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Oyster Aquaculture to Benefit from Aboriginal Bursary

27 May 2014

AUSTRALIA - The inaugural SARDI Science Bursary for Aboriginal Students has been awarded to Flinders University aquaculture honours student Shaun Henderson whose research will help to maintain the quality of premium South Australian oysters.

The bursary will support research into water quality in Pacific oyster growing areas on the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas.

SARDI Executive Director Professor Pauline Mooney said she was pleased to announce the inaugural SARDI bursary for an Aboriginal student during National Reconciliation Week.

She said South Australia’s oyster industry is a national leader in sustainable aquaculture practices.

“The future of our Premium Food and Clean Environment credentials relies on good industry practice and sound fisheries and aquaculture policies and legislation underpinned by the best scientific knowledge,” Prof Mooney said.

“With support from industry, research initiatives led by SARDI Aquatic Sciences has supported the development of environmentally and economically viable solutions.”

Shaun’s honours year research project, titled ‘Size and growth-rate dependent heavy metal accumulation in Pacific oysters, Crassostrea gigas,’ involves testing for trace metals zinc, copper and cadmium in the environment and oysters – with both laboratory and hands-on sampling in the field.

“The project aims to increase knowledge of micro-nutrients in South Australian waters and also help improve Pacific oyster growing methods,” said Shaun, 22, a University of Adelaide marine biology graduate.

“I’m very keen to continue working in the aquaculture industry here, and to develop the huge potential of our State’s waters.

“I am so grateful for the SARDI Science Bursary which will go towards my project work.”

The project also has been accepted to receive funding from the SA Oyster Research Council.

South Australian oyster production has doubled in the past decade, to more than 7,200 tonnes, worth $40 million, in 2012-13.

The Bachelor of Science (Aquaculture) Honours project is being supervised by Flinders University Professor Jian Qin and SARDI Aquaculture Program leader Professor Xiaoxu Li.

“Shaun’s research will provide new insights into our understanding on the impact of environment on oyster growth, survival and product quality,” said Prof Qin.

“The success of this project will also assist Pacific oyster growers in South Australia to enhance their production and productivity,” Prof Li added.

The $1500 SARDI Science Bursary for Aboriginal Students is offered to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander graduate to undertake post-graduate study in agriculture, fisheries or forestry science at a tertiary institution in Australia.

SARDI is the research division of Primary Industry and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), which supports a range of initiatives through the PIRSA Reconciliation Action Plan.

Shaun’s career has already received a boost from SA Government training programs.

Over the past two years, he has worked on the Environment Protection Authority’s Marine Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Program in the Upper Spencer Gulf and Far West Coast as part of an Indigenous Cadetship.

“This gave me some great experience in the field and important tips on data storage and accessibility,” Shaun said.

As well as work aboard the EPA research vessel, his “love for the ocean” includes summer holiday employment on Smoky Bay oyster farms and now the oyster lease research work.

“I am extremely interested in aquaculture so the aim of my honours year is to expand that knowledge in a practical way,” Shaun said.

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