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National Environmental Science Program
November 2021 update
Welcome to the latest update from the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). During National Recycling Week we celebrated Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub Leader Prof. Veena Sahajwalla being named as 2022 New South Wales Australian of the Year, as well as the hub’s collaboration with the UNSW SMaRT Centre and Shoalhaven Council to develop a MICROfactorie.
It has been a busy few months for NESP, developing research plans and kicking off co-design with research-users through the hubs’ scoping projects. The new departmental website captures the highlights of the 2021 research plans, as well as broader program information, such as our Indigenous partnership principles and data management guidelines.
Read on to glean how each hub’s research is shaping up.
New collaboration to benefit councils wanting to embrace waste and recycling innovation
Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub Leader Prof. Veena Sahajwalla recently joined Environment Minister Sussan Ley to visit the West Nowra Waste and Recycling Depot. Shoalhaven City Council is building a new waste-to-product MICROfactorie at the depot, in partnership with the University of NSW (UNSW) Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, and supported through the national Recycling Modernisation Fund.
The MICROfactorie will be the first local government facility of its kind in Australia to recycle local waste such as mattresses and glass into green ceramics. The green ceramics produced there will be used as kitchen benches, tabletops, tiles, furnishings and other applications in council construction projects in the Shoalhaven and Illawarra. The project’s findings will be captured by the hub to share with other councils adopting innovative recycling technologies.
Recovering materials from waste has a big role to play as the world moves towards a sustainable future and reduced carbon footprint. Many of the materials needed are finite in supply, so using techniques to reform waste into value-added materials means Australia can also build its sovereign manufacturing capability. Waste is a resource with economic and social benefits. The hub is seizing the opportunity to amplify many learnings for the benefit of communities while creating environmental benefits.
Providing practical solutions to environmental problems
The Resilient Landscapes Hub has launched its website and first research plan. The hub is taking a user-driven, solutions-focused approach to developing and implementing its research program. Projects are being co-designed with a broad range of research-users and will be delivered by key researchers from the hub’s national research-provider network. Research plan 2021 is building the foundation for the life of the hub by investing in projects to support the scoping, planning and co-design of priority research. This first research plan is focusing on themes that include:
- solutions science for resilient landscapes
- strengthening resilience to threatening processes and extreme events
- restoring and recovering landscape resilience
- socio-economic insights for resilient landscapes
- monitoring resilient landscapes
- Indigenous knowledge and managing the Indigenous estate
- cross-cutting mission research with a focus on threatened and migratory species and threatened ecological communities.
The website also contains all the research outputs and project information from previous research programs, including the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub from the first phase of NESP. The hub’s social channels are also up and running so get in touch, follow the hub on social media and sign up for the newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Improving environmental, cultural, social and economic outcomes for marine and coastal Australia
The Marine and Coastal Hub – managed jointly by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre and University of Tasmania – is a collaborative program involving 28 of Australia’s leading research institutions. The hub's 2021 research plan has 32 projects designed to help improve environmental, cultural, social and economic outcomes across Australia’s marine and coastal regions.
National-scale scoping projects are reviewing research needs for:
- threatened species and communities
- coastal shorebirds
- Indigenous participation
- new marine monitoring techniques
- seabed mapping
- understanding socio-economic values.
Much of the hub’s future research investment will build on these projects, which aim to generate shared understanding about knowledge gaps and priorities for research-users.
Regional projects fostered by the hub include gathering knowledge of Southern Right Whales and sawfishes, and regional planning in northern Australia. Local projects include research on seagrass declines in Torres Strait and Gulf of Carpentaria, and conserving Spotted Handfish and Giant Kelp in eastern Tasmania. We’re also leading the program’s Protected place management cross-cutting mission. See the hub’s interim website for more about its projects, people and strategies for communication, knowledge brokering, Indigenous partnerships and data management.
Co-designing climate research
Building on the work of the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub from the first phase of NESP, the Climate Systems Hub has been busy developing its co-design approach. Through conversations with key research-users, the hub is shaping its research program.
Co-designed research is well worth the time investment because it results in projects that are better able to meet the needs of those who use the research. This ensures that the hub can deliver tailored answers to the pressing questions of Australian decision-makers and communities.
The hub consulted with more than 40 stakeholders from 15 different groups, who provided hundreds of questions, comments and insights to the hub’s knowledge brokering team. This information was then shared with dozens of hub scientists and stakeholders across Australia, who broke it down into 5 priority themes:
- accessible and usable
- land and terrestrial ecosystems
- oceans and coast
- people and Country
- monitoring and modelling.
These themes will guide the hub’s research into the future. Working groups are currently using these themes to co-plan before the work continues to co-design future research plans. This will ensure the hub’s research answers some of the most pressing questions about the climate. Read more about the hub’s co-design process on its new website.
Keep up to date
Stay in touch and find out more about the interesting work happening across the Australian Government’s agriculture, water and environment portfolios: