michael Shawn-Fletcher (Science) was awarded two Discovery Indigenous grants, one of which is to develop a pre-European ecological baseline to understand how fire affects the northern Australian savanna.

Dr Elisa Hill (Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences) is one of seven 2017 Future Fellows. Her work on how microbiota — or gut bacteria — influences gut function is expected to shed light on antibiotic resistance, the risks of discretionary caesarean sections and the benefits of breastfeeding. Dr Hill also researches the connection between gut bacteria and autism.

Professor Jizhen He (Veterinary & Agriculture Science) is one of 72 Discovery Project grant recipients. His research seeks to uncover how environmental antibiotic resistance occurs. Antibiotic resistance genes threaten human health, but how this happens in the journey from animal manure to the food chain is unknown. 

Dr Signe Ravn (Arts) is one of 23 Discovery Early Career Researcher awards. Australian girls who leave school before Year 12 are often overlooked in the focus on ‘problem boys’. This project will look at their everyday lives and how they imagine the future.

Professor Thomas Reuter (Arts) aims to understand food insecurity, which affects one billion people worldwide. Focusing on Indonesia, he will use Discovery Project grant funds to explore alternatives to industrial agriculture and trade liberalisation as a basis for new UN policies.

Professor Timothy Fletcher (Science) was awarded a Discovery Project grant to understand urban stormwater runoff, and the impact of filters. 

And in a great collaborative effort involving nine research institutions and led by the Bio21 Institute, University of Melbourne’s Professor Michael Parker and Monash University’s Professor James Whisstock, Melbourne has been successful in its bid for two Telos Artica Cryo EM Microscopes at the cost of $850,000 each.

The successful bid for two leading complementary techniques to characterise protein structure and function establishes the Bio21 Institute as a centre for structural biology in Australia.

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