PhD Student Profile

Maria Then

Murdoch University

My research is focused on soil water repellency and the use of soil sensors to better understand and manage this issue.

I seek to understand how these soil sensors can assess optimal and targeted remediation strategies in sandy soils under dryland cropping systems of Western Australia. My PhD project is part of a Soil CRC-funded project and falls under Program 4 “Integrated soil management solutions”.

PhD Title: “Proximal sensing in soil water repellency management.”

PhD start date: February 2021

Supervisors: Professor Richard Harper, Murdoch University, Associate Professor David Henry, Murdoch University, Dr Craig Lobsey, University of Southern Queensland.

What interested you about this sort of research?
With recent advances in precision agriculture technologies and digital soil mapping, I am interested in the role of spectroscopy to determine a reliable estimate of both the current expression of and future risk of soil water repellency at various scales.

What do you love about soil?
I love that there is a whole other world to explore right beneath our feet, and we wouldn’t be able to sustain life without it.

What do you love about your PhD?
I love the idea that my research is contributing to a real-world issue and working alongside farmers in Western Australia to understand the many soil constraints they face, particularly with the challenges of soil and food security.

How will your PhD help to make a difference for farmers?
My research is aiming to bolster grower profitability and crop yields on repellent soils, particularly in Western Australia’s sandy cropping regions in the Wheatbelt. A new management tool will be developed to guide planning, decision-making and mitigation of soil water repellency remediation.

What do you want to do when you finish your PhD?
Being a scientist, I really get a kick out of discovering, learning, and immersing myself in new ideas. I would like to remain in research, whether in academia, the public or private sector.