Director's Report March 2022

4 Mar 2022

As I am writing this report, Southeast Queensland and parts of New South Wales are experiencing devastating floods. Lives have been lost, properties damaged, and the economic loss are mounting to the billions. My sympathies go to those who have been badly impacted by the flooding, including many of our staff and students.

These latest events are yet another reminder that the climate is changing. We will experience, more frequently, periods with too much water and periods with too little water. Water management is being challenged; business as usual will no longer meet the challenges of the future, and more innovative strategies and technologies will be needed. ACWEB researchers are actively involved in the delivery of future solutions - with support from The University of Queensland and in partnership with water utilities and other collaborators, we have launched the UQ Digital Water Initiative. This initiative aims to make more effective use of the conveyance capacities of existing infrastructure, to guide future infrastructure investments, and to be able to respond to urban flooding events more swiftly. In parallel, we are also working on the science and technologies to cope with the water scarcity that will inevitably come.  

In July 2021, the Centre’s name was changed to the Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology, which reflected our vision to further expand our capacity in environmental biotechnology. This year will see some major efforts from the Centre to extend its collaboration with the agricultural sector. We will develop new research programs to turn agricultural waste into market-demanded commodities, animal feed, and organic fertilisers. 

With the recent re-opening of Australia’s international borders, we have had the pleasure to warmly welcome many new PhD and Master students to campus, some of whom commenced their studies remotely in 2021. I wish them an enjoyable and productive journey at ACWEB. I am also pleased to announce that we will be able to deliver the IWES courses in person this year, following online delivery for two years.

While still early in the new year, our staff and students have won several international awards. Congratulations to Dr Zhiyao Wang for winning the Water journal 2021 Best Thesis Award, after taking home the AWA National Student Prize Award in 2021. She was awarded the prize for her work on innovative nitrogen conversion to enhance wastewater and sludge management. I would also like to congratulate Zhigang Yu, Yue Wang, Ji Lu and Jianhua Guo for winning the ISME Journal 2021 Best Paper award for their outstanding manuscript, “Nonnutritive sweeteners can promote the dissemination of antibiotic resistance through conjugative gene transfer."