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'Eggcellent' research puts Australian scientist on the 2020 Stockholm Junior Water Prize shortlist

A young Australian scientist has been shortlisted for the internationally acclaimed Stockholm Junior Water Prize for the second year running.

After being announced as the Australian winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize in May, Emma Serisier from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, was shortlisted for the global award for her impressive ‘Crack for the Future’ research project, which included the design and implementation of an agricultural run-off mediation strategy using eggshell. 

“Very simply, my research, Crack for the Future, shows that the redirection of eggshell from landfill to soil can attract and soak up phosphates from fertilisers and manures and retain them in the soil, that would otherwise run off and pollute waterways,” Serisier said. 

She designed the project to address eutrophication in natural waterways caused by phosphate run-off, a by-product of agricultural fertilisers and animal waste.  

Emma Serisier.

The project aimed to offset these issues by examining the effectiveness of eggshell in decreasing the orthophosphate concentration in aqueous solutions, including directly applying the material to run-off areas as adsorbents and soil conditioners. 

Using biowaste products such as eggshell is highly undervalued and under-utilised, Serisier said, with her research suggesting economic and environmental benefits. 

“I envision a more sustainable future and hope to inspire others like me to create and implement local solutions for global problems. History has shown that global change is achieved through action on a local scale,” she said.

“Many young people talk about climate change and what needs to be done. Through my life experiences and resulting research I have demonstrated that rural young people actually implement actions to slow it down and make our future world sustainable. 

“Rural ambassadors need to be given the platforms, education and forums to tell their stories and develop their ideas. They are the key to future action.”

For the first time, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize is being complemented by a People’s Choice Award, with voting open until 10 August.

Australian Water Association (AWA) CEO Corinne Cheeseman congratulated Serisier on being shortlisted for the prize and encouraged the water sector to support the bright young science star. 

“We’re extremely proud to get behind Emma and support her on this exciting journey,” Cheeseman said. 

Rising stars of STEM

Serisier’s achievement echoes the 2019 success of Macinley Butson, the first Australian to win the coveted international prize, and Cheeseman said the continued recognition of young Australian scientists was a positive sign for the country’s water future. 

Macinley Butson (right) with HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. (Image: Jonas Borg.)

“The AWA, and the global and Australian competition sponsor Xylem, has been proud to run and support the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for many years, a prize which recognises students for their innovative water-related projects,” Cheeseman said. 

“Emma follows in the footsteps of many clever young water scientists. With Australia winning the 2019 competition, Emma’s entry this year continues to showcase Australia’s excellence in water science on an international stage.”

Xylem Water Solutions Managing Director Oceania Jim Athanas said the organisation was proud to be a long-term supporter of the competition.

"As a founding global sponsor for more than 20 years, Xylem is extremely proud to be involved with the Stockholm Junior Water Prize and the subsequent development of the next generation of water professionals," he said.

"We would like to wish Emma the very best of luck and congratulate her on being the 2020 Australian representative in the international finals."

NSW Science Teachers Association President Margaret Shepherd said Serisier was a role model for all young Australians interested in STEM.

“Emma is a rising star of science in Australia and a role model for young emerging scientists across the country, especially in rural areas,” Shepherd said.  

“Show your support for Emma by voting in the People’s Choice Awards. Every vote promotes the hidden talent in every student to solve the world’s problems through science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

With this year's Australian winner well on her way, the 2021 Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition, run by AWA, will launch shortly. If you know a science teacher or a high school student with an interest in science, make sure you tell them about this unique competition.

Vote for Emma in the People's Choice Awards here.