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Shark Bay research earns top awards for Curtin graduate

Media release

Curtin University PhD graduate Dr Ricardo Jahnert has received top accolades for his thesis investigating the future projections of Shark Bay’s stromatolites in a changing climate.

Dr Jahnert received the 2012 Krishna and Pamela Sappal Prize from Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology, and a Chancellor’s Commendation for his PhD research, which was judged the best by a research graduate in geoscience.

Dr Jahnert said he was quite humbled by the awards, saying that the exciting discovery of finding stromatolites surviving in deeper waters motivated him to put in the hard work.

“My research, conducted in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Conservation, was to build a database of current geological and ecological resources around Shark Bay’s protected Hamelin Pool, and try to work out what the future holds for the stromatolites with the expected rise in sea levels,” Dr Jahnert said.

“My research helped discover permanently submarine stromatolites in the subtidal zone. Previously, the bulk of stromatolites were thought to form in the intertidal zone.”

Dr Jahnert’s PhD research forms part of the Curtin Shark Bay Project, led by his supervisor, Professor Lindsay Collins. The PhD research was funded by Petrobras, the National Petroleum Company of Brazil.

“Dr Jahnert’s findings tell us stromatolites can survive in deeper waters, which is an important addition to our understanding of where and how stromatolites form. It has also enhanced the conservation status of this already globally important area, and changed the recognised model for stromatolite occurrence in Shark Bay,” Professor Collins said.

“Protecting stromatolites is so important to geologists and ecologists as not only does their existence provide one of the most important records of Earth’s earliest life forms, but they also provide one of the few living examples available for scientific study.”

Dr Jahnert said that in conjunction with Hamelin Pool’s highest marine conservation status recognised in Australia, he is hoping his research will contribute towards enabling the unique environment to survive for many generations to come.

Note to editor:
About the Krishna and Pamela Sappal Prize
The Krishna and Pamela Sappal Prize is the most prestigious student prize awarded in the Department of Applied Geology, WA School of Mines, recognising the best higher degree by research graduate in geoscience. It was founded in 2002 by husband and wife Krishna and Pamela Sappal.

Recently retired Krishna Sappal was a long serving staff member in Curtin’s Department of Applied Geology, holding the position of Head of Department for a number of years.

The Sappals introduced the award following their high interest in geology education development in both India and Australia.

The award is presented annually, with the winning candidate selected on the basis of examiner reports, citations and commendations.  The research graduate is awarded the opportunity to further research activities with a cash contribution from the Sappal Award and the Department of Applied Geology.

About the Chancellor’s Commendation
A Chancellor’s Commendation is awarded to a PhD student when two examiners judge their thesis to be the top 10 per cent of theses examined for that year.