There are more than 170 trillion plastic particles – with a combined weight of over 2.33 million tonnes – currently floating in the world’s oceans. Today, plastic marine debris is found in all five major ocean gyres, and in the Southern Ocean. Gyres are areas of large circulating ocean currents that act like a vortex, causing floating waste to be gently drawn into their core.
Our environment cannot bounce back from major petrochemical contamination, on top of the constant flow of waste from agriculture, textile factories and our homes. The cheap and easy approach to dealing with waste has been to simply bury it, which is unsustainable, especially as chemicals inevitably leech out into soils and waters. While thermal desorption removes contaminants, it also kills the soil. The best solution is bioremediation.
With deep expertise in environmental microbiology and biotechnology, Professor Andrew Ball’s research focuses on developing clean, sustainable technologies to remediate environmental contamination, looking for ways of removing contaminants – particularly petroleum hydro-carbons (oil), but also other organic pollutants – from soils, groundwater and water bodies.
Let’s Torque is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) communication skills development initiative that runs a public speaking competition for undergraduate students. In 2017, a group of students in Monash University’s Global Challenges course (BSc Honours) launched a dynamic program that is now run by and for students from all universities across the state. Our thanks to all participants for stepping up for this year’s locked-down competition!
Human activities have released significant quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, the more carbon dioxide emitted, the warmer our planet becomes. Partly mitigating these impacts, plants recover 30% of atmospheric carbon via photosynthesis. Using energy from the Sun, they combine carbon dioxide with water to form sugar and oxygen. When the chemical reaction is reversed, carbon returns to the atmosphere – either by cellular respiration in plants and animals, or the burning of coal, wood, or gasoline. Soil scientist Dr Samantha Grover explains that one way of preventing carbon dioxide from returning to the atmosphere is keeping it sequestered in the ground. In fact, there is two-to-three times more carbon in soil than in the atmosphere.