Student designs help for coral reefs

26 Jun 2024

Some might think The Australian National University (ANU) School of Art and Design (SoAD) may not have a huge role to play in the fight against climate change, but Beth O’Sullivan, a student at ANU School of Art and Design, is proving that design can play a crucial part in saving our magnificent coral reefs.

John (PhD ‘75) and Elizabeth Baker established the annual John and Elizabeth Baker Honours Scholarship in 2022, to support an Honours student in any discipline at the ANU School of Art and Design.

In 2023, Beth was the inaugural recipient of this scholarship, which she has used to support and continue her Honours research, including further tests, development, and analysis.

Beth, who has a degree in science where she majored in ecology and specialised in genetics, chose to pursue her research through the Design Honours program, because it gave her the opportunity to experiment and explore freely, taking advantage of design methodologies and applying them to scientific, ecological and sustainable scenarios.

Beth is looking for an environmentally friendly solution to coral reef restoration practices that often use potentially damaging concrete. She has researched and developed a new low CO2 emission biomaterial that has the potential to be used as a settlement substrate for small-scale localised reef restoration and recovery.

“The world recognises the urgency to preserve and protect the reefs, which led me to research and develop a calcium carbonate-based biomaterial that has a lower carbon footprint than concrete and other materials currently available to industry,” says Beth.

Beth is now pursuing a PhD in Arts and Social Sciences at ANU. Her work, like much of the incredible advances and life-changing research that takes place at ANU, would not have been possible without the University’s generous donor community.

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