IWC students head north to Gladstone for their semester two field trip
Each year, full- and part-time students of the IWC Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) travel to Gladstone for a 10-day intensive field trip as part of the Catchment and Aquatic Ecosystem Health module.
Gladstone, home to Queensland's largest multi-commodity port, is an area of significant economic growth in Australia. Much of the development in the region is related to mining, with raw commodities exported and imported into Gladstone. Recent developments such as expansion of the port facilities, and corresponding issues relating to the health of the harbour, have attracted significant attention politically and within the community over the past few years.
2016 field trip highlights
Through harbour and site tours, the Masters students met with a wide range of local stakeholders involved in the management and monitoring of the development in the region and learnt, first-hand, examples of integrated water management in practice. These tours also provided local context to the module's lecture content which focuses on understanding catchments and how disturbances can impact on aquatic ecosystem health.
The field trip included an interesting mix of theoretical content delivered by Dr Wade Hadwen from the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University, and context-specific information from a wide range of guest presenters, including:
- government (Gladstone Regional Council, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Gladstone Ports Corporation)
- not-for-profit agencies (Fitzroy Basin Authority, Capricornia Catchments, Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership)
- universities (Central Queensland University)
- private companies (Gladstone Area Water Board, Queensland Alumina Limited and Infofish).
The field trip focused on building students’ awareness of complex issues in a developed catchment that has a history of environmental health issues. The information gathered throughout the field trip provided a local context to developed catchment management and assisted students build their understanding of the issues and challenges that lie ahead, particularly around the monitoring of the health of the catchment, harbour and the Great Barrier Reef.
"We had the opportunity of listening to presentations and interviewing several stakeholders for a 360° view of how water monitoring is being carried out, and the effectiveness of the current communications tools (Report cards) used to spread out that information to the community. Moreover, the trip was amazing because of the opportunity to strengthen the bonds with the full group of students who are doing the MIWM full time and part time. Hearing so many diverse stories around a bonfire every night was definitely inspiring,” said Antonella Vagliente, current Masters candidate.
Problem-Based Learning Project
While in Gladstone the Masters students undertook a problem-based learning project in collaboration with the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership (GHHP) – the ‘Gladstone Healthy Harbour Report Card’ project. The primary aims of the project are to contribute to the GHHP a greater understanding of:
- How the Healthy Harbour Report Card is being used by a cross-section of local and state stakeholders covering both groups and organisations;
- How the design and communication of the Healthy Harbour Report Card and broader working of the GHHP has combined with the underlying values and perceptions of local and state stakeholders to shape how they access and use information about the Harbour, and;
- What implications this has for how the Healthy Harbour Report Card might be better designed and updated, shared, communicated and used to help implement the Healthy Harbour Vision.
This will help inform and support the strategic management of the health of the harbour in the longer term and assist in working towards the vision of a healthy, accessible, working harbour.
Masters students split up into nine teams of 4-5 members each and interviewed a range of 18 stakeholders from industry, government, environmental organisations and NGOs to learn how stakeholder values and perceptions can be elicited and used to improve decision-making in complex, multi-stakeholder water management contexts. As this project forms part of their assessment for the Master's program, each student writes up a report with a sample of the best reports being presented to the GHHP and the stakeholders involved.
The Report Card and the GHHP which designs, manages and promotes it is a good example of integrated water management in practice - bringing together environmental, economic, social and cultural knowledge; combining multiple stakeholder and community perspectives into a single vision; and integrating scientific knowledge and community aspirations into local government, state government, industry and NGO planning and management decision-making.
- WATR7100 - Catchment and aquatic ecosystem health module
- Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) program
Scholarships for the next intake of the IWC Master of Integrated Water Management remain open until 1 November 2016 for domestic candidates (applications are now closed for international candidates).
Images courtesy of Justin Legg