Making Waves


All life comes from the sea so access to
the ocean is kind of the human right, and I think that that’s in jeopardy.
Climate change is obviously one of the world’s biggest issues right now that
affects everyone. Thirty percent of the Great Barrier Reef is now dead and I
don’t think that Australia or the world as a society has actually absorbed that. Griffith’s Centre for Coastal Management
was established twenty years ago in a partnership with the local authority
here on the Gold Coast to develop targeted research to assist with the
management of the Gold Coast environment, both the beaches and here in the
waterways so our research covers a whole range of things relate to water quality,
beach erosion, economics of solutions and even governance of the way in which we
manage these problems. There’s the direct impact of climate change in terms of
heat waves on the ocean and how that affects coral reefs and there’s the
indirect effects from rising sea levels more storm surges and coastal erosion. They’re a matter of concern because here on the Gold Coast we’re a highly developed community and we need to make sure that our communities are more resilient to
those changes. The research at Griffith University is to develop new ideas and
solutions. We’re certainly I think at the at the forefront of coastal adaptation
both in a modern urban setting like Gold Coast city, but also in a developing
country setting. So on the Gold Coast we know that climate change will have an
impact on our beaches but for our neighbours in the Pacific climate change
means that they might not eat that day. They still get about over 50% maybe up
to 70% of their protein actually from marine sources. They’re dealing with
impacts such as erosion, inundation and extreme events already. In Vanuatu we’re
working with the national government and the provincial government and also the
local communities to help identify what the threats are to these ecosystems. The Eco Adapt is a five-year research project that touches on a whole range of
disciplines across Griffith University. It focuses on maintaining and
strengthening health of ecosystems that naturally protect coastlines. We have a kind of mix of physical research and also social research. We do things like
working with communities to understand what their values are there’s other
field tasks that we have we might be out in forests measuring trees and
understanding forest densities and we also spend a lot of time on coral reefs
measuring the structure of those coral reefs. If you look at these problems
these communities are faced to a climate change lens you need input from every
discipline every discipline has a role to play. The project takes a
multidisciplinary approach. With students from right across the university
including journalism students because they’re the ones that are really going
to get the message out there in the end. It really adds a different dimension and
layer because we’re not just talking about physical risks and impacts but
also how to communicate some of that. I was one of the 15 invited students to
go to Vanuatu for Griffith’s inaugural climate change communication tour. We
went into the news rooms and got to talk to some of the media workers there. You
hear and see what is going on firsthand. Even small islands have to think very
carefully about their source of electricity so we’re involved in
projects which have installed solar mini power systems at a village level so by
doing that you actually make them energy independent with clean energy they don’t
need to buy expensive imported fossil fuel and they don’t have any greenhouse
gas emissions. We all are stewards of our environment I think it’s absolutely
critical that all universities embed sustainability into their curriculum
that’s really important and at Griffith that’s a really strong focus we want to
make an impact for our broader community.

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