2019 Research Projects

Semester 2, 2019

Size (pts)

Description

Contact

Office of Environmental Programs

12.5

Past higher sea levels in Victoria.

Climate change will push sea levels over a metre higher than present, yet we know little of where sea level has been in the past. This project will review the literature on past sea levels, focussing on the mid Holocene (c. 5000 years ago) when sea level was up to 2m higher than present.

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

12.5

Vehicles on beaches.

Recreational driving is a common practice on many beaches. This project will review the physical and biological impacts of vehicle use on beach systems

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

12.5

Climate change impacts on beach flora

Increased erosion is an expected impact of climate change on the Victorian coast, yet the impacts on beach flora are poorly understood. This project will review current understanding on beach habitats, from a (i) bird, (ii) invertebrate, and (3) turtle/seal perspective.

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

The Victorian Coastal Monitoring Program (https://www.coastsandmarine.vic.gov.au/coastal-programs/victorian-coastal-monitoring-program) is an innovative citizen-science project aiming to ensure the resilience of our coast to climate change and focusses on understanding the dynamics of our local beaches. For students with GIS skills many opportunities exist for the analysis of storm dynamics through collecting and analysing drone data.

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

The Victorian Coastal Monitoring Program (https://www.coastsandmarine.vic.gov.au/coastal-programs/victorian-coastal-monitoring-program) is an innovative citizen-science project aiming to ensure the resilience of our coast to climate change. Citizen-scientists will fly drones to collect high-end scientific data & this project will focus on the social science aspects of citizen science, how this informs knowledge & policy, and the fundamental importance of engagement in climate change policy.

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

&

Dr Stephanie Lavau

stephanie.lavau@unimelb.edu.au

50 or 25

Estuaries are a major social & economic natural resource, yet little is known of their physical dimensions. This project will use LiDAR (aerial laser) data to map the size and composition of Victorian estuaries in order to improve coastal management.

A/Prof David Kennedy

davidmk@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50 (year-long project preferred)

The geography of equity in community renewable energy

Interest is growing in the opportunities for community investment in renewable energy initiatives. This might mean cooperative bulk-buying of green energy, or investment in a new small-scale generation facility, or partnership agreements with developers. It appears likely that the ability to participate in these types of investment will not be equally available to all community members in rural and remote areas. This project will examine existing community renewable initiatives globally to map their characteristics through the lens of economic geography, in order to consider equity aspects of these types of projects.

Dr Sebastian Thomas

sebastian.thomas@unimelb.edu.au

50 (year-long project preferred)

Plastic to production: founding a community livelihood program using marine plastics to create new merchandise

Marine plastic is a serious problem for Pacific Island communities. The objective of this project is to work with a local community in the Pacific to collaboratively develop a feasibility study and business plan for collecting plastic waste and using it to create new livelihood opportunities. Necessary skills will include some understanding of materials science, and/or financial modelling skills. Training or expertise in social research methods and/or awareness of Pacific cultures will be a strong advantage. The project is likely to involve international field work and potentially long-term connections. It would be possible for two students to work on this in parallel.

Dr Sebastian Thomas

sebastian.thomas@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50 (year-long projects preferred)

Community energy, carbon markets, climate risk, and ecosystem-based adaptation

Students with interests in sustainability governance, climate risk and resilience, integrative science, and transition studies are welcome to discuss project opportunities. Our research integrates diverse disciplinary perspectives and skills, from spatial ecology and techno-economic modelling to political ecology and environmental history. The research group is particularly interested in how local communities and industry organisations engage with wider policy and market mechanisms to achieve their sustainability aspirations, within the larger context of climate change resilience, adaptation, and societal transition.

Dr Sebastian Thomas

sebastian.thomas@unimelb.edu.au

School of Forestry & Ecosystem Science

25 or 50

Urbanisation as a driver of plant evolution

Cities contain novel, specialised environments, and urban floras are consistently subject to a unique set of selection pressures, that are likely to act as an evolutionary driver of plant functional trait diversity and speciation by natural selection. The student will work with Assoc Prof Nicholas Williams, Dr Amy Hahs (BioSciences honourary) and Dr Myla Aronson from Rutgers University USA, who will be visiting Melbourne for 6 weeks in mid 2019, to examine how urbanization acts as a mechanism for phenotypic selection on plant species.  Using protocols developed for a companion study in New York, the student will help collect plant trait data from the field and herbarium collections to examine the selection on plant traits over time (comparing herbarium and contemporary samples) and in space (comparing along urbanisation gradients).  This will be done by quantifying selected traits of 3-5 widely distributed naturalised herbaceous plants found in Melbourne and most cities across the world. The project would suit a student with some plant ecology or plant systematics experience.

