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Leading soil scientist returns to his research roots

UWA School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Nanthi Bolan with students landscape

One of the world’s leading soil scientists Professor Nanthi Bolan has returned to his roots with a full-time teaching and research role at The University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture.

Professor Bolan began his research career at UWA in 1991 when he completed his PhD under the supervision of former UWA Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Professor Alan Robson, Emeritus Professor Lynette Abbott and Chief Research Scientist Dr Jim Barrow from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“That experience was the ‘stepping stone’ for what has become an illustrious career in soil science with a particular emphasis on soil health and fertility,” Professor Bolan said.

“I am excited to join such a world-class team in agricultural and environmental sciences at UWA.

“With my experience in teaching and research in both agricultural and environmental sciences, I believe we can build a greater nexus between these two fields of research and teaching.”

Head of the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment Associate Professor James Fogarty said Professor Bolan’s passion for both teaching and research was clear during the interview process.

“He will be a fantastic asset for the university,” Professor Fogarty said.

As one of the program leaders of Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) with an outstanding high-citation index, Professor Bolan has always been passionate about soil.

“It was a case of ‘right background, right people’ for me as I came from a farming background and graduated from UWA,” he said.

“To quote Leonardo Da Vinci: ‘We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil under feet’.

“With continued decline in the land area available for cultivation, food security can be achieved only by safeguarding soil health through sustainable management practices. I am proud that our research team has been able to identify the causes for the decline in soil health, and developed innovative methods to improve soil health to achieve food security.”

In addition to his senior roles at Massey University of New Zealand, The University of South Australia (UniSA) and most recently The University of Newcastle, Professor Bolan is serving as a member of the ARC College of Experts and has initiated and fostered collaborations with industry and research institutions both nationally and internationally.

While keen to continue his current research into soil carbon sequestration and storage at UWA, Professor Bolan said he was also looking forward to his greatest passion: teaching and research supervision.

“I enjoy face-to-face teaching with hands-on laboratory and workshop sessions, which provides greater engagement with students,” he said. “Personally I believe that first-year teaching experience is very critical to reduce the student attrition levels and enhance their commitment and passion.

“I have supervised a large number of Honours, Masters and PhD students, and also served as the Dean of Graduate Studies at UniSA. I would like to continue supervising PhD students and mentoring early- career researchers at UWA.”

The UWA Institute of Agriculture Director Professor Kadambot Siddique said Professor Bolan’s appointment would enhance UWA’s teaching and research in soil science.

“Professor Bolan is a highly cited researcher and this will further strengthen UWA’s global reputation and ranking,” Professor Siddique said.

Agriculture Science at UWA was recently ranked number one in Australia and 16th in the world in the 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Source: UWA