The NZAGRC’s former nitrous oxide and soil carbon work streams were combined into one programme this year. This ensures a strong overall framework, closer communication and full GHG analyses across the programme. The programme focusses on three key areas:
1. Identifying and prioritising plant traits for low GHG emissions;
2. Mitigation practices to maintain soil carbon and reduce nitrous oxide emissions at paddock scale; and
3. Defining the achievable soil carbon stabilisation capacity of New Zealand grassland soils.
Current progress and research stories
Camilla Gardiner moved to Canterbury from the USA at the end of July 2015. Originally from Seattle, Camilla has had a passion for agriculture since high school. "I spent a term at a farm school in rural Vermont in my third year of high school", Camilla says. "Four months with forty-five other sixteen year olds, spending three hours a day on the farm plus learning about the land-based environmental sciences. I was hooked". This interest in farming led Camilla to UC Berkeley to study Environmental Sciences with honours in Soil Biogeochemistry. It was a mentor at Berkeley that encouraged her to investigate PhD options in New Zealand and provided some key contacts. Fortuitously Dr Tim Clough was looking for a student at the time and the rest is now history.
Camilla's previous research work at Berkeley primarily focused on the use of compost to sequester soil carbon, so the move to focus on nitrous oxide and urine patches has involved a steep learning curve. Her PhD project involves studying nitrogen compounds and plant metabolites in urine and identifying those which might minimise N2O emissions. The project started with a literature review and this has produced a number of interesting leads, particularly from plantain. This review is currently being revised for publication, with an aim to publish by mid-2016.
Preferring to be out in the field, rather than at the lab bench, Camilla is looking forward to her first field trial. She is currently running a lab-scale study, whilst gearing up to a larger on-farm trial. "Planning a big trial is a huge learning experience", she says. "I've previously only worked with established trials". Camilla is surrounded by a wealth of knowledge though. "I'm the youngest member in the team by quite a long way", says Camilla. "There is a lot of expertise around here to tap into!"
Moving to New Zealand has turned out to be everything that Camilla thought it would be, and more. As a keen skier and tramper, Camilla has been out exploring the scenic South Island as much as she can. The relaxed kiwi lifestyle is also growing on her. "Up until now I've lived in busy big cities. I love the laid back approach to life here in New Zealand".
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