A/Prof Nicholas Williams

nsw@unimelb.edu.au

Dr Amy Hahs

hahsa@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Do trees influence well-being? Most of the evidence on how trees provide social benefits is correlational and focused on abundance, i.e., associations between the amount of greenspace and canopy-cover of a neighbourhood and the neighbourhood’s well-being. But this is not enough to understand the underlying mechanisms of how trees in cities influences wellbeing: it assumes that contact with trees occurs; and it is not precise enough to understand the effect of tree absence, i.e., how does wellbeing decrease with less trees. A multidisciplinary team of researchers is collecting data on this topic using selected experimental sites across Greater Melbourne. Students with interest in connecting social and ecological issues (i.e., socio-ecological systems), interest and skills in survey design and delivery, data analysis, and GIS, will have the opportunity to participate in this exciting and innovative project with other ecologists and social scientists working in close partnership with municipalities

Camilo Ordóñez

camilo.ordonez@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Community values, attitudes, and benefits associated with urban forests and trees. Urban forests are receiving a lot of attention across the Melbourne region and beyond. Many city councils have aggressive tree planting plans. The success of this agenda requires an understanding of residents’ views: without their engagement and support, the agenda may fail. While a lot has been said about the positive attitudes people have towards urban teres (i.e., whether they like trees or not) and the benefits they associate with them (i.e., shade and providing clean air), we still do not understand the underlying structure linking these: how do values lead to attitudes and associated benefits? What variations exist according to area of the city and demographics? A multidisciplinary team of researchers is collecting data on this topic using community surveys across Greater Melbourne. Students with interest in connecting social and ecological issues (i.e., socio-ecological systems), interest and skills in survey design and delivery, and data analysis, will have the opportunity to participate in this exciting and innovative project with other ecologists and social scientists working in close partnership with municipalities

Camilo Ordóñez

camilo.ordonez@unimelb.edu.au

12.5/25/50

Literature reviews to support development of the Urban InVEST software (12.5, 25, or 50 point projects) The InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs) software aims to quantify and map the value of ecosystem services to support decision-making. The Natural Capital Project (https://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/) is currently expanding the suite of services included in the software, a project termed ‘Urban InVEST’, to support ecosystem services assessments in urban environment. The project is led by Stanford University, with UoM as an active collaborator. This project will review the literature to support the development of Urban InVEST software. Possible topics for review include: urban carbon pools, the cooling capacity of urban parks, and valuation of urban heat mitigation.

Dr Matthew Burns matthew.burns@unimelb.edu.au

or

Dr Perrine Hamel perrine.hamel@stanford.edu

25 or 50

Urban flooding is a major problem in many cities. Assessment of urban flooding is challenging because conventional flood models are computationally intensive. However recently, the University of Exeter has developed CADDIES—a rapid flood modelling tool. Flooding can be modelled in CADDIES in a fraction of the time it takes conventional models. This research aims to apply CADDIES to the San Francisco Bay Area, working in collaboration with Stanford University along with Exeter. The project will then see if model inputs and outputs align with the InVEST framework—modelling tools being developed out of Stanford as part of the Natural Capital Project (https://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/). The student will be part of the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group (https://thewerg.org/). The student will need strong analytical skills. Programming skills would be highly desirable.

Dr Matthew Burns matthew.burns@unimelb.edu.au

or

Dr Perrine Hamel perrine.hamel@stanford.edu

12.5, 25, or 50

Urban stormwater runoff is a greatly under-utilised water resource globally. And use of stormwater is central to the protection or restoration of urban streams and waterways. This project will review global datasets on climatic data, land-use data and streamflow—the sort of input data required to permit a global analysis of the stormwater problem. There is scope also to validate the global datasets to local information.

Dr Matthew Burns matthew.burns@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Making rivers great again! Assessing the potential of environmental flows to restore native plant communities

In partnership with the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, we are seeking student/s to investigate the potential for environmental flows to restore native riparian vegetation. Many of Australia’s rivers are degraded due to water extraction, flow regulation and other anthropogenic pressures. Increasingly, water is being returned to rivers as “environmental flows” to improve their health, including the restoration of native vegetation. Better knowledge of the relationships between river flows and riparian vegetation dynamics is required to best target environmental flows. To inform Victoria’s Environmental Flows Monitoring and Assessment Program, we are seeking student/s for a range of projects investigating vegetation flow-ecology relationships via a combination of nursery and field-based experiments, and/or interrogation of a large existing dataset. These projects would be jointly supported by the Arthur Rylah Institute and The University of Melbourne.

