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Living Environmental Change

Physical environments, the designation of ‘environmental problems’, and the forms and logics of social, policy and management responses, are ever-changing. The complex interrelation of socio-cultural, economic, ethical, and political dimensions of environmental and natural resource issues has rendered the question of how we navigate changing environments more complex and vexed than ever. Uncertain trajectories of environmental change, social equity, cultural norms and practices, and the entanglements of nature/culture add further to these difficulties.

Our research engages this complexity. Our point of departure is the possibility of multiple relationships with nature and their diverse consequences. We track these relations and implications through critically-informed research, predominantly based upon rich empirical evidence garnered from in-depth fieldwork. Knitted together by these ideas, we conduct research in urban, rural, and remote landscapes, and in those places between the city and country. We work across and with multiple communities on topics including invasive species management, disasters, human-wildlife conflict, Indigenous connection to Country, rural stewardship, and the intersections of these topics with themes such as gender and ethnicity.


Research questions

Our research is driven and informed by questions that speak to the struggle to adequately and equitably address environmental problems:

  • In the face of very real environmental challenges, how can diverse knowledges, practices and capacities inform and enhance the ways we relate to and govern environments?
  • How might alternative approaches to environmental research and issues enable us to hear and amplify Indigenous and other marginalised voices in the face of environmental uncertainty?
  • How can culturally-informed environmental research enhance adaptive capacity and community cohesion in contexts of disasters and environmental change?
  • How can we co-exist with non-human species that are both threatened and potentially threatening to human life, livelihood, and valued environments?

Current projects include

Researchers

Dr Christine Eriksen

Dr Kate Booth (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Professor Bruce Tranter (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Associate Professor Shaun French (University of Nottingham, England)

Research Assistants

Dr Eliza de Vet (University of Wollongong, Australia)

Dr Chloe Lucas (University of Tasmania, Australia)

Project description

There is a growing concern in Australia and internationally of the extensive social and economic costs of disasters, and with it an acknowledgement of our inadequate understanding of the role of insurance in disaster mitigation, preparation and recovery. A 2017 report by Deloitte Access Economics outlined how in the ten years leading up to 2016, the total cost of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia averaged $18.2 billion per annum. When disasters strike, home and contents insurance provides a safety net but many households are under-insured or not insured at all. The average uninsured loss for each ‘natural’ disaster in Australia between 2004 and 2011 was estimated by Lloyds at almost $1 billion. Little is known about the factors that contribute to these rates of inadequate insurance cover. This project attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by examining perceptions of risk and insurance amongst residents both with and without direct personal experience of bushfires. It strives to assist the development of insurance policies and implementation strategies that meet the needs of residents. 

Funding

Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP170100096)

Researchers

Dr Jennifer Atchison

Dr Hugh Forehead (project lead)

Professor Kris French

Professor Clare Murphy

Professor Thomas Astell-Burt

Dr Cole Hendrigan

Dr Farzana Tanima

Associate Professor Louella McCarthy

Project description

This project aims to help understand what aspects of public space in Liverpool today are working well for residents and visitors. It will harness the data that the Smart Cities program is delivering and supplement this with information about:

  • people’s experience of green space and the reasons they chose to visit certain areas
  • the nearby green space around each of the Smart Cities sensors, including heat load, native/exotic vegetation and its structure and water features
  • other qualities of the space (such as light, shade, view, noise) and quantities (benches, shelters, pavers, water and more)

Funding

UOW Global Challenge grant (2019)

Outcomes

Ultimately, this project will enable Liverpool City Council to design policies that will protect existing spaces that work well for residents and design new spaces that emulate or improve on the best existing spaces. This will protect the interests of the most vulnerable people in society, who are more likely to require the refuge that good public spaces provide. This will help to build a resilient community in Liverpool as it undergoes significant development and population growth in the coming years.

Researchers

Dr Jennifer Atchison

Dr Catherine Phillips (project lead) 

Project description

Urban forests are fundamental to city liveability, resilience, and sustainability and trees are increasingly recognised as contributing to solutions for multiple contemporary urban challenges such as climate change, urban heating and cooling, air quality, connection with nature. The shift toward evaluating trees as key to sustainable urban futures has been supported by ecosystem services frameworks, which identify and measure the contributions ecosystems make to supporting human lives and well‐being. If municipal governments are to retain and expand urban forests – as they argue they must to improve our urban futures – then socio‐cultural valuations require more attention. Melbourne offers an excellent opportunity to pilot our interdisciplinary approach, and serves as the initial case study for a collaboration between the University of Melbourne (School of Geography), the University of Wollongong (ACCESS) and the City of Melbourne (Urban Sustainability). 

Funding

University of Melbourne Community Engagement Grant (2018) and a MSSI-Geography Award (2017).

Outcomes

This project will:

  • Analyse how people articulate their valuations and engagements with Melbourne’s trees.
  • Pilot an interdisciplinary, mixed methods approach including a qualitative, quantitative and artistic aspects.
  • Explore collaborative techniques to translate socio-cultural valuations into urban planning and governance. 


More Information about this project 

Indicative publications

Phillips, C. and Atchison, J., (2018). Seeing the trees for the (urban) forest: more-than-human geographies and urban greeningAustralian Geographer, pp.1-14.

Researchers

Associate Professor Michael Adams

Project description

Reflection on the privilege of my learning from Indigenous and vernacular communities focuses this research on nature and the human search for meaning. I use ethnographic and immersion research to study hunting and death, animals and the sacred, freediving and loss, and connections to place. Insights in all of these areas underscore my debt to Indigenous teachers.

Funding

Bundanon Trust residencies

Asialink Arts residency

The Calibre Prize

Outcomes

Publications

Neimanis, A., M. Adams, et al (forthcoming) Fathom, Environmental Humanities Living Lexicon

Adams, M. (2019) Outlier, Griffith Review: Writing the Country, February 2019.

