Category Archives: Sydney Harbour (seawalls)

Drawing to a close

After 12 months, The Iconic Landscapes project is drawing to a close.  The study’s final exhibition, set up at the University’s Sci-Tech library, will be running until 3 December.

A SUMMARY

In August 2009, a team of Arts and Science scholars from the University of Sydney commenced a year-long study of how scientific researchers can make better connections with the people who live in the environments that the scientists investigate. The project was called ‘Iconic Landscapes’, because of the special regions that were examined: 1) Sydney Harbour, 2) the Simpson Desert in the arid dry-zone and, 3) the rangelands in Western NSW.  The ‘Iconic landscapes’ team examined how fresh knowledge can be made available to the local people and how local knowledge can be accessed while research is under way.   The team started with a hunch that more ‘down-to-earth’ explanations about the objectives of the scientists could be combined with better understanding of the values of the people living in the study regions.  Perhaps this dual approach could produce richer knowledge and experiences for everyone involved?  

The project needed to test this hunch or hypothesis. So the team looked at how scientists were investigating and communicating their knowledge of: 

1) wildfire and predators in the Simpson Desert 

2) engineered habitats for seawalls in North Sydney 

3) the grazing behaviour of sheep and kangaroos in the rangelands.  

Most importantly, the team paid close attention to how and why the community members engaged (or did not engage) with the scientists.The team staged special events in each location, bringing the communities and scientists together to explore not only scientific research but also the emotions and desires of various people involved with the particular regions. These exchanges were important, as they helped scientists reconsider how to make inquiries and deliver results that meet the challenges and the deep feelings that are most important to the communities.Unlike conventional ecological studies, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ sought to combine scientific and cultural observations by supplementing empirical data collection with humanities methods of analysing why people do what they do and how communities form bonds and act together.  Using cross-disciplinary techniques, the study sought a better understanding of the relationship between biological events, ecological and social value and human practices of place-making.  In addition to scientific data-gathering, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ also pursued ‘softer’ or more qualitative investigations involving storytelling, memory-gathering and playful word-associations in response to questions about the emotions attached to particular places. At the end of the project, when we gather up all the different ‘data-sets’ generated by ‘Iconic Landscapes’, we can see a little more clearly how particular communities experience nature, how they perceive their immediate surroundings, and what they want and need from the people who come into their territories.

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Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), People and the environment, Putting it in context, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Sydney Harbour (seawalls)

Iconic Landscapes and 20 years of desert research exhibitions

Both the ‘Iconic Landscapes’ and ’20 years of desert research’ exhibitions opened last Thursday (12 August) at the University of Sydney’s Scitech library.

See a short walk through both displays below. (A more detailed video of desert exhibition coming soon)

ICONIC LANDSCAPES – exhibition introduction…

In August 2009, a team of Arts and Science scholars from the University of Sydney commenced a year-long study of how scientific researchers can make better connections with the people who live in the environments that the scientists investigate. The project was called ‘Iconic Landscapes’, because of the special regions that were examined: 1) Sydney Harbour, 2) the Simpson Desert in the arid dry-zone and, 3) the rangelands in Western NSW.  The ‘Iconic landscapes’ team examined how fresh knowledge can be made available to the local people and how local knowledge can be accessed while research is under way.   The team started with a hunch that more ‘down-to-earth’ explanations about the objectives of the scientists could be combined with better understanding of the values of the people living in the study regions.  Perhaps this dual approach could produce richer knowledge and experiences for everyone involved?  

The project needed to test this hunch or hypothesis. So the team looked at how scientists were investigating and communicating their knowledge of: 

1) wildfire and predators in the Simpson Desert 

2) engineered habitats for seawalls in North Sydney 

3) the grazing behaviour of sheep and kangaroos in the rangelands.  

Most importantly, the team paid close attention to how and why the community members engaged (or did not engage) with the scientists.The team staged special events in each location, bringing the communities and scientists together to explore not only scientific research but also the emotions and desires of various people involved with the particular regions. These exchanges were important, as they helped scientists reconsider how to make inquiries and deliver results that meet the challenges and the deep feelings that are most important to the communities.Unlike conventional ecological studies, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ sought to combine scientific and cultural observations by supplementing empirical data collection with humanities methods of analysing why people do what they do and how communities form bonds and act together.  Using cross-disciplinary techniques, the study sought a better understanding of the relationship between biological events, ecological and social value and human practices of place-making.  In addition to scientific data-gathering, ‘Iconic Landscapes’ also pursued ‘softer’ or more qualitative investigations involving storytelling, memory-gathering and playful word-associations in response to questions about the emotions attached to particular places. At the end of the project, when we gather up all the different ‘data-sets’ generated by ‘Iconic Landscapes’, we can see a little more clearly how particular communities experience nature, how they perceive their immediate surroundings, and what they want and need from the people who come into their territories.    So, this collection of videos, stories, word-patterns and images gives some fresh and refreshing insights into the scientific and cultural perceptions that tangle together in each of the three landscapes. 

