A group of researchers representing the Sciences and Arts at the University of Sydney have been funded by the University’s Institute for Sustainability to conduct a study looking at how communities value the environment and understand local environmental challenges and their options to overcome them.

They are combining scientific data with cultural observations by investigating three different landscapes – seawalls (Sydney Harbour), rangelands (Fowlers Gap) and arid dry-zones (Simpson Desert).

It’s about: 

  • Going beyond academic discussions.
  • Looking at how society values and perceives the environment.
  • Identifying the decision making process involved in environmental change.
  • Listening to your stories.
  • Attaining a better understanding of the relationship between biological events and social values.
  • Understanding how scientific research meets the real needs of the community.
  • Presenting the findings in an innovative, non-traditional way: film, photography, oral storytelling or an art installation, for example.


  • Australian envrionments are under increasing stress from droughts, feral animals and urban development.
  • In addition to the traditional scientific findings linking distress with ecological resilience, we envisage identification of key societal values in the general public and the decision-making process involved in environmental change.
  • Australia has the longest history, globally, of human manipulation of the environment.
  • It is important to develop a current understanding of the knowledge and practices of local people to help sustain their own environments.
  • The study aims to cut across traditional divides between arts and sciences and provide an integrated understanding of sustainable development in the landscapes that define modern Australia.

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