Matthew hopes for big results after research cadetship

INTERN: Matthew Brewer is in his final week of a cadetship with the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre, analysing data taken out in the field. Picture: MARK JESSER
INTERN: Matthew Brewer is in his final week of a cadetship with the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre, analysing data taken out in the field. Picture: MARK JESSER

La Trobe University student Matthew Brewer could soon have his byline in a scientific journal after a cadetship with the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

Mr Brewer is at the end of his 10-week stint with the centre, conducting research into floodplain microbial communities.

“We went out for a day in the field and gathered 30 soil samples from Lake Moodemere Reserve,” he said.

“We were looking to get samples – one from a pasture where cattle graze, one from a forest where cattle were and another from a forest where there was no cattle present.

“It was looking at the difference between the fungi in the soil and the diversity of fungi.”

Aquatic Ecologist Paul McInerney, who supervised Mr Brewer, said pending the results of the data analysis, his work could warrant publication and further research.

Bianca Berto and Alex Blackburn-Smith have also undertaken cadetships at the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology up in Falls Creek, examining current impacts of deer on threatened alpine plant communities. Picture: Dr John Morgan

Bianca Berto and Alex Blackburn-Smith have also undertaken cadetships at the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology up in Falls Creek, examining current impacts of deer on threatened alpine plant communities. Picture: Dr John Morgan

“Mycorrhizal association is not something that’s been looked at a lot in freshwater systems,” he said.

“Trees are important but we’re not sure about how grazing influences it.

“Usually these summer scholarships act as pilots in a way; we might not find anything interesting, but we might find something really interesting and we can pursue it further.”

Mr Brewer, who grew up in Yackandandah, is in his final year of a Bachelor of Science at La Trobe’s Bundoora campus and welcomed the time home.

“It was great to do fieldwork,” he said.

“If in the future anyone wants to put native plants back in that area, it would be good for them to know what’s already in the soil and how that will affect those plants.”

Another MDFRC cadet has been based at the Mildura laboratory and two students have also received scholarships to work with the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology in Falls Creek.

MDFRC senior administration officer Rosie Busuttil said the program offered students insight into what it was like to undertake an honours.

“In the past we’ve had about a 63 per cent rate of people who have completed a summer cadet through the centre going on to do honours,” she said.

“The program provides students with a fantastic opportunity to engage with industry and undertake research with leading scientists in Australia. 

“We’ll be advertising again in September for the next round of cadetships with the centres.”