Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Research refers to reports by organisations or research by academic institutions relating to urban sustainability issues within Melbourne. If you have research that relates to urban sustainability issues and could benefit people and organisations in Melbourne, please post this information on Sustainable Melbourne. To do so visit the “How to use this site” page and follow the prompts.

The Nurdle Hunters – Plastic pollution talk and survey

Posted in Events, Research by EcoCentre on October 14th, 2013

19 October , 2013
1:00 pmto2:30 pm

nurdle soup (2)

Since May 2013, a new wave of plastic pollution has been uncovered by Melbourne BayKeeper volunteers in the form of ‘nurdles’. Hundreds of these plastic pre-production pellets have been found regularly on St Kilda Beaches, and more recently, in streams flowing into the Bay.

EcoCentre Director and Port Phillip BayKeeper, Neil Blake, will give a talk about this spreading problem and then lead people on a plastic pollution field survey.

We need ongoing support to measure plastic pollution in the Bay. The aim is to clearly show there’s an ongoing issue and to call on government agencies and plastics manufacturers to be part of the solution.

Venue: Port Phillip EcoCentre, Cnr Blessington & Herbert Streets, St Kilda (in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens)
Date: Saturday 19 October
Time: 1pm-2.30pm

>>> For More Information and background, visit the BayKeeper website.


Urban food security, urban resilience and climate change: Australian report

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 2nd, 2013

Guerrilla Garden_fullyreclined_BY
Photo by fullyreclined via flickr CC

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) report on urban food and climate change is now available for download.

Food security is increasingly recognised as a problem in developed countries like Australia as well as in developing countries of the global south, and as a problem facing cities and urban populations in these countries. Despite producing more food than is consumed in Australia, certain groups in particular, places are finding it increasingly difficult to access nutritious and healthy food at affordable prices. Moreover, whole urban populations have found their food supply lines severely compromised by major disasters such as floods and cyclones which are expected to have greater impacts as the climate changes.

This changing landscape of food production, distribution and consumption has drawn attention to the nature of contemporary urban food systems in general and to the security and resilience of urban food systems in particular. This has in turn highlighted the extent of urban agriculture and its potential to play a greater role in strengthening the food security of Australian cities and building urban resilience in a changing climate.

This report presents the results of a synthesis and integrative research project that explored these issues through a critical review of relevant literature and case study research in two cities. It had three main aims:

  • to increase our knowledge of the current extent of urban agriculture in Australian cities;
  • to review its capacity to play a more prominent role in enhancing urban food security and urban resilience and;
  • to assess the impacts of climate change on the capacity of urban agriculture to enhance food security and urban resilience.

The research provides much needed up-to-date information on the extent of current urban agricultural practices, a critical review of good practice in Australia and beyond and an analysis of the opportunities and barriers to the expansion of these practices, especially in the face of climate change.

Visit the website to download the full report.

Please cite this report as:
Burton, P, Lyons, K, Richards, C, Amati, M, Rose, N, Desfours, L, Pires, V, Barclay, R, 2013, Urban food security, urban resilience and climate change, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp.176.

Food-Security and Water-Security in the Urban Context

Posted in Research, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on June 20th, 2013


Image: CRC for Water-Sensitive Cities

Image: CRC for Water-Sensitive Cities

From The urban water-energy-food nexus by Prof. Tony Wong:


Australia’s water consumption is dominated by agricultural uses, followed by consumptions in cities (domestic and industrial) and for electricity generation principally to meet demands in our cities. Our communities have an important role in managing demands. Our consumption of food, energy and water remains inefficient. We waste more than 30% of food produced, we are only beginning to recycle our wastewater for non-drinking purposes, and we do not capture and use the ‘waste heat’ from our electricity production. Transforming our cities to a more sustainable and efficient consumption of resources require socio-technical approaches, starting with a concerted effort to foster community awareness and behavioural change for efficient consumption of water, energy and food. Exploiting the water-energy nexus in urban development, such as district-level tri-generation and the further utilisation of available heat for water disinfection and production of district-level reticulation of hot water, are simple cathartic initiatives to lead this transformation.

The creation of productive landscapes is emerging as a core element of urban green infrastructure strategies. Our cities are water supply catchments with the combined stormwater and wastewater resources exceeding the water consumption in most Australian cities. These resources may be exploited to support a greener city for a multitude of liveability objectives, including the support of productive landscapes ranging from community gardens, to orchards and urban forests.

>> Read the full article by Prof. Tony Wong on the CRC for Water-Sensitive Cities website.

