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ECU launches new collaboration with Rio Tinto Dampier Salt

Friday, 01 April 2011

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ECU launched a new research collaboration agreement with Dampier Salt Ltd (DSL), part of the Rio Tinto group today, which will pave the way for a unique series of research opportunities in Australia’s north west.

Initial projects administered under this research collaboration agreement will see ECU receive nearly $900,000 in funding over four and a half years to better understand the ecology and biodiversity of salt lakes and migratory bird habitats near DSL’s operations in north west Western Australia.

It is expected two new PhD, two Masters by Research and two Honours students will be funded by these research programs, with two major research projects already commenced as part of the collaboration agreement.

The first research project entitled, The Biodiversity of Lake MacLeod will span the next three and a half years and will see researchers and postgraduate students from ECU’s School of Natural Sciences examining the biological differences that occur across gradients of salinity and depth in salt lakes and how these differences change according to periodic flood events.

The second research project entitled, The feeding ecology and habitat use of migratory and other shorebirds will focus on habitat selection, feeding behaviour and foraging resources present at salt sites and how these are influenced by, or related to Dampier Salt operations.

"We are absolutely thrilled to be part of this agreement, which provides ECU researchers with the opportunity to be involved in a unique series of research opportunities across Australia’s north west," said Associate Professor from the Faculty of Computing, Health and Science, Pierre Horwitz.

The collaboration agreement will also ensure students have access to DSL’s accommodation and laboratory facilities in the north west, research and sampling equipment, funds for analysis of samples, student bursaries and scholarship top-ups for research postgraduate students, and salaries for technical staff.

Managing Director of Dampier Salt, Mrs Denise Goldsworthy is excited about the future collaboration.

"Respect for the environment is central to Rio Tinto's approach to sustainable development and at Dampier Salt, we understand that we operate a unique business in a unique environment and it’s up to us to understand our environment," said Ms Goldsworthy.

"Dampier Salt is very proud to be in partnership with ECU for these two projects and we look forward to working together as we develop mutually beneficial research."

ECU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kerry Cox agrees.

"This agreement is a wonderful opportunity for ECU to embark on influential research projects and we look forward to working with Rio Tinto as we further develop and expand on this research in the coming years."

The collaboration was officially launched by WA Chief Scientist, Professor Lyn Beazley, and was hosted by ECU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kerry Cox. Attendees from Rio Tinto included Managing Director of Dampier Salt and recipient of the 2010 Telstra Business Women of the year award, Mrs Denise Goldsworthy.

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