7 May 2013

Students at The University of Queensland (UQ) will take their learning outside the classroom with a new Living Laboratories initiative.

The concept aims to connect UQ sustainability projects with teaching to provide real examples for student learning.

UQ Property and Facilities Deputy Director Geoff Dennis, said the Living Laboratories initiative was a key part of UQ’s carbon and sustainability agenda.

“We see the Living Laboratory concept as a great way to link the university’s teaching and research activities with our work in this area,” Mr Dennis said.

“It is a perfect example of UQ’s themes of learning, discovery and engagement in action.”

“Living Laboratories takes engineering, science, arts and environmental management students out of the classroom and into real-life learning environments on and off campus while achieving key university sustainability goals,” Mr Dennis said.

Living Laboratory sites include tree and mangrove plantings for carbon off-setting and a 1.22 megawatt photovoltaic solar system.

The UQ School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management’s Dr Paul Dargusch and his team are developing a specific curriculum of activities around these sites.

The first site, involved more than 60 student and staff volunteers planting of 2000 trees on the South East Queensland Gatton campus.

“This planting is helping restore the critically endangered Swamp-Tea Tree ecosystem, and teaching students about the processes of creating a carbon offset project and calculating the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions that will be sequestered as the trees grow,” Dr Dargusch said.

Dr Dargusch, will use the sites as part of his teaching in carbon management and sustainability.

He said each of the projects in the Living Laboratories concept would meet specific teaching and research objectives.

Projects will include:
• Revegetating a stretch of Lockyer Creek damaged by the January 2011 floods, with a teaching and research focus on ecosystem services.
• Trialling innovative techniques for revegetation on degraded land at the Gatton campus, aimed at improving the efficiency of revegetation and increasing carbon sequestration rates.
• Stimulating the regrowth of mangroves along the banks of the Brisbane River at the St Lucia campus to inform on the science and politics of blue carbon projects.

Dr Dargusch and his team are developing a specific curriculum of activities around these sites.

“These projects will complement UQ’s highly regarded solar PV program, which is already providing students with a hands-on renewable energy experience,” he said.

“Students visit the UQ 1.2MW solar system and then discuss financial analysis scenarios for renewable energy technologies such as solar PV.”

The Living Laboratories project brings together expertise from across The University and external partners to provide practical learning experiences for students.

The sites will be used by students studying in a range of fields, as well as by researchers seeking to answer questions about issues such as biodiversity restoration and carbon dioxide sequestration.

“These projects form a highly visible part of UQ’s program to reduce our carbon footprint as well as improve sustainability outcomes,” Mr Dennis said.

For more information visit: https://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=25626

The School of Geography, Planning and Environment Management offer the Carbon and Energy Management postgraduate course that incorporates Living Laboratories projects. For more information visit: http://www.gpem.uq.edu.au/living-laboratories

Media: Kate Swanson, +61 7 334 67406 or k.swanson@uq.edu.au or Dr Paul Dargusch, +61 7 336 51594 or p.dargusch@uq.edu.au