Get smart: ATA’s Consumer guide to smart Meters

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on June 17th, 2013

Source: The Alternative Technology Association

ata_consumer_guide_to smart_meters

The Alternative Technology Association’s (ATA) Consumer Guide to Smart Meters helps households and small businesses understand and take advantage of products and services associated with smart meters. The guide provides easy-to-understand information. Some of the smart meter products and services exist now, and some are expected to become available in the next two to three years.

>>> You can download the guide from the ATA’s website.

Printed Flexible Solar Cells: CSIRO

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 6th, 2013

CSIRO Flexible Solar Cells

From CTRL+P: Printing Australia’s largest solar cells by Crystal Ladiges:

Scientists have produced the largest flexible, plastic solar cells in Australia – 10 times the size of what they were previously able to – thanks to a new solar cell printer that has been installed at CSIRO. The printer has allowed researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium to print organic photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper.

According to materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins, printing cells on such a large scale opens up a huge range of possibilities for pilot applications.  “There are so many things we can do with cells this size,” he says. “We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside.”

Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to ten metres per minute, this means they can produce one cell every two seconds. As the researchers continue to scale up their equipment, the possibilities will become even greater for this technology. Eventually they hope to see solar cells being laminated to the windows that line skyscrapers and embedded onto roofing materials.

Read the original article by Crystal Ladiges on the CSIRO news blog.


Photo: malloreigh via flickr CC

(How Do We Develop) Post Carbon Pathways? Learning from international research & policy

Posted in Movements, Policies, Research, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on June 3rd, 2013

PostCarbon Pathways

Post Carbon Pathways: Towards a Just and Resilient Post Carbon Future

Learning from leading international post carbon economy researchers and policy makers


Key messages

1. The probability and risks of global warming of four degrees or more are rapidly increasing. This is, however, an argument for visionary leadership and decisive action – not political paralysis and buck-passing.

2. The technological and economic roadmaps showing the actions we need to take to avoid catastrophic global warming are now widely understood. From Germany to California and from the United Kingdom to China the global momentum for implementation of large scale de-carbonisation strategies is rapidly accelerating.

3. The biggest roadblocks preventing implementation of large-scale de-carbonisation strategies at the speed required to prevent runaway climate change are primarily political not technological. The key roadblocks are:

  • Climate science denial
  • The power of the fossil fuel industry and its allies
  • Political paralysis
  • Unsustainable consumption of energy and resources
  • Path dependencies and outdated infrastructure
  • Financial and governance constraints

4. The key actions needed to overcome these political roadblocks are:

  • Clear understanding of the necessity and possibility of an emergency speed transition to a just and resilient post-carbon future
  • Broad recognition of the potentially enormous social and economic benefits of switching investment from fossil fuels to energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon sequestration
  • Game changing social and technological innovation
  • Decisive leadership and skilful implementation by communities, business and government at every level of society
>> Go to the PostCarbon Pathways site to read more, download the Report, or download the Interview Transcripts

Singing the Changes? Melbourne Mussel Choir

Posted in Models, Research, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on May 27th, 2013

The ATA flagged this project in their recent ReNew newsletter as being worth a look, and we agree!

Melbourne mussel choir_Natalie Jeremijenko
Photo: Natalie Jeremijenko

From the Melbourne Mussel Choir:

The Melbourne Mussel Choir enables members of the public to monitor and celebrate the tremendous environmental services these organisms can provide.

Carbon Arts is working with the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) and artist Natalie Jeremijenko to realise her concept for a public artwork that uses marine organisms to collect data about and represent the real-time water quality – or, as Jeremijenko, likes to call it, the Qualities of Water – of the Melbourne Docklands’ aquatic ecosystem.

One mussel can filter as much as 6-9 litres of water/ hour. By instrumenting mussels with hall effect sensors, which indicate the opening and closing of their shells, and by giving them each a voice, converting the data into sound, the artwork uses the behavior of the organisms themselves as a biologically meaningful measure of pollutant exposure in order to produce a public spectacle.

Storm water run-off, local weather, and seasons will have evident effects on the Choir’s performances. The songs will map parameters such as water depth to sound pitch, presence of pollutants to sound timbre, and the rate of the opening and closing of mussel shells to sound tempo, for example. The mussels will become rock stars.

Planning work has begun with a final launch expected in 2014. The Melbourne Mussel Choir was the winning work of the Echology: Making Sense of Data initiative, a partnership between Carbon Arts, the Australian Network of Art and Technology and developer, Lend Lease.


Position Available: Visions and Pathways for Low Carbon Built Environment and Urban Living

Posted in Research, Seeking, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on May 15th, 2013

Post Doctoral Researcher: Visions and Pathways for Low Carbon Built Environment and Urban Living.

