Whether it’s marine science, environmental contaminants, regenerative agriculture, food security, stroke rehabilitation or social dynamics, Southern Cross University researchers are tackling the questions that matter, and coming up with solutions. In this series, we look at just a few of many women researchers who are pushing the boundaries in their respective fields.
Dr Kate Neale
From collaborative research with young people to gardening therapy, Dr Kate Neale is breaking ground, both metaphorically and physically. Building on her research with young people with disability and a passion for gardening, Kate has created a program of research exploring the benefits of time spent in greenspaces.
She has written award winning therapeutic gardening programs, explored gardening as a means of student wellbeing and participation, and presented professional workshops on therapeutic horticulture involving people with disability for the Singapore National Parks. In partnership with disability service ARUMA, Kate is piloting a research project exploring the benefits of therapeutic gardening for realising NDIS outcomes.
“It has been incredible to work with a wide range of people in a variety of contexts to understand how gardening has changed the lives of people who feel socially isolated, experience food insecurity or may not otherwise have the opportunity to spend time in green spaces, but who may benefit from it,” says Kate.
With 31,000 followers and counting, Kate is a social media superstar. “Instagram has been the most incredible way to connect with people in the field and industry partners keen to pursue research and better understand the importance of gardening in people’s lives. @mylittlesheshed has always been about ‘Kate the gardener’, but I think that people have seen my genuine passion for gardening, and it blossomed from there,” she says (no pun intended!).
Kate believes the best way to grow therapeutic horticulture as a discipline is through collaboration with industry professionals, academics and practitioners in the field. But privileging the voices of people whose lives we seek to impact must be central to that work – and sitting in a garden, hearing those stories, is where Kate is happiest.
Dr Naomi Wells
Stable isotopes, rivers, and cow pee: they may not seem connected, but for Dr Naomi Wells, these are the ingredients of geek heaven. Naomi is a biogeochemist and Southern Cross lecturer whose research has impacted the global understanding of how nitrogen — a critical agricultural fertiliser and ubiquitous aquatic contaminant — moves from land to sea.
“As a scientist I’m always trying to figure out how the world works. My passion is using high-end ‘cool’ science to help solve real-world problems,” she says.
Naomi is passionate about the power that natural variations in the stable isotope composition of critical elements like nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen have to help us understand the world around us. She is bringing new instruments to Southern Cross as part of an Australian Research Council project that will help measure nitrogen stable isotopes in ‘real time’. She’s also bringing regional leaders in isotope science to the University this winter as the chair of the Australasian Environmental Isotope Conference.
Before coming to Southern Cross University Naomi ran projects to measure the ecological recovery of urban rivers after an earthquake; to identify and develop methods for calculating how New Zealand dairy farms impact water health; as wellas cleaning up groundwater pollution under historic industrial sites. She’s now starting to apply similar methods to understand what happens to our local streams when they dry up, flood, and maybe even catch fire.
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