Australian Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Settlements and Infrastructure 4th National Early Career Researchers’ Forum and Workshop

Over the 24th to 26th of November, 31 energetic Early Career Researchers from around Australia gathered for the 4th ACCARNSI ECR forum and workshop hosted by the University of South Australia, Adelaide. This forum aimed to build capacity within Australia’s climate change adaptation research community, particularly through focusing on upcoming early career researchers.

Like previous ACCARNSI forum and workshops this event focused on climate change adaptation for Australia settlements and infrastructure. There was very high quality research in this field with current results presented on topical Australian issues. Presentations at the workshop covered research interests across all the four ACCARNSI nodes and were led by the relevant Node convenors :

  1. Coastal settlements, led by Rodger Tomlinson;
  2. Urban planning, transport and inclusion, led by Michael Taylor;
  3. Built environment, innovation and institutional reform, led by Peter Graham; and
  4. Infrastructure, led by Bill Peirson.

An energetic talk from Professor Steffen Lehmann, the director of the Zero Waste SA Centre set an inspirational tone to the event and encouraged holistic thinking combined with collaboration as a cornerstone to innovation in the built environment. The ACCARNSI Network convenor, Associate Professor Ron Cox, gave an enlightening keynote on flooding and coastal adaptation responses as well as an update on NCCARF research progress.

Participants enjoyed a tour of two McLaren Vale wineries and discussed adaptation options for vineyards in the region. This was followed by a guided tour of the Adelaide coast, from Maslin to Glenelg beaches, where Murray Townsend , Manager Coastal Management Branch of SA Department of Environment and Natural Resources highlighted vulnerable areas as well as key adaptation projects. The main issues identified were the continuing coastal erosion of the soft-material cliffs leading to potentially dangerous cave formation and the erosion of housing developments and key infrastructure including a landfill. Sea wall protection measures have been put in place to reduce the impact of erosion in some of these key areas. The second issue relates to the high rate of sediment transport along the coast leading to sand deficits in some beaches. A permanent sediment bypass system is being developed to reduce existing sand carting to address this issue.

 The Book of Abstracts can be downloaded here

 Field trip photo's courtesy of ECR participant Susilawati


ECR testimonials

Nadine White, Southern Cross University, New South Wales

The Early Career Researchers Workshop and Forum held at the University of South Australia was a fantastic opportunity to meet other researchers in the field of climate change adaptation related to settlements and infrastructure. The diversity of projects meant the program of presentations was interesting and eclectic and I particularly gained a lot from the different methodological approaches that people are applying.

There were a range of pragmatic, empirical, conceptual and theoretical studies which weaved together to form a wonderful overview of adaptation research. It was great to have a mix of post-grads, post-docs and in particular from my perspective people from industry and government to keep us focussed on the needs of end-users in those sectors. Several established researchers from the ACCARNSI network also presented on their particular field of interest which were also well received.

The program incorporated a welcome break from the conference room and we headed off to McLaren Vale to visit Fox Creek Wines and Penny’s Hill & Mr Riggs Cellars. Hosts at both cellar doors were convivial and informative as we sat in the sunshine and tasted some superb local wines. The trip back to Adelaide took us along the coast and our guide Murray Townsend pointed out a number of identified issues that had implications for climate change adaptation in the coastal settlements. In all, the forum was a fantastic learning and sharing experience and I truly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.

Sarah Adams, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland

I was fortunate to attend the 4th ACCARNSI Early Career Researcher workshop in Adelaide. The workshop drew together a diverse and dynamic group of researchers including honours, masters, and PhD students, as well as consultants, and early career academics from around Australia. The group was led by well-established career academics who generously gave of their time, energy, expertise and inspiration. During the three-day workshop, each person shared their work – a wide range of innovative ideas, methods and results – and the discussions continued over lunches and coffees. The group dinner and the wine and coastal tour gave us more opportunities to make and deepen connections. The diversity and breadth of the research was most exciting, introducing me to ideas and approaches I had not encountered or deepening my curiosity about certain topics. As a PhD student beginning my second year, the opportunity to present my work, discuss it with peers and receive comments and suggestions from established academics was very beneficial. I would definitely encourage early career researchers to apply for the next workshop. My only wish is that we had had more time to discuss the research that people presented – we could have talked for 2 more days!

