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.
The fourth and final installment of this series takes a closer look at scientist Dr Hanabeth Luke, PhD candidate Gloria Reithmaier and PhD researcher Razlin Azman. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
Dr Hanabeth Luke
Dr Hanabeth Luke lives and works in the sweet spot where society, land, industry and community intersect. Part social scientist, part environmental scientist, her research focuses on drivers of on-farm decision-making across Australian farming systems, including barriers to the adoption of new innovations and changing approaches to land management.
She has conducted four years of research with the Australian macadamia industry, and is presently implementing surveys in farming regions in every Australian state. Every survey is co-developed with local farming groups.
During her Honours year and PhD, Hanabeth focused on social dynamics within the growing social movement responding to coal-seam gas (CSG) industry developments in Eastern Australia. Specifically, her PhD focused on social license to operate, including the role of community input into government decision-making for land-use planning and natural resource management, with ten papers from this research having been published.
She is excited to be coordinating a new, world-first course at Southern Cross University in Regenerative Agriculture. She also has two young children, Tristan and Connie, and is also proud to be a ‘first in family’ home grown Southern Cross student.
Born in Bavaria and now living in Australia, PhD candidate Gloria researches mangroves – or our muddy climate warriors as she terms them – and their capacity to store and cycle carbon. Gloria is a passionate believer in the power of science communication. Most recently she was a participant in the national Pitch it Clever competition 2020, an annual challenge where researchers have to condense months and often years of work into a two-minute video.
The art of communication has been an integral part of her academic journey. After an undergraduate degree in geoecology and a Masters degree in global change ecology, Gloria worked in an environmental education centre, developing sustainable lifestyle programs for schools. For her PhD she choose Southern Cross because of its excellent coastal and marine research team, which is known even beyond Australia.
“Compared to Europe, research in Australia is very family friendly and the working environment is much more relaxed. However, the scientists are also incredibly passionate and successful.
“I enjoy working in STEM very much, particularly the adventurous fieldwork is the favourite part of my job, but female scientists are still underrepresented in this field, even at a progressive institution like Southern Cross” she says.
Razlin Azman wants to improve nutrition security using one of the world’s most hardy and versatile crops, the bambara groundnut (Vigna subtrerranea). This minor legume is known for being drought and heat tolerant, grows on marginal soil and provides inexpensive plant-based energy, protein and minerals to the rural poor that cultivate the crop in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South East Asia.
Her PhD research at Southern Cross University focuses on developing a research pipeline to better understand the nutritional composition of underutilised crops like the bambara groundnut so that these crops can contribute more significantly to global food and nutritional security. “Working with underutilised crops means we are dealing with crops that are marginalised in favour of cash crops by research and industry. For example, bambara groundnut occupies the same agro-ecological niche as peanut, but it is displaced from farming systems in favour of groundnut. You have to be creative, you have to curious, and you have to learn to comfortable with being uncomfortably outside your research comfort zone,” she says.
Her interest in plant science and food crops started when she worked on the improvement of canola at the Plant Biotech Institute of the National Research Council of Canada during her undergraduate degree. This interest deepened when she worked at Crops for The Future (CFF), the world’s first research centre dedicated to underutilised crops. There she was introduced to minor crops such as bambara groundnut. While at CFF, she managed agricultural development projects operating in Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ghana.
Whether it’s food and nutritional security, underutilised crops or plant-microbe interaction, she is passionate about communicating her research. “This quote from Marie Curie sums up what it means to be a contemporary researcher for me: ‘You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right’.”
To find out more about study and research at Southern Cross University, click here.
IMAGE: L to R, Gloria Reithmaier, Dr Hanabeth Luke, Razlin Asman.