CSIRO has launched a new two new environmental research clusters.


The Ecological Responses to Altered Flow Regimes Cluster has been established  to develop science that will optimise the benefits of environmental water for aquatic ecosystems.


The research will initially focus on the Murray–Darling Basin, but it is expected that many of the findings will be applicable to other  river and wetland systems.


The Cluster, led by Professor Stuart Bunn from the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University, will bring together Australia’s leading water scientists and ecologists, and will aim to produce:

  • an inventory of the environmental assets in the Murray–Darling Basin;
  • an assessment of the water requirements of these assets; and
  • a framework for optimising environmental flow allocation decisions.

Participants in the cluster include researchers from the CSIRO, Griffith University, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, Charles Sturt University, La Trobe University and the Victorian Department of Sustainability’s Arthur Rylah Institute.


The $8.3 million Energy Transformed Cluster on Biofuels will develop new processes using enzyme biotechnology techniques to produce liquid fuels from waste plant feedstocks. It is estimated that these fuels could potentially provide 30 per cent of Australia’s future transport needs.


Transport is the third largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia after the electricity industry and agriculture.


According to the Director of CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship Dr Alex Wonhas, sustainable biofuels can significantly reduce emissions from transport, strengthen energy security and create new business opportunities.


“Second-generation biofuels that are produced from agricultural waste could potentially be a cost competitive, low-carbon fuel that will keep our cars on the road and planes in the sky. As oil supplies decline and petrol prices soar, alternatives such as biofuels could become economically very attractive,” Dr Wonhas said.


The three-year collaboration, led by Professor Chris Easton of Australian National University (ANU), will bring together researchers from CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship, ANU, RMIT University, the University of Queensland and the University of Manchester in the UK.


The Cluster received A$3.7 million through the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund –established to enable the skills of the wider Australian and global research community to be applied to the major national challenges targeted by CSIRO’s Flagship research program.