Prestigious fellowship to help researchers improve the resilience of rehabilitated ecosystems

7 May 2024
Dr Fang You with Queensland Chief Scientist Professor Kerrie Wilson at the Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship awards ceremony. 

Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) researcher Dr Fang You will use super-powered microbes to overcome a fundamental hurdle facing mine waste rehabilitation after being awarded a 2023 Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship.

With funding from the Fellowship, Dr You will develop biotechnology that uses specialised microbes to achieve in situ fertiliser production and then undertake field-scale trials to demonstrate they can sustain nutrient supply in soil ‘eco-engineered’ from mine waste.

Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships support researchers partnering with industry on innovative research and applications that will advance technology and boost employment in the state.

Dr You, who is part of the Ecological Engineering in Mining Group at SMI’s Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR), said the research could contribute to cost-effective fertility management and plant ecosystem sustainability.

“Fertility management is a critical, but costly, part of plant ecosystem sustainability during mined land rehabilitation,” Dr You said.

“However, the collaborative relationship between microbes and plants in native Australian woodland makes it possible to establish a natural supply of nutrients in soils eco-engineered from mining waste.

“We will take advantage of that and use powerful microbes to produce and sustain nutrients in the soil instead of fertilisers, potentially providing companies with a natural process that is both cheaper and more compatible with native plants.

“The biotechnology we are developing and testing focuses on activating and bolstering the nitrogen-producing microbial consortium and its field deployable application package – it is essentially a reliable, economical recipe that creates the right conditions to improve biological nutrient supply performance in a field setting.

“This technology will support long-term fertility management in mine waste rehabilitation and could be tailored for different types of waste, climatic and plant ecosystems.

“We want to test it as many different sites and with as many different types of mine waste as possible, so I encourage you to contact us if that is an opportunity that interests you.” 

Dr You’s research is one part of the Ecological Engineering in Mining Group’s wider work into transforming mine waste, such as bauxite waste, into soil-like material capable of hosting plant life.

Group leader Professor Longbin Huang said Fang is an emerging leader in the field of tailings rehabilitation, which is critical to advancing industry-impacting R&D.

“This fellowship is an excellent recognition of Fang’s emerging leadership in the research field,” Professor Huang said.  

“With advanced molecular technology, Fang will advance the knowledge and methodology to sustain the productivity of rehabilitated ecosystems.

 “The expected outcomes will be critical to addressing the sustainability of rehabilitated ecosystems.”

If you are interested in collaborating with Dr You, you can contact her at