By Sue Min Liu
As part of his PhD at the University of Wollongong in collaboration with ANSTO, James is investigating how different land uses like farming and grazing affects the amount of dust produced and emitted to the atmosphere, and the impacts of this on the ecosystems where the dust lands.
Dust can fertilise oceans with an influx of nutrients, for example, causing a shift in the variety of organisms like phytoplankton.
James travels to remote locations around the world, collecting soil core samples containing dust, which he analyses using specialised scanning equipment at ANSTO. He says making discoveries in science is hugely exciting. “You get to do things no one has done before.”
James looks at the cores to identify the quantity of dust through time and the elements it is composed of. He also uses carbon dating to determine how old the biological materials are.
By comparing samples from different locations, he can determine the movement of dust from one location to another, and whether new sources have become active.
His adventures have allowed James to experience, first-hand, the impacts of human activity on the environment.
“Seeing these spectacular places makes me think it would be a huge shame if they were lost.”
Author: STEM Contributor
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