Master's research projects for Unimelb students

Potential research projects Semester 1, 2020

 

Community energy, carbon markets, ocean governance, and ecosystem-based adaptation

Students with interests in sustainability governance, the blue economy, climate risk and resilience, community development, integrative science, and transition studies are welcome to discuss project opportunities. Our research integrates diverse disciplinary perspectives and skills, from spatial ecology and techno-economic modelling to political ecology and environmental history. The research group is particularly interested in how communities and organisations engage with wider policy and market mechanisms to achieve their sustainability aspirations, within the larger context of climate change resilience, adaptation, and societal transition.

We have several potential projects with industry partners.

1. The sustainable high school

SL@M has been approached by a high school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne with interest in developing a sustainability strategy and master plan. There are multiple possible research projects involved. These would be conducted as professional activities in partnership with the School Council, academic leadership, and the Student Representative Council. Projects would be designed to feed into practical outcomes for the school and local governments. The projects below could be undertaken by students individually or in a small team.

Project A: Masterplan for sustainability (50 points, 2 semesters)

The high school would like to establish an integrated long-term strategic approach to managing its energy, water, and environmental assets. This project will involve mapping physical layout and structures, current resource stocks and flows, and financial dynamics of these. From that foundation the intention will be design a sustainability masterplan that incorporates new renewable energy installations, water management, green walls and horticulture opportunities, and other components as appropriate. The student will work with the high school staff, the School Council, and potentially students.

Required:

·      Ability to conduct integrated techno-economic modelling of energy, water, and environmental systems

·      Enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research

Desirable:

·      GIS mapping expertise

Project B: Ecological engagement (50 points, 2 semesters)

The student population at the school includes a large number of individuals committed to and passionate about environment and sustainability issues. The Student Representative Council is interested in developing a program that would engage students with environmental activities to develop understanding and build skills. We envisage that this project could involve training teachers and student volunteers to conduct an ecological mapping of the school campus, and to design and propose new green infrastructure. The high school is seeking to be a state and national leader in environmental issues, so there are opportunities for creative visions to be pursued.

Required:

·      Environmental science knowledge and skills

·      Imagination and enthusiasm

Desirable:

·      Knowledge of environmental education or curriculum development

·      Social research skills

Project C: Active transport (25 points, 1 or 2 semesters OR 50 points, 2 semesters)

The high school is interested in developing its strategy for active transport – meaning walking, cycling, and transit options for students and staff coming to the campus. This project can operate has two key components. The first is a mapping of current and potential routes for students travelling to the school. This exercise requires GIS skills and will cover public transport, cycling routes, and walking options. The second component will involve quantifying usage of these different routes, and potentially surveying the school community to understand barriers to and enablers of increased use of active transport options. The project can be conducted as either 25 points (over one or two semesters) or 50 points (over two semesters).

Required:

·      GIS skills

·      Ability to ride a bike

Desirable:

·      Understanding of urban planning systems

·      Social research skills

 

2. Developing a M&E framework for an Indonesian social enterprise (50 points, 2 semesters)

Handep (www.handepharuei.com) is a social enterprise based in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia working to empower women and smallholder farmers through eco-fashion products. It aims to create locally sensitive sustainable economic development for rural communities in Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan, by providing more locally appropriate and sustainable livelihoods for rural communities through added value creation of local forest and agricultural products. Handep was co-founded by OEP graduate Randi Miranda. Handep is establishing a project titled "Empowering Indigenous Women through Ecofashion." This will involve training in innovative design for rattan crafts; training in quality control for rattan crafts; training in basic finance management; tree and rattan planting in local community or village forests; and connecting weavers to potential business partners. Handep intends to develop an impacts monitoring and evaluation program, and would like to partner with SL@M to establish a robust strategic approach to this. This might involve surveying beneficiaries and interviews with beneficiaries or other project stakeholders.

Required:

·      Knowledge and skills in project monitoring and evaluation

·      Knowledge and skills in social and/or environmental impact assessment

·      Social research skills

Desirable:

·      Indonesian language skills

3. The geography of equity in community renewable energy (25 points, 1 or 2 semesters OR 50 points, 2 semesters)

Interest is growing in the opportunities for community investment in renewable energy initiatives. This might mean cooperative bulk-buying of green energy, or investment in a new small-scale generation facility, or partnership agreements with developers. It appears likely that the ability to participate in these types of investment will not be equally available to all community members in rural and remote areas. This project will examine existing community renewable initiatives globally to map their characteristics through the lens of economic geography, in order to consider equity aspects of these types of projects.

Required:

·      Knowledge and skills in statistics

Desirable:

·      Understanding of economic geography

 

4. An industry approach to operationalising the SDGs in Australia

Businesses across Australia are looking for ways to align their commercial activities with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Work has been done by research and non-government organisations that assesses business disclosures and activities against the SDGs, but there is as yet no clear guidance for the private sector as to how firms can identify relevant SDGs, interpret their activities through SDG lenses, and – most importantly – measure their contributions (positive or negative) to SDG targets. This project will take a sectoral approach and develop an analytical process for business to apply to address these knowledge gaps. The project outputs will include a framework for sectoral approaches to SDG alignment, and a specific guide for at least one sector in the Australian economy.

Required:

·      Strategic management theory or business analysis

·      Quantitative research skills

Desirable:

·      Industry experience

 

5. Sustainable fashion (25 or 50 points, 1 or 2 semesters)

Fashion Boundary (https://fashionboundary.com/) is an online fashion retailer founded in 2018. They unite small labels under one roof to showcase unique and fairly high-end pieces. Fashion Boundary is a platform for independent designers to promote their brand in a supportive, collective space. The company does not compete with fast fashion and has decided to focus on good quality, interesting, wearable pieces. They advocate slow fashion and sustainability, sourcing labels that value ethical means of production and the use of sustainable materials.

Fashion Boundary wants to continually improve its sustainability processes. As a first step they want to map existing sustainability metrics in their online, distributed business model. This will involve assessing supply chain components across their 35 international suppliers, including packaging, transport and energy, and social issues. The project is flexible and the student can propose suitable approaches, developing a specific research strategy in conjunction with the supervisor and industry partner.

Required:

·      Knowledge of sustainable supply chains, LCA, or business logistics

·      Quantitative research skills

Desirable:

·      Interest in sustainable fashion