23 December 2014

Australia is the world’s driest continent and reliance on groundwater for survival and livelihood is critical now and in the future, however our current understanding of how groundwater is replenished is limited.

Dr Margaret Shanafield, a researcher at The Flinders University of South Australia and the National Centre for Groundwater Research Training (NCGRT), recently received an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) to generate a clearer understanding of groundwater recharge.

Dr Shanafield spoke about her new $357 000 research project at the recent announcement of the 2015 ARC major grants in Adelaide.

“Four years ago I moved to Australia to join some of the best groundwater researchers in the world at the NCGRT—my DECRA builds upon some of the research I have contributed to as part of the centre,” she said.

“My research focusses on understanding the complex web of surface and sub-surface processes that form the hydrologic cycle.

“Here in Australia, the world’s direst inhabited continent, recurring drought is a fact of life. We rely on groundwater for nearly all aspects of society from domestic supply through to industrial, mining and agricultural use.

“Yet surprisingly we only have a limited understanding of where and how much of our rainfall infiltrates to replenish our vital groundwater resources.”

Dr Shanafield’s research will employ novel and well established field techniques such as fibre optic techniques and a variety of tracers, in order to develop new models for understanding surface water and groundwater processes.

The techniques will first be applied to the Wilunga Basin in South Australia, an important wine growing region.

Dr Shanafield said her research will result in novel methods of predicting groundwater recharge and availability of groundwater resources as our climate changes into the future.

“This research is not only important to arid Australian catchments but it also fills a fundamental research gap in understanding ephemeral recharge processes in hydrogeology and surface water/groundwater interactions.”

In her speech Dr Shanafield also acknowledged the importance of the ARC’s DECRA scheme in providing early-career researchers with the opportunity to pursue a research goal.

“The DECRA funding provides amazing opportunities for early researchers, like me, in the competitive academic environment. This is a prestigious chance for us to show how we can make a difference in our fields and express our research ideas in order to make advances in our research careers.”

For more information about this research project please contact Dr Margaret Shanafield.


Image: Dr Margaret Shanafield. 
Photo credit: Dr Margaret Shanafield, The Flinders University of South Australia.