Joe Greet greetj@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

No eye deer? Developing revegetation techniques to outsmart introduced deer in Australia.

Introduced deer species cause considerable damage to native vegetation. And attempts to restore through revegetation are often hampered by deer. Furthermore, fencing may affect native fauna. Next year, Parks Victoria will be fencing a large floodplain area of the Macclesfield Creek to protect 100,000s of recent plantings that are deer-affected. The resulting recovery of the plantings is uncertain. There are also a number of smaller fenced plots set up to trial different fencing setups to exclude deer, but facilitate movement of native fauna. The effectiveness of these fences and implications for revegetation is required. This project provides an opportunity to work with Parks Victoria staff and local community groups to improve revegetation outcomes in the face of severe browsing pressure from deer.

Joe Greet greetj@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Saving our critically endangered fauna one planting at a time?

Revegetation is a common approach to restoring habitat for our native fauna. However, plantings and vegetation trajectories are often compromised such that the resulting vegetation community may not provide appropriate habitat. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent (and will likely be spent) revegetating Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in the Yarra Valley to provide habitat for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater and lowland Leadbeater’s Possum. A range of factors affect the success of these plantings, including weed control (or lack of), protection (or lack of) from browsers (deer, wallabies) and other environmental factors (shade, flooding, etc.). There are a range of potential projects to assess the effectiveness of revegetation efforts at Yellingbo that could contribute knowledge to aiding the preservation of these species.

Joe Greet greetj@unimelb.edu.au

50

Leaf breakdown is a critical ecosystem process in freshwater systems; influencing the availability of organic matter to higher trophic levels and influencing food web structure. Published research suggests that urbanisation increases the microbial driven breakdown of labile leaf litter. However, recent experiments in local Melbourne streams suggest this impact model might be more complicated than first thought.  This project will investigate the impacts of urbanisation on leaf litter breakdown; how you measure it and how you interpret it. This will be achieved through assessing decomposition using a variety of methods including differing; shapes of mesh exclusion bags, leaf species and substrate types.

Dr Samantha Imberger

samantha.imberger@unimelb.edu.au

50 (year long)

Assessing plant sensitivity to drought by examining anatomical traits

This project will examine the xylem anatomy of nine species of eucalypts within three groups: those that are sensitive to drought, those that are drought-tolerant and those which inhabit mesic environments. What are the differences in pit membrane structure of the plants? Is there a link between the thickness of pit membranes and the ability to withstand drought? The student will collect eucalypt stems and examine them under the Transmission Electron Microscope. Measurements of pit membrane thickness will be calculated and statistical analysis will reveal whether there are any significant differences between the species. This project is suited to a student with an interest in xylem anatomy and an eye for detail.

Dr Virginia Williamson

vgw@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Unravelling belowground diversity of green roofs.

Most plants used in green roofs have mycorrhizal symbiotic associations when grown in native conditions. This research will investigate the impact, abundance and diversity of these associations when these plants are grown on green roof soils. The student will be part of a multidisciplinary team working on urban ecology and plant soil interactions.

Dr Cristina Aponte

caponte@unimelb.edu.au

&

Dr Claire Farrell

c.farrell@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Home and away: Habitat‐specific positive and negative effects of soil biota on seedling growth.

Soil biota, in particular fungi and other microbes, are known to interactively influence plant community structure. This project will use a greenhouse experiment to compare the growth of several Eucalypt species naturally growing along a climate gradient with soil from home (where species typically occur) and away (where conspecific adults rarely occur) habitats. The results will inform on the advantages and disadvantages that species face when growing home and away and the implications that these effects have for species migration.

Dr Cristina Aponte

caponte@unimelb.edu.au

&

Dr Sabine Kasel

skasel@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Effect of elevated CO2 on soil microbial communities.

Sustained elevated CO2 has significant impacts on plant performance and plant root exudations. This can, in turn, affect soil biota that rely on plant root secretions. This project will use a glasshouse experiment to investigate the effect of long term exposure to elevated C02 on soil microbial communities.

