Aboriginal fermentations: Discovering their chemistry and new yeast species

Wine scientists are seeking students to work on multi-disciplinary research projects that aim to discover new yeast species and unravel the chemistry behind Aboriginal fermentations.

Tasmanian Cider gum

Recent reports indicate that Aboriginal people or Torres Strait Islanders practiced fermentations. Few people are aware of this and even less is known about such processes, whether for beverages, food, medicines or other applications has not been defined.

In some cases these processes are no-longer being practiced but re-creations might be possible. In terms of beverages, starting materials around Australia include flowers (Western and South Australia), tree sap (Tasmania) or roasted, ground pandanus nuts (Northern Territory) and palm sap (Torres Strait).

Some tree roots appear also to have been used in SA. We wish to characterise the raw materials and their microbiology, chemistry, nutritional and sensory properties. 

This exciting, multi-disciplinary project is part of a larger collaboration with Aboriginal communities and the AWRI and has already produced a comprehensive profile of the microbiology of cider gums in Tasmania.

This data offers tantalising evidence for the existence of previously unknown yeast (and bacterial) species. This project will target these in particular.

Image: Scientists collect sap from the Tasmanian cider gum, Eucalyptus gunnii, in Tasmania's Central Plateau Conservation Area.

Key questions

  • Which yeast are present?
  • Are they new species or distinct strains of known species?
  • How are they adapted to this unique environment?
  • What attributes help them conduct fermentation and what does the finished product taste like? 

The ideal candidate will have microbiology or chemistry skills, good record keeping and interpersonal skills. The position would be suited to Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science (Advanced), Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology or similar student, who is able to participate in field work.

If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact Professor Vladimir Jiranek to discuss. It is possible this position may be supported by a scholarship through the Playford Trust.


Vladimir Jiranek researcher photo


Professor Vladimir Jiranek

Co-supervisor: Dr Joanna Sundstrom

Research area: Wine science
School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Wine Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Wine science, Honours projects - Food and Nutrition Science, Honours projects - Ecology and environmental science, Honours projects - Vladimir Jiranek, Honours projects - Joanna Sundstrom