A flagship project of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab and the CRC for Low Carbon Living.

(Melbourne University Position Number 0031360 – see:

Join a ground-breaking flagship project to explore and articulate visions, scenarios and pathways for a low-carbon resilient urban environment linked to a dynamic program of engagement with industry and government.

This project is lead from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne in collaboration with researchers from the University of New South Wales and Swinburne University. It is supported by a grant from the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, a major research initiative bringing together key property, planning, engineering and policy organisations with leading Australian researchers to develop new social, technological and policy tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment.

The challenge of the decarbonisation of the built environment involves no less than a transition from one set of technologies, infrastructures, practices, perceptions, values, policies and regulations to a (potentially very) different set. This research project will investigate the diversity and complex systems dynamics of technological and societal changes required to pursue a low-carbon resilient society.

The project will use scenario thinking within a twenty-five to thirty year horizon. Over its life, we will road-map potential transitions and disruptive change, articulate and refine scenarios for Australia’s future, guide designers in the production of visualisations of the future built environment, provide strategic input to the scoping of the CRC research program and publish for academic, professional and general media.

The successful candidate will focus on the investigation and elaboration of approaches to the design of ‘eco-cities’ and the technological, social and infrastructural innovations that could provide the basis for the transformation of both new and existing built environments. Reporting to the project leader, Professor Chris Ryan, the position will connect closely with researchers in the Victorian Eco Innovation Lab (VEIL) and will be located within the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.

>> Application deadline extended to May 22, 2013

>> Download the Position Description or apply online

Sustainable Melbourne and Sustainable Cities Net are projects of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL).  Occasionally we cross-promote projects or events in order to reach as many of the right people as possible.

Vision of a Water-Sensitive City: Video

Posted in Research, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on December 19th, 2012

Water Sensitive City_CRC

The Water-Sensitive Cities Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) has launched its new website, complete with research papers and videos.  It’s all worth a look, but the video on the front page, inviting viewers to “Fly through a Water-Sensitive City” is particularly inspiring.  Stay with it past the first minute, which is about the CRC, and you get to the design elements that are really interesting – and the last fifteen seconds are fantastic.  It’s not clear who produced the video, but they should be proud!

>> Watch the video here or go and explore the CRC Water Sensitive Cities website.


From Woody Weeds to Biochar: Mobile Biochar Unit

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on November 13th, 2012

Screen grab from Central West CMA’s YouTube film .

From the Central West Catchment Management Authority media release “New technology for old problems – mobile biochar unit demo in Nyngan” :


[26/10/12] Nyngan district farmers saw first hand technology which turns invasive native scrub (INS, also known as woody weeds) into an agricultural resource at a Central West Catchment Management Authority (CMA) field day on Thursday last week. The mobile biochar plant was on demonstration on ‘Wilgadale’ and transforms woody waste material into biochar without the conventional costs of chipping and transport. This breaking technology has many potential applications in the Nyngan district and other parts of NSW according to Central West CMA Coordinator Michael Longhurst. ‘Woody weeds are a problem in central west and western NSW and their management is a significant cost to landholders,’ said Mike. ‘This machine transforms woody waste left over from INS treatment into biochar in a smoke free environment. This product can be used locally to improve soil health and sequester carbon.’

Biochar is a type of charcoal which improves soil health by storing water and nutrients when applied to the soil. The process, known as pyrolysis, is the high temperature treatment of biomass such as woody waste converted into biochar. ‘The woody material leftover from INS treatment would have been otherwise raked, burnt into the atmosphere and wasted,’ said Mike. ‘A biochar plant means the costs of an INS management program can be partly offset through creating agricultural by-products. ‘This mobile system also means that the woody material can be processed into biochar without chipping and transporting costs traditional associated with biochar production.’

Fourth generation Nyngan landholder Anthony Gibson hosted the CMA field day on his property ‘Wilgadale’. ‘Woody weeds are a headache for landholders for a number of reasons. They are nightmare to muster through; reduce groundcover and biodiversity; and out-compete useful grasses,’ said Anthony. ‘The machine we’ve had a look at today is turning woody weeds into something much more useable – something we can lock carbon up in and ameliorate the soil. I can see quite a few benefits of it spreading around the landscape. ‘The unit makes good use of something that just gets pushed up into a heap and burnt otherwise at great expense. By turning it into something useful it is a real win-win situation.’

The system was originally designed by the company Earth Systems through a North East CMA (Victoria) project to manage willow removal and dispose of the waste material. The Central West CMA worked in partnership with Earth Systems and the North East CMA to demonstrate the system in central west NSW. […]

You can read the full media release or learn more on Central West CMA’s Youtube channel.