Dr Cristina Aponte

caponte@unimelb.edu.au

12.5 or 25 or 50

Soil ecology in the urban environment.

Interest in urban ecosystems has grown exponentially in the past decade. However belowground ecology in these systems remains largely unexplored. This project will review the literature on belowground ecology of urban ecosystems (12.5 points) and will explore diversity and interactions with aboveground vegetation across a range of urban environments (e.g. green roofs, community gardens, parks and reservoirs) (25-50 points).

Dr Cristina Aponte

caponte@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Direct and indirect effects of fires on forest diversity.

Fire is a common disturbance agent in Australia. Many studies have evaluated the direct impact of different fire regimes on faunal diversity and abundance. However it is

more likely that fauna will respond to fire-driven changes in their habitat (i.e. indirect fire effects) than to the fire event itself. Despite this fact, few studies have attempted to quantify the relative importance of both direct and indirect effects of prescribed fire on faunal community composition. This study will jointly analyse fire-driven changes in forest structure and fauna to identify the key factors driving

changes in fauna composition.

Dr Cristina Aponte

caponte@unimelb.edu.au

Melbourne School of Design

25 or 50

PlaceAgency is a collaborative project focused on the theory and practice of placemaking and its various strategies. The project aims to build capacity, test theory, experiment with processes and identify methods to evaluate placemaking decisions in order to create vibrant, citizen engaged public spaces and ultimately, better cities. A consortium will co-create a comprehensive suite of placemaking modules and deliver 4-6 ‘sandbox studios’ per university where students engage with, design and/or build real-world placemaking interventions. A yearly summit will showcase best practice examples, student’s studio outcomes, evaluation methods and build procurer’s capacity on placemaking theory and practice. The PlaceAgency Consortium includes 5 universities (Adelaide University, Curtin University, The University of Melbourne, The University of Queensland and University of Technology of Sydney) and 16 practitioners and counts with support from 26 placemaking procurers. Activities conducted by the consortium as part of this project are funded by Myer Foundation.

Within the Place Agency program: Case Study Analysis

Over November-Dec 2017, the Place Agency Consortium engaged with the 26 placemaking procurers in an opinion gathering survey to identify their perspectives on placemaking, the opportunities and barriers they face and the processes they follow. The information was compiled through an online survey where with relatively brief answers. The procurers were also provided an opportunity to nominate what they consider to be

'best-practice' case studies. While we have the survey responses, there is need to conduct analysis of these responses to identify the common barriers and to select the nominated case studies into developing a critical case study analysis which answers? What do these nominated cases have in common?

Cris Hernández hernandezc@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Potential based innovation

The main intention of this research is to answer the question: ‘how does a project aimed at building from potential, rather than problem based thinking, impact innovation?’. The source of data is a research is the Seacombe west project and 40 hours of video footage of the workshops had with community, government, industry, researchers and designers. Ethics has already been received for this project. Seacombe west is a proposed 700 ha development in Victoria, based on regenerative design principles, it used the LENSES framework to develop the process of collecting information on the potential of site and then drive the masterplan process. The student will develop the process to analyse the footage, then apply this to the footage and develop a paper that uses the analysis to talk about the potential of this approach. The paper will be presented at a conference in December in Sydney. Literature review will be based on three streams – innovation thinking, regenerative development and film footage analysis.

Dr Dominque Hes

dhes@unimelb.edu.au

12.5 or 25

CoDesign Studio is a not-for-profit placemaking consultancy in Melbourne, Australia. From 2015-2018 we conducted The Neighbourhood Project: two rounds of research to develop, test, refine and scale a pilot program for effective community-led placemaking in Australia.

Measured on our five pillars of success, including our three impact measures (People, Process and Place), we worked with Councils and Communities to break down barriers and catalyse change to find a lean, scalable, and effective model for Australia.

We are seeking a researcher to develop a publishable research article; including description of the methodology, data collation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, evaluation of key findings and critical thinking, in readiness for accurate reporting and to maximise the learnings to be gleaned.

You will be working on 5-10 case studies with an aim of a peer reviewed publication, conference or journal.

Dr Dominque Hes

dhes@unimelb.edu.au

and

Derlie Mateo-Babiano from Co-Design

12.5 or 25

This research project will explore how cross-cultural knowledge systems can deliver new approaches to regenerative development, including understanding how Indigenous perspectives of place and kinship can offer new approaches to our global-local environmental challenges. By immersing themselves in New Zealand's Tūhoe tribal culture (as part of travelling studio - Summer intensive), students will have the opportunity to interrogate political processes and internalisations of colonialist mindsets and ‘norms’ for the co-creation of our thriving future.