20 YEARS OF DESERT RESEARCH – exhibition introduction…

There’s something about arid Australia that is incredibly magnetic… Once you get red sand under your skin, it pulls you back irresistibly. You don’t have much say about it. 

– Professor Chris Dickman 

20 years ago, Ecology Professor Chris Dickman arrived in the Simpson Desert. He planned to spend five or six years researching the patterns, distributions and abundances of small mammals and reptiles in the area before moving onto another site. After two decades, the University of Sydney’s Desert Ecology Research Group (DERG), of which Dickman is director, shows no sign of slowing down, or moving on. The 2000 kilometre journey north, through NSW and Queensland, is made three to four times a year. Each of these trips involves the participation of professors, students carrying out Honours and PhD projects and volunteers. To date, over 500 volunteers have been out on roughly 150 trips. Many have returned again and again. 

The desert itself is made up of a parallel dune system running southeast to northwest, extended for up to 200kms. While the Simpson Desert is only one part of the continent’s vast arid zone, it covers more than 17 million hectares of central Australia. DERG works mainly within Queensland’s Diamantina Shire channel country area of Bush Heritage Australia’s Ethabuka and Cravens Peak reserves as well as Carlo cattle station and Tobermorey station in the Northern Territory. 

The DERG is driven by a fascination with the richness of animal life, the systems that sustain them and by the imperative to conserve and manage the land. It is among the longest and most comprehensive arid zone research projects in Australia.

While numerous studies have been undertaken in the past, the DERG’s current two Australian Research Council projects are investigating the effects of predators on small mammals and reptiles and a follow up to the broad scale wild fire that went through the desert in 2001 and 2002 looking at the recovery of mammals, reptiles and plants.In this exhibition you will see a snapshot of life, fieldwork and the great diversity of plants and animals in the desert. 

It is hoped the DERG’s research will contribute vital information on how common and threatened species respond to fire, exotic species and grazing in the arid zone. It will also define the resources required for population and community recovery. 

Advances in ecological understanding are crucial for protecting, restoring the arid biome of Australia, which is experiencing pressure from changed land management regimes and uncertainty with respect to climate change in the future. 

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Filed under Arid dry-zone (Simpson Desert), Australian landscape's 'character', Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Presentation methods, Rangelands (Fowlers Gap), Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

Seawalls’ Dr MARK BROWNE on ABC’s Catalyst

On June 24, Dr Mark Browne, ecologist working on the Iconic Landscape’s seawalls case study, was on ABC’s Catalyst.

Man-made sea walls are a familiar, and increasingly essential feature on the urbanised coast, but they come at a cost to marine creatures and intertidal habitats. Surfing scientist Ruben Meerman meets Dr Mark Browne, a scientist who has come up with a simple yet effective solution to the problem.

You can view the piece here.

TRANSCRIPT

Ruben Meerman
The picture perfect spot, but building parks and homes right on the water comes at a price, sea walls are necessary to protect our property, but spare a thought for the marine life evicted from their natural homes.

Dr Mark Browne
Places like Australia, Asia, America and Europe, more than 50 per cent of the actual shoreline’s actually been replaced by these artificial sea walls.

NARRATION
Dr Mark Browne has been studying the impact of humans on marine animals and their habitats for the last 10 years.

Dr Mark Browne
Replacing natural shorelines with these artificial sea walls has huge ecological impacts. You’re replacing the natural area which is about 10 to 100 metres long with a sea wall, which is basically vertical. It’s very featureless, and because of its vertical surface, it actually restricts the amount of area that’s available, and critical habitats such as these sort of rock pools here, which have specialist fauna in them, aren’t actually present on the sea walls. Therefore there are huge impacts associated with the seawalls themselves. We’re looking in these types of habitats and were finding important species of snails, anthropods, limpets.

Ruben Meerman
They’re packed, there’s so many little creatures here and is that a starfish?

Dr Mark Browne
It is.

Dr Mark Browne
We want to try and conserve this species and have them living on the sea walls themselves.

Ruben Meerman
These sea walls will always be here and more will be built so how can we make them more marine friendly? The answer is flower pots but not the garden variety these are built to mimic natural rock pools.

Dr Mark Browne
The aim of our project is really to add an important microhabitat that is not normally found on a sea wall, I think we can use flowerpots.

Ruben Meerman
Here they are, and what’s holding them on?

