Department of Environmental Sciences

The Department of Environmental Sciences seeks to understand the integrated behaviour of the soil-plant-atmosphere system as it affects the flow and partitioning of resources including carbon and water. We are a highly interdisciplinary team interested in how the complex interactions between the different components of the system impact on food security and associated ecosystem services in the immediate and long-term. This is particularly important in meeting the challenges presented by environmental change including both natural and anthropogenic sources of climate variation, in the regeneration of degraded land and water, and development of sustainable agricultural technologies.

  1. Soil-plant-microbe system. This theme focuses on the interactions that operate across a broad range in scale to control the amount and availability of water, carbon and nutrients in soil, and their partitioning into plants. It includes Pulsford Laboratory formerly known as SUNFix, research for Nitrogen Fixation.
  2. Plant-atmosphere interactions. This theme aims to quantify the interactions that affect the exchange of water and carbon between the plant and atmosphere.
  3. Variation and scaling. This theme develops techniques for quantifying the variability of the soil-plant-atmosphere system and to exploit this understanding to improve the efficiency and sustainability of agriculture and to protect the environment. This theme includes the Precision Agriculture Laboratory(PAL).

Our approach is to underpin our research with a strong theoretical framework that is firmly imbedded in leading edge experimentation. This helps facilitate the pipeline from world-leading basic science through to application to real-world problems. This provides a unique training environment for postgraduate students who are well-equipped to fast-track in to research leadership roles on graduating. Our funding sources include the Australian Research Council (ARC), Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).

News Flash

Professor Alex McBratney

Alex McBratney recently visited the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He had discussions with Hutton researchers on Digital Soil Mapping, Soil Ecosystem Service evaluation and Soil Security. He presented recent research on digital soil mapping including Jack Collins' 2013 BSc Honours work on endemic soil landscapes in the southern Machars of Galloway, Scotland, which led to substantive discussion of environmental policy.

Balwant Singh


Associate Prof Balwant Singh: his research focus is on understanding the (i) mineral-organic interactions in soils; (ii) potential of biochar in long-term carbon storage and improving soil properties; and (iii)....


The use of Precision Agriculture technologies and techniques for managing the ‘what/where/how much’ decisions regarding inputs for crop growth is rapidly entering the mainstream.