Dr Tanja Beer

beert@unimelb.edu.au

School of BioSciences

12.5 or 25

EstuaryWatch is a citizen science program that monitors the heath of 18 estuaries along the coast of Victoria (http://www.estuarywatch.org.au/). This project will use the publicly available data collected by EstuaryWatch to analyse long-term trends and identify changes in the state or condition of Victorian estuaries. The project would suit students with backgrounds in a marine science or  ecology and statistics.

Dr Allyson O’Brien

allyson@unimelb.edu.au

12.5

Built infrastructure is a key threat to urban estuaries around the world. However, we know little about what impacts it has on ecosystem functioning. This is partly due to how we define the threat but also due to the diverse range of recorded impacts. This project will review what we know on this topic and use a systematic literature approach to identify the generalized impacts and knowledge gaps.

Dr Allyson O’Brien

allyson@unimelb.edu.au

12.5 or 25

Assessing the success of ecological restoration projects is critical to justify the resources used and to improve best practice. Although there are extensive discussions surrounding the characteristics that define and measure successful restoration, details about the environmental characteristics that result in the successful establishment of a particular species have not been well quantified. In this project we will use a systematic review to assess the conditions that lead to the successful establishment of marine habitats in natural and restored systems. This project will review what we know on this topic and use a systematic literature approach to identify the important variables that determine success and knowledge gaps.

Dr Beth Strain

beth.strain@unimelb.edu.au

12.5 or 25

For restoration to be successful, the habitat created needs to persist through time. There are a variety of both natural and human-induced disturbances that can impact the resilience and recovery of a habitat. Assessing how different habitats respond to those disturbances is essential information to predict the success of restoration projects through time. In this project we will use a systematic review to assess the response of marine habitats to a number of different disturbances. This project will provide information to scientists and managers on how to increase the resilience of restored marine habitats and identify knowledge gaps.

Dr Beth Strain

beth.strain@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Improving predictions of fish population responses to stream flow. Flow is often viewed as a ‘master variable’ that underpins the abundance and diversity of many aquatic species. However, it is unclear which metrics of stream flow are best-suited to predicting fish population dynamics. In collaboration with researchers at the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, this project will identify and calculate different components of flow on several timeframes, and will use existing data to examine how these flow components affect fish populations in south-eastern Australia.

Dr Jian Yen

jian.yen@unimelb.edu.au

Zeb Tonkin (Arthur Rylah Institute)

25 or 50

Economic trade influences most aspects of our lives: how much we pay for milk, where our clothes are made, what’s in the supermarket, how much we get paid. Trade also has a profound effect on nature and biodiversity through its influence on commodity demand, land-based production and the impact of land use on biodiversity. This project links the changes in commodity demands to the spatial distributions of biodiversity through the use of species distribution modelling. Depending on the interest of the student, this project could focus on developing species distribution models for specific taxa and their response to global or regional trade-related decisions (e.g. free trade agreements), or on specific species’ responses to changes in demand for a particular commodity (e.g. coffee). Note that this project will not involve fieldwork.

Payal Bal

payal.bal@unimelb.edu.au

School of Agriculture and Food

25 or 50

Alternative Proteins and Future Foods Project

This is an opportunity to contribute to a 3-year inter-disciplinary and inter-Faculty research project on Future Foods and Alternative Proteins, that is one of the University’s Hallmark Initiatives. Alternative protein sources include lab-grown or cellular meat; plant-based proteins; and insects; often with the aim to replace or reduce the reliance of animal-based proteins, such as meat. One theme of this project is to examine the drivers of demand for alternative protein sources. This includes environmental drivers, nutrition and health drivers, animal welfare drivers, and commercial/corporate drivers. Students who have taken one of the graduate food politics and policy, and/or are interested in analysing an aspect of the environmental and political debates on these themes, are welcome to get in touch.

Dr Gyorgy Scrinis

gyorgys@unimelb.edu.au

25 or 50

Topics in Food Sustainability, Politics & Policy

Students with an interest in sustainable food systems, and who may have taken one of the graduate subjects in food politics and policy, are welcome to discuss possible projects on these themes. Possible topics include livestock and livestock alternatives, food labelling and certification schemes, and corporate sustainability policies.

Dr Gyorgy Scrinis

gyorgys@unimelb.edu.au