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Early in Semester 2 (8th July - 17th July), full-time and part-time MIWM students travel to Cairns in tropical North Queensland for a 9 day intensive course as part of the 7920ENV - Catchment and Aquatic Ecosystem Health module.


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The city of Cairns in Far North Queensland serves as the major commercial hub for the rich grazing, horticulture and sugar cane industries of the Wet Tropics Region. This region consists of tropical coastal lowlands and the adjacent Atherton Tableland, and includes the rainforests of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Cairns is also Australia’s most popular destination for international tourists outside of the major capital cities, being the main tourist gateway to the Wet Tropics Region and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

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Recent scientific evidence suggests that run-off of sediments, nutrients and agricultural chemicals has adversely affected the health of the Great Barrier Reef. This poses a threat to the World Heritage status of the reef, and to the tourist industry that depends upon the health of that reef. Because of those threats, farmers are being encouraged by government to change their practises for the benefits of other sectors of the community, and to protect the health of the reef. This 9-day intensive examines the effects that agriculture may pose to the Great Barrier Reef, and how the agricultural sector has responded to those threats.


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The program for this 9-day field trip comprises:

1)      A field trip to the Great Barrier Reef to familiarise students with the reef and with techniques for the rapid assessment of reef health

2)      Field trips to agricultural sites throughout the Wet Tropics region to hear from farmers and industry leaders and inspect projects designed to reduce the impacts of agriculture on aquatic ecosystems

3)      Lectures and presentations from regional stakeholders, industry leaders and academics to provide understanding of government and industry responses, and or research efforts to monitor and address aquatic ecosystem health. 

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The guest presenters and site visits provide local context for the application of theoretical content provided by IWC academics. This approach aims to provide students with an appreciation of the complex issues that need to be considered in the management of natural resources in the context of a productive agricultural region that also relies upon the health of its marine and terrestrial ecosystems for it prosperity.

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