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katherine lacksen, australia, 2013-2014
Fulbright Scholar Katherine Lacksen

KATHERINE LACKSEN
Fulbright Year: 2013-2014
Country: Australia
Proposal Type: Research Grant
Field of Study: Ecology
Proposal Title: Protecting Australia’s Tropical Rivers from Nutrient Pollution
UGA Undergraduate Major: Ecology
Graduation Date: May 2013
Hometown: Sparta, Georgia

In Australia’s Northern Territory, the Daly River is considered the lifeblood of the area, necessary for plant and animal life to thrive and for the culture and livelihood of the local population.

Thanks in no small part to encroaching development, the Daly River’s well-being could be at risk due to irrigated agriculture, which brings the threat of nutrient pollution. Katherine Lacksen will spend her Fulbright year studying and reporting on the long- and short-term health of the Daly River.

“There has been very little research about the effects of nutrient pollution from agricultural development in Northern Australia,” Katherine says. “Yet data on the amount of nutrient input and its effects on water quality are vital for ensuring the protection of the ecological and cultural integrity of the region’s tropical rivers … I will collect data to analyze which forms of nutrient pollution pose the greatest threat to this iconic ecosystem.”

Katherine, a state-champion distance runner in high school and a former member of UGA’s cross country and track teams, will work with the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) Research Hub at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, Australia. TRaCK brings together a consortium of more than 80 of the country’s leading researchers to zero in on providing data to reinforce the sustainable management of Australia’s tropical rivers and estuaries.

After several months of data collection and dissemination, Katherine says she’ll share her findings locally, with plans to include a visit with the Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group, which represents eight language groups who supervise development plans that could affect the environment and culture of local communities. She also seeks to put her athletic training to good use while in Down Under.

“I also plan to visit local elementary schools to increase awareness and interest in environmental science,” says Katherine, who studied sustainability and animal behavior in Queensland, Australia in the summer of 2011. “To become further involved in the community and share my passion for running, I will volunteer with the Indigenous Marathon Program, which works to train and equip Aboriginal people to run the New York Marathon while promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles.”

Katherine says when she returns from Australia, she’ll enroll in a graduate program for global environmental health. She also plans to intern with the United Nations’ “Water for Life” program in Spain.
“I am interested in how aquatic ecosystems can be managed and developed while ensuring that their ecological and cultural integrity are not compromised,” she says. “My hope is that my research and work will make a meaningful contribution to this effort.”

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