UOW Researchers Secure $7M for Climate and Decarbonisation Projects

Two University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers, Senior Professor Chris Gibson and Distinguished Professor Sharon Robinson, have been honoured with prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowships, receiving close to $7 million combined in support for their ground-breaking research.

The funded projects will explore the impact and opportunities of the decarbonisation revolution on regional communities and better understand how polar regions are adapting and responding to climate change.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor David Currow congratulated Professors Gibson and Robinson on their fellowships.

“ARC Laureate Fellowships are the pinnacle of recognition in Australian research and UOW researchers receiving two of these prestigious awards in this latest round show the depth and vitality of the research taking part on our campuses.

“These projects tackle some of the biggest challenges humanity is facing – how to decarbonise industry and community without leaving anyone behind, and how to protect our planet from the impacts of climate change,” Professor Currow said.

Professor Chris Gibson is part of UOW’s School of Geography and Sustainable Communities and is the Deputy Director of the Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space (ACCESS). As a social scientist with training in both economic geography and cultural research, Professor Gibson has brought a unique perspective to the study of Australian regions and communities over 20 years in research.

The ARC has awarded Professor Gibson $3.6 million to investigate how decarbonisation will impact Australian regions and develop a new approach to empower communities and industries during a transformation that could leave many regions that have been reliant on fossil fuel industries behind.

Professor Gibson said the program will support national unity and fairness as Australia meets its emissions reduction targets.

“Currently research in this area focusses on technical or economic aspects and social, cultural, and geographical dimensions are lacking from this vital discussion.

“My research program will uncover overlooked regional skills and initiatives, and diverse perspectives, including those of workers, residents, and First Nations enterprises, through this period of unprecedented change. We will integrate findings, visualising trends through mapping tools to share with government, community and industry stakeholders to plan for more inclusive transitions,” Professor Gibson said.

Climate change biologist Professor Sharon Robinson AM, from UOW’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences and Deputy Director of Science Implementation for the ARC Special Research Initiative for Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future, has been awarded $3.3 million to conduct a research program to better understand polar regions by combining data from key locations around Antarctica to determine how vegetation in ice-free, coastal areas has responded to recent climate change.

“Antarctica’s climate is closely coupled to both the global, and especially the Australian, environment. Antarctica is experiencing rapid climatic shifts from ozone depletion and climate heating, but the impact on biodiversity in its ice-free areas is still poorly understood,” Professor Robinson said.

Professor Robinson’s project aims to provide a toolkit for a proposed observing system for East Antarctica’s land-based biodiversity, which will become the foundation for a whole-of continent system. The program is innovative and will use interdisciplinary methods to enable real-time monitoring of Antarctic ecosystem health and strategies to protect and remediate at-risk ecosystems.