Researchers awarded combined $2.67m DECRA funding

Six La Trobe University academics have been awarded a total of $2.67 million to further their research under the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme.

More than a third of La Trobe applications were awarded funding int the latest round, which is the highest of all Victorian universities, and almost double the national average.

The projects include research into the role of microphages in SARS-CoV-2 with the potential for new treatments, sustainable management of water and biodiversity in farmlands, and an analysis of international law to assist countries to better navigate legal, geopolitical and economic change.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds said the achievement was a testament to the high calibre of La Trobe researchers and the exceptional quality of their projects.

"Our high success rate signifies the quality of the researchers’ projects and that proposals clearly identified the significant contributionsthat they offer for their respective fields of expertise and the community,” Professor Dodds said.

“I look forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects in critical areas of law, criminology, biological and environmental sciences.”

Congratulations to the 2024 awardees:

Dr Thanh Kha Phan

SARS-CoV-2-induced dead cell fragments drive viral uptake and inflammation.

This project will apply advanced cell biology and imaging techniques to investigate how macrophages, which lacks a canonical receptor for viral entry, become infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and elicit inflammatory responses. Its insights into a novel pathway of viral entry is expected to advance our understanding of host-pathogen interaction. The project is intended to uncover the role of SARS-CoV-2-induced dead cell fragmentation in promoting viral uptake and inflammation. Its findings should provide significant scientific, health and economic benefits by informing new research directions on infection and innate immunity as well as future therapeutic designs for infection treatment.

Dr Emma Russell

New Bail Regimes: Reconceptualising Risk to Reduce Remand Imprisonment. More than one in three prisoners in Australia are on remand, double that of two decades ago.

This project aims to investigate how risk management in new bail regimes affects accused individuals experiencing social disadvantage. It employs innovative critical criminological methods to generate much-needed knowledge about how criminal justice actors interpret and respond to risk in the bail decision-making process, and 'lived' experiences of bail conditions and remand imprisonment. Expected outcomes include a new framework for conceptualising risk in the context of bail. This should bring significant benefits to policymakers and law reformers seeking to reduce imprisonment and its impacts on disadvantaged groups.

Dr Jenna Crowe-Riddell

Serpent sensory innovation in the evolutionary transition from land to sea

This project aims to investigate the mechanisms underlying sensory adaptation, which underpins the behavioural capacity of animals to adapt to environmental change. This research will harness innovative phenotypic imaging and genomic sequencing, to study the coordinated changes among sensory systems in a range of ecologically diverse snakes. Expected outcomes include a large database of 3D digital anatomical models from Australian and international museum collections, and new knowledge on the genetic processes influencing sensory receptor evolution in vertebrates. The should provide significant benefits for conservation by using sensory adaptability as a framework for estimating potential extinction risk for vulnerable species.

Dr David Deane

Quantifying climate change impacts for wetlands in agricultural landscapes

This project aims to quantify the impacts of changed water availability on wetland biodiversity. Research will focus on high conservation value wetlands in agricultural regions, which face significant climatic risk. Novel integration of biodiversity theory with hydroecological and spatial modelling is expected to generate new understanding of how water availability drives wetland diversity. Intended outcomes include new techniques to model wetland biodiversity, building of international collaborations and enhanced ability to support policy development to ameliorate climate-related wetland impacts. This should promote sustainable management of water and biodiversity in farmlands, benefitting productive capacity and environmental amenity.

Dr Lucille Chapuis

Sensory and bioengineering approaches to predict hearing abilities in fish

This project aims to understand the factors responsible for the extraordinary diversity in the shape and size of fish ears and why some fishes are more sensitive to sound than others, which is little understood. Using innovative techniques and a multidisciplinary approach, expected outcomes of this project include the first model representing the hearing function of fish underwater. This may allow unique insights into the importance of sound for fish, as well as inspire the development of new sensor technologies, including in robotics and biomedical applications. Benefits include the ability to predict the vulnerability of a fish species to noise pollution and to inform conservation strategies and policy guidelines.

Dr Julia Dehm

Resource Struggles and International Law: Navigating Global Transformations

This project will examine how international law both shapes, and is shaped by, struggles over natural resources in periods of global transformation. It aims generate new knowledge about how international law is used by different actors to assert their authority and power over resources and to secure access to natural resources. Expected outcomes include empirical analyses of three key periods of global transformation in the twentieth century and a socio-legal analysis of how international law is shaping struggles over natural resources during the current transition to a net zero world. This should provide significant benefits by assisting countries to better navigate the current legal, geopolitical and economic transformations.


The Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme provides focused research support for early career researchers in both teaching and research, and research-only positions.

Please refer to the 2024 Selection Report for further information.

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