Soil scientist’s ground-breaking work in the Northern Territory

Published in Issue 1 - 2017

Comments are off for this post

Jace Emberg

Jace Emberg

After completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Southern Cross University in 2015, Jace Emberg now works as a soil scientist in the Northern Territory as part of a ground-breaking research team.

The 28-year-old landed a graduate position with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and was last year promoted to land assessment officer, working in some of the most remote – and most beautiful – parts of the country.

“I work in land assessment, where we conduct soil and vegetation surveys of Indigenous land and some areas of farming to see how it is being utilised,” he said.

“We test the soil, map it all out and help the Department come up with the best use for the land.

“It’s awesome work we are doing as there is so much field work in the territory – it is so big and at some of the places we are mapping the soil for the first time. It is some of the most ground-breaking field work in Australia, figuring out what can be grown where.”

Before his team begins any studies, Jace said part of his role was to speak and meet with traditional owners of the land to find out about permits, any sacred lands and to keep in constant contact with local Indigenous groups.

“We do a lot of cross-cultural training and work with traditional owners to see what they can do with their soil,” he said.

The team works anywhere from East Darwin to Arnhem Land and the arid Red Centre, accessing remote locations on planes and helicopters, and has even worked on Troy Dann’s (from the television series Outback Adventures) farm station.

“What I love most about my job is definitely the travel and field work in some of the most remote and beautiful places that most other people won’t ever go to,” he said.

“We recently visited Arnhem Land, near Nhulunbuy and have worked through the central deserts and Victoria River district where the famous Boab trees are – they are amazing to see.”

Jace said he was honoured to work with some of the world’s most senior soil scientists, including Jon Hempel from the United States Department of Agriculture, who now works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Northern Territory.

“He’s one of the head soil scientists from America. Working with him directly and learning from him is amazing as he is very knowledgeable,” he said.

“Everyone I work with is at the top of their field – one of the other people I’ve learnt off the most is my colleague Michael Carnavas who also went through environmental science at Southern Cross University and was my first supervisor.”

After high school Jace spent some time working and travelling, including fly-in work in the mining industry, where he first worked with environmentalists and became interested in studying the science at age 23.

“I had heard Southern Cross University was a really good place to study science, especially environmental science,” he said.

“I don’t mind working remotely and I love the land so that drew me to the course, as I love working with nature and preserving it.”

As an online student Jace lived in Currumbin on the Gold Coast and travelled to Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus to complete his residential classes.

“I enjoyed residentials the most where I was able to get to campus and meet other students in the same situation for our labs and field work,” he said.

“We went on a camp up to the Richmond Ranges and I was also lucky enough to gain a scholarship to travel to Way Kambas national park in Southern Sumatra.”

During his third-year, Jace won the 2015 Lismore City Council Mayoral Prize for an Integrated Project topic relevant to Lismore City Council, worth $500 for a pilot study of site occupancy and detection probability of the koala in the Lismore Local Government Area, under the guidance of Professor Ross Goldingay.

The Gold Coaster is now based in Darwin’s Coconut Grove with his partner Jenna Calabro, who graduated from nursing at Southern Cross University last year and secured a graduate position at Darwin Private Hospital.

Jace said he would one day like to work in a senior role in landscape science, soil vegetation or natural resource management.

Like what you've read?