Legislative Council: Thursday, July 07, 2022


Science Bursary for Women

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the chamber about the recent announcement of the 2022 SARDI Science Bursary for Women recipient?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. I was pleased to announce recently that the recipient of the 2022 SARDI Science Bursary for Women is marine biologist Elise Tuuri. The bursary, which was established in 1994 to celebrate the South Australian Women's Suffrage Centenary, is awarded each year to a female graduate studying in South Australia in the agriculture, fisheries, natural resource management or forestry science fields.

Ms Tuuri is halfway through a PhD in biological oceanography at Flinders University. Her research focuses on how much microplastic is in the ocean, how much is eaten by zooplankton and how microplastic moves in the currents. Of her research, she says:

By understanding how much microplastic zooplankton eats, it could help us understand how microplastics move through the food web and where any hotspots are. Understanding microplastic distributions in Australian oceans could help with targeting clean up efforts and waste management efforts.

Microplastic in oceans is an issue that is becoming more widely understood as researchers such as Ms Tuuri continue their important work discovering the scale of the issue and how it impacts upon all marine life. Research released by the CSIRO in 2020 suggested there could be up to 14 million tonnes of microplastics on the sea floor around the globe, and other research indicates that much of it gets there by way of products such as vehicle tyres, textiles, building debris, cosmetics and packing materials.

Ms Tuuri's research will be the first to review how microplastics enter the marine food web through zooplankton in Australia. It will also focus on possible impacts of microplastic consumption on marine organisms and ecosystems. Ms Tuuri also went on to say:

I was born in Finland but I grew up in Victor Harbor, so I spent a lot of time by the ocean…Once I've completed the PhD, I hope to stay in South Australia, although it will depend on job opportunities, as I love this state.

We certainly do hope that Ms Tuuri does stay and continues her promising research and career here in South Australia. It will be her generation of young researchers and scientists that leads the way, not least on the important issue of microplastic in the ocean, how this problem can be managed and understanding the impact on all marine life and humans into the future. I do commend Ms Tuuri and also acknowledge that the Science Bursary for Women is an important way of encouraging young people, particularly young girls and women, into the study of these important sciences.