Dr Mark Browne
The flower pots are held onto the wall using a galvanised metal bracket, which is then held on with four bolts

Ruben Meerman
Simple… and they’re two different heights, is there a reason for that?

Dr Mark Browne
They are two different heights so that we can get organisms that normally grow on the bottom of the wall that don’t normally grow on the top of the wall growing there.

Ruben Meerman
Right, so you’re extending the range in a way.

Dr Mark Browne
We are, we’re trying to make these walls more habitable and get more organisms on them. When the tide retreats, water’s left inside the pots that then forms a rock pool, the organisms then like to live in that rock pool and therefore during the emergent time when, when the tide’s out, we have a nice home for the organisms, for plants and animals to live in. In six months they actually improved the levels of biodiversity on the sea walls by up to five times.

Ruben Meerman
And what have we got in here?

Dr Mark Browne
So we’ve got unique species of red, green and brown algae, we’ve got very species of snails, limpets, anthropods, crabs and starfish. These are things that we don’t normally find on sea walls but we’re finding in these pots.

NARRATION
Mark’s happy with the results so far and if you’d like to help out our marine neighbours take on board Mark’s advice…

Dr Mark Browne
There are two approaches to improving biodiversity, one is to, when you’re actually building new sea walls, to have artificial rock pools built in, but if you’ve got existing sea walls, we’re saying to people that you are able to do something practical about biodiversity by just attaching these flowerpots onto existing walls.

Ruben Meerman
It might take a little while for these creatures to adapt to their new penthouse apartments by the sea but it’s home.

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Filed under Australian landscape's 'character', Interviews, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

Exhibition video

The current collaborative exhibition between North Sydney Council’s Smart Trees – Blue Harbour and the University of Sydney’s Iconic Landscapes projects, at North Sydney library, has the following video on display.

The compilation takes us through some the joint initiative’s survey findings around how the local North Sydney community value their environment as well as presenting snapshots of the individual initiatives.

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Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

North Sydney Council and Iconic Landscapes: exhibition collaboration

The University of Sydney’s Iconic Landscapes study and North Sydney’s Smart Trees – Blue Harbour project have collaborated on a study looking at how the North Sydney residents relate to, understand and value their local environment.

In designing a survey (which was completed by 360 residents) we were conscious that understanding and asking the community what values they associate with the environment is vital for effective engagement, education and policy direction.

In the following photos you will see ‘wordles’ (from wordle.net) have been used to communicate the survey findings of specific questions.

Examples:

* What comes to mind when you think about the harbour coastline or seawalls?

* What comes to mind when you think about your local natural environment?

* What does nature mean to you in a word/colour/image/sound/smell?

Responses are collated and the larger and bolder the word, the more frequently it was used by respondents to express their views. Those viewing the exhibition are asked to link these questions with the corresponding wordle.

The exhibition, which also explores the natural history of North Sydney will be on display for the next couple of months on level 2 of North Sydney Library, 234 Miller Street.

Wordle display

 

Corresponding questions

 

Collaborative survey

 

North Sydney and the University of Sydney working together

 

Exhibition video - one of the sections looking at Mark Browne's work with seawalls in Sydney Harbour

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Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

AN EXHIBITION… North Sydney Council and The University of Sydney collaborate

Results from the Iconic Landscapes Study’s collaboration with North Sydney Council will be displayed at an upcoming exhibition on the Natural History of North Sydney Council.

Over the past six months, The University of Sydney has worked with the Council on a survey looking at how the local North Sydney community values their environment. Part of this study focused on seawalls; one of the three case studies in the Iconic Landscapes project.

If you are interested in attending, please contact me at gemma.deavin@sydney.edu.au or 02 9351 4870 to RSVP by Friday 14 May.

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Filed under Bringing the project to life, People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals

Where the harbour meets houses

In a previous entry, I posted a photographic montage video of Mark Browne examining sea life he had transplanted into flowerpots on the Cremorne Point and Careening Cove seawalls in Sydney Harbour.

During that afternoon I also followed him to Kurraba point where he was testing limpets and their suction power. 

The following images aim to serve as a brief narrative of seawall field work in the iconic Sydney Harbour location. We can see, clearly, juxtapositions between man made seawalls built as fortresses to harbour side homes and the natural oyster littered rocky outcrops they sit on.

Climbing down the seawall to get access to the site at Kurraba Point

 

The barrier between harbour and house. A natural rocky shore interrupted.

 

The oyster littered rocky outcrop beyond the seawall

 

Mark working with the limpets

 

Testing their strength

 

Incoming tide

 

More limpet work

 

A nice backdrop

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Filed under People and the environment, Sydney Harbour (seawalls), Visuals