Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

In the Limelight: Dr Ehsan Tavakkoli

Dr Ehsan TavakkoliPosition:

Research Scientist (Soils)

Organisation:

Soils Unit, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Career Brief

Dr Tavakkoli holds a PhD in Agricultural Sciences from The University of Adelaide (2011). Prior to that, he undertook a Master of Science in crop nutrition and soil chemistry from the University of New England and a Bachelor of Science in Soil Science from Ferdowsi University, Iran. After completion of his PhD, Ehsan moved to The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) to take up a joint research-consultancy position focusing on beneficial use of coal seam gas associated water. In July 2011, he made a strategic shift in research direction and returned to Adelaide to commence a postdoctoral position at University of South Australia (UniSA). At UniSA he worked on an ARC discovery project to develop novel techniques for functional characterisation of the fate and behaviour of contaminants (inorganic and organic) as influenced by the interactions with environmental nanoparticles. In 2013, he joined the Waite Research Institute to lead a project funded by DAFF aiming to increase carbon storage in alkaline sodic soils. In 2014, Dr Tavakkoli was appointed as Research Scientist at the Soils Unit (NSW DPI Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute) where he leads projects in soil:plant interactions, nanogeochemistry and soil based constraints to grain crops in farming systems.

Research Activities

Dr Tavakkoli currently leads a significant research program worth over $8 million that includes a range of projects from studies on amelioration of subsoil constraints through to projects which investigate nutrient management, colloidal movement of nutrients and soil nutritional chemistry issues. These projects are funded by GRDC, ARC, the Australian Synchrotron and NSW Department of Primary Industry. He is also involved in the development of various approaches that employ synchrotron techniques in soils which allow highly spatially-resolved in situ analyses to be performed.

Professional Links

Australian Society of Soil Science

International Union of Soil Science

Australian Society of Agronomy

Verterra Ecological Engineering

CSIRO Land & Water (Visiting Senior Research Fellow)

Waite Research Institute (Adjunct Senior Research Fellow)

A typical day for me includes …

The alarm goes off at 6:45 so that I have one hour before having to get out of the door. I usually begin work at 8 am (with a double espresso) and if we have planned field work, sometimes we hit the road at 6 am. After checking emails, I catch up with my staff and assess progress on various projects. I like to meet first thing on Mondays to discuss the priorities for the week. The day would continue with brainstorming coffee catch up with my research colleagues that I have found very useful for leading to potential breakthroughs in research. During my lunch break, I scroll through news and social media and when 6 pm finally rolls around, I head to CSU gym to play indoor soccer with my friends (only three times a week!). Usually, I get home around 7:30pm and after dinner I often work on scientific paper writing or interpretation and analysis of data. And that’s it, a typical workday.

My main project at the moment is …

My current research program is to develop knowledge and techniques that contribute to the advanced management of crop nutrition, soil fertility and subsoil constraints in agriculture that will consequently provide both environmental and economic benefits to agricultural industries. For example my collaborative work on improved management of fertiliser application will enable grain growers to better control input costs and reduce risk exposure through new knowledge on soil test critical values. Another example of my research is on improving crop production in poorly structured soils which is estimated to cost the Australian grains industry $1330 million in lost production annually.

My favourite part of my job is …

The most interesting part of my job is that there is no ‘typical’ day. I wake up genuinely excited to get to work (most days), and rarely two days are the same. My favourite thing about research is exploring the unknown. With research, you almost always never know what is going to be the result. Certainly, there are outcomes that you hope for, but you can never truly know the result until the end. With the unknown, there are no limits and that is what makes research most exciting. I consider myself very fortunate to work in a field that is always changing and growing with new technologies, capabilities and ideas.

When I am not in the office I like …

3-4 times a week I play indoor soccer, I also like cooking and creating new recipes, I love gardening and in the weekends sometimes I go for a long road trip.

When I am driving I like to listen to …

For me, it is a good blend of old, recent, and new music. The Beatles, Celtic Thunder, Coldplay, U2, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Elton John and Bon Jovi are just a few to name…oh and I also love Persian and French accordion music.

 

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