Adams, M. (2018) Wild children, in At Nature’s Edge, Oxford University Press, India.

Adams, M. (2017) Salt Blood, Best Australian Essays 2017, Black Inc Melbourne.

Adams, M. (2017) Salt Blood, Australian Book Review Calibre Prize winner.

Adams, M. (2017) The cultural meanings of wild horses, The Conversation Friday Essay, 13 Oct 2017.

Adams, M. (2015) One Blood, Seminar Journal, 673, India.

Adams, M. (2014) Caught in the net of life and time, Meanjin, 73.2. 

Creative work

Adams, M. (2017) Flood

Podcasts and videos

2018 Full immersion, TEDx U Wollongong (video)

2017 Meditations on Mortality, Sorrow and Lament, Sydney Ideas.

2017 Best of 2017: Michael Adams, Interview on Richard Fidler Conversations, ABC.

Researchers

Associate Professor Michael Adams

Dr Derek Scasta

AJ Corradini 

Project description

The domestication of the horse is at least 6,000 years old, and Xenophon’s On Horsemanship has been in print for 2,300 years. This project explores aspects of the human-horse relationship, from wild horses in Australia and other countries, to Indigenous relationships with horses, to geographies of recreational horse ownership.

Outcomes

Indicative publications

Scasta, JD., Adams, M., Gibbs, R. and Fleury, W. (2020). An inductive field-based international comparison of free-ranging horse socio-ecology in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, Rangelands Journal.

Adams, M. (2017). The cultural meanings of wild horses, The Conversation Friday Essay, 13 Oct 2017.

Podcast

2018 The cultural meanings of wild horses, Essays on Air, The Conversation.

Researchers

Dr Leah Gibbs 

Project description

Sharks have come to be the focus of intense public and policy debate in recent years. This research examines the cultures and politics of human-shark encounter and shark hazard management. To date work has focused on: experiences and views of ocean-users in Western Australia (with Andrew Warren); interdisciplinary critique of the effects and effectiveness of lethal shark hazard management in New South Wales (with Lachlan Fetterplace, Matt Rees and Quentin Hanich); and trials and evaluation of novel non-lethal shark hazard management techniques [pictured] (with Kye Adams, Allison Broad, Andy Davis and Wanqing Li).

Funding

University of Wollongong Global Challenge Program and University Research Council. 

2018 Project AIRSHIP: automated blimp surveillance for conservation and human safety (Global Challenges Project Funding, University of Wollongong). Adams K, Gibbs L, Li W, Broad A, Davis A. $20,000

2017 Project AIRSHIP: sharks, video imaging and the public perception of risk (Global Challenges Seed Funding, University of Wollongong). Davis A, Adams K, Gibbs L, Li W, Broad A. $14,934

2014 Threatened and threatening: governing sharks for conservation and human safety (Global Challenges Strategic Funding, University of Wollongong). Gibbs L, Rees M, Fetterplace L, Hanich Q, Warren A. $5,000

2014 Death and the ocean: human-shark encounters and the cultures and governance of the sea (University Research Council, University of Wollongong). Gibbs L. $5,000

Researcher

Dr Scott McKinnon 

Project description

This project examines the construction and enactment of Australian memories of disaster, exploring the interlinked yet often conflicting concepts: ‘remembering a disaster’ and ‘learning from a disaster’. In political rhetoric, media reports and the personal narratives of survivors, disasters associated with natural hazards are often described as unforgettable events. Although post-disaster discourses reveal a desire to record and preserve memories at multiple scales and to ensure that individuals, communities and governments ‘never forget’, this discursive focus on remembrance often fails to prompt lasting change in community behaviours or in government policy. The project examines how active ways of remembering might contribute to resilience, as well as seeking to understand the long-term impacts of disaster as seen in commemorative processes. 

Funding

University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2017-2020).

Outcomes

Indicative publications

McKinnon, S., (forthcoming). Remembering and Forgetting 1974: The 2011 Brisbane Floods and memories of an earlier disaster. Geographical Research.

Other outcomes 

Unforgettable: Histories of disaster in Australia and New Zealand. A two-day collaborative workshop for scholars researching disaster histories will be held at University of Wollongong in July 2019.

Disasters in the Illawarra. A series of oral history interviews about the 1968 bushfires and the 1998 storm and floods in the Illawarra is currently being undertaken. The interviews will be donated to Wollongong City Libraries and made available online as a community resource.

Researcher

Associate Professor Nicholas Gill 

Project description

This project began life as an investigation into invasive plant management by rural landholders in peri-urban areas and on rural lifestyle landholdings. Invasive plant management is a major activity by many such landholders and important in developing links to, and knowledge of, their land. Landholders variously live with, seek to eradicate, or aim to control weeds. The work has expanded into weed hygiene practices in national parks and also into a recent foray into invasive animal management, hunting, and self-provisioning. Future pathways may include hunting and food networks. 

Funding

2018 Faculty of Social Science Partnership Grant with NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

2017-18 Office of Environment and Heritage

2015 NSW Department of Primary Industries, Weeds Action Program

2012 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP130102588

Outcomes

Indicative publications

Graham, S., Metcalf, A.L., Gill, N., Niemiec, R., Moreno, C., Bach, T., Ikutegbe, V., Hallstrom, L., Ma, Z., Lubeck, A. (2019) Opportunities for better use of collective action theory in research and governance for invasive species management. Conservation Biology 33, 275-287

Gill, N., Graham, S., Cross, R. and Taylor, E. (2018) Weed hygiene practices in rural industries and public land management: variable knowledge, patchy implementation, inconsistent coordination. Journal of Environmental Management, 223(1), pp. 140-149.

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