Environmental hub win puts researchers close to decision makers

February 15 / 151

Southern brown tree frog, Burnley Campus, the University of Melbourne. Photo: Kirsten Parris
Southern brown tree frog, Burnley Campus, the University of Melbourne. Photo: Kirsten Parris

The University of Melbourne will lead a climate science and biodiversity research hub, one of six to be funded under the $142.5 million National Environmental Science Programme, in an opportunity for researchers to inform decision makers and help shape public policy.

The University of Melbourne will lead the Clean Air and Urban Landscape Hub with Professor Peter Rayner at the helm of a consortium of researchers drawn from the University of Melbourne, RMIT, University of Western Australia and the University of Wollongong.

“We will bring together researchers from a range of disciplines across transport planning, environmental science, green infrastructure, building design, urban land use, transport, public policy and psychology,” said Professor Rayner.

As an expert in the measurement of emissions, Professor Rayner points out that the application of research must consider the complex local conditions and possibilities.

“For example, is someone from Mumbai going to ask us about the effect of planting certain trees in their city? Are we going to able to verify what species of trees will have the desired effect and will our research be able to measure that effect, predict it?” explained Professor Rayner.

“Many factors from a range of disciplines need to be considered in answers to these questions,” he said. “From knowing which trees may actually contribute to haze and pollutant gases, to knowing the effects of the size of urban canopy and its effect on city temperatures, to considering how trees affect psychological wellbeing and how environment is linked to social advantage and disadvantage.”

The Hub presents an extraordinary opportunity to feed highly specialised, robust, multidisciplinary research into the policy making process.
“I’m impressed that the government is happy to take a group of researchers that close to the process”, said Professor Rayner.

The University will also contribute to the Earth Systems Hub, led by Dr Helen Cleugh from the CSIRO, and the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, led by Professor Hugh Possingham from the University of Queensland.

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