Climate busting bug researcher receives award


Climate busting bug researcher receives award

Management of human waste and its impacts on the environment is a critical international issue, and a young South Australian from SA Water has just been awarded a PhD scholarship to continue this leading research.

Sarah Aucote will progress a PhD with SA Water and the University of Queensland, investigating ways to improve the operation of wastewater sludge-drying lagoons by reducing their methane emissions.

The talented young scientist says 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,” said Sarah.

“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 a combined $25,000 in project funding and travel support.

The award is given in memory of the late Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis AC MBE, who was a pioneer for women in science in Australia, 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,” said Sarah.

“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.”

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

She 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.

“Her desire and commitment to helping improve the water industry through research is second to none, and we’re so proud her efforts and qualities have been recognised through this terrific accolade,” Ben said.  

“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.”





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