Tayanah O’Donnell, University of Western Sydney, New South Wales

Just a quick note to say thanks for all the organising; it was great to have been selected to attend the ECR last week. Really appreciate it! It was one of the best workshops I have been to, including legal conferences back when I was practising law.

Louise Gates, University of New South Wales, New South Wales

The participants for the 4th ACCARNSI Early Career Research (ECR) Workshop arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday 23rd November, only to be greeted by 35 degree heat! Whilst some rushed to beach, others sheltered in the air conditioning at the Breakfree apartments on Hindley St, and took the opportunity to socialise before the formal commencement of the workshop the following morning. Participants for the 4th workshop were the most diverse ECR group thus far, hailing from locations all over Australia including WA, Tasmania, NSW, Vic, both South and North East Qld, and of course SA.

The workshop began on Wednesday 24th November with a warm welcome from Prof Michael Taylor from UniSA. A stimulating presentation by Steffan Lehmann then set the tone for the following three days, raising a number of broad challenges which would become focus points for the ECR presentations.

The ECR talks themselves were categorised under the four ACCARNSI nodes. On Wednesday we heard from researchers whose work fell under the broad heads of Urban Management, Transport & Inclusion (Node 2) and Infrastructure (Node 4). The interdisciplinary nature of research topics highlighted the wide-reaching impacts of climate change, as well as the need for the development of a wide range of adaptation solutions. Following a group discussion, Convenor Ron Cox then drew our attention to further flow-on effects of climate change impacts, particularly the need to develop new standards and models for emergency management in response to extreme flood events. The day ended with a group dinner at Concubine Chinese Restaurant, where all dishes were extremely tasty (despite the restaurant’s distasteful name).

The morning of Thursday 25th was devoted to the coastal zone (Node 1). Node Convenor Prof Rodger Tomlinson introduced the ECR presentations, which again dealt with a range of topics presented from varying disciplines, including planning, engineering and law. The group was then treated to a field trip to Penny’s Hill and Fox Creek wineries, McLaren Vale –to gain some first-hand experience of an industry which is particularly vulnerable to changes in climate. Full advantage of the experience was made with the tasting and purchasing of wine, before the ECRs returned to Adelaide via the Onkaparinga coastline, with some very informative commentary provided by Murray Townsend.

On Friday 26th November the ECRs heard from Dr Peter Graham on Node 3 (Built environment, innovation and institutional reform). Following this address, we were indeed presented with some very innovative ideas regarding the way we make decisions about distributing energy, building houses, and using water (to name a few). Finally, we heard from Jacqueline Balston from UniSA in regard to a forthcoming study which aims to develop a standardised tool for local councils across Australia to manage their assets in light of climate change. Further discussion ensued, with participants exchanging some last minute thoughts and sentiments before departing for their home states.

A key point that re-emerged in group discussions over the three days was that social barriers, rather than technological barriers, must be overcome before populations can adapt to climate change, and that this will require behavioural and attitudinal change. It also emerged very strongly from ECR presentations that different regions are both affected, and will respond, differently to the particular climate change impacts affecting their communities. Many ECR participants expressed a belief that working collaboratively is an essential process in understanding the wide-ranging problems of climate change, and a necessary prerequisite to finding appropriate adaptive solutions.

Overall, the workshop was invaluable in opening our eyes to the impacts of climate change from the perspectives of researchers and stakeholders from different disciplines, backgrounds and regions. The many opportunities for networking meant that all ECR participants made invaluable contacts, and some amazing friends. Special thanks must go to Tamara Rouse for organising the event so brilliantly, and to Chris Button for coordinating all the Adelaide-based activities.


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