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Learning in the real world: IWC students undertake Gladstone field trip

In late July, 20 full-time and 26 part-time Masters students from 20 different countries traveled to Gladstone in Central Queensland to participate in a field trip as part of the Catchment and Aquatic Ecosystem Health module of International WaterCentre’s (IWC) Masters program.
Learning in the real world: IWC students undertake Gladstone field trip

2015 Masters students on their Gladstone field trip

Each year, full-time and part-time students of the IWC Master of Integrated Water Management travel to Gladstone for a 10-day intensive field trip as part of the Catchment and Aquatic Ecosystem Health module.

Gladstone, home to Queensland's largest multi-commodity port, is an area of significant economic growth in Australia. Much of the development in the region is related to mining, with raw commodities exported and imported into Gladstone. Recent developments such as expansion of the port facilities, and corresponding issues of the health of the harbour, have attracted significant attention politically and within the community over the past few years.

2015 field trip highlights

Through harbour and site tours, the Masters students met with a wide range of local stakeholders involved in the management and monitoring of the development in the region and learnt, first-hand, examples of integrated water management in practice. These tours also provided local context to the module's lecture content which is about understanding catchment and receiving water disturbances and the consequences for aquatic ecosystem health.

The field trip contained an interesting mix of theoretical content delivered by Dr Wade Hadwen from the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University, and context-specific information from a wide range of guest presenters, including:

  • government (Gladstone Regional Council, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Gladstone Ports Corporation)
  • not-for-profit agencies (Fitzroy Basin Authority, Capricornia Catchments, Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership)
  • universities (Central Queensland University)
  • private companies (Gladstone Area Water Board, Queensland Alumina Limited and Infofish).

"I really enjoyed working with my classmates during the field trip in Gladstone. We all approach water issues in completely different ways and it's fascinating to learn about our approaches while working on the same assignments. Gladstone allowed me to take apart the puzzle pieces of a complicated water issue, and to put my classroom education around integration to work in real life. I came out of the intensive course feeling like I had a better idea of why water-related issues are so difficult to tackle and how we can approach useful solutions", said Kimberly Worsham.

2015 Gladstone tripLearning outcomes

The field trip focused on building the students’ awareness of complex issues in a developed catchment that has a history of environmental health issues. The information gathered throughout the field trip helped them understand the local context of the region and build their own view of the issues and challenges that lie ahead, particularly around the monitoring of the health of the catchment, harbour and the Great Barrier Reef.           

"During the Gladstone field trip I learnt first-hand from academics, industry groups, government authorities and landowners about the issues and complexities in managing Gladstone Harbour. I also took advantage of a day off to snorkel and dive on the Great Barrier Reef, climb Mt Larcom and relax on the beach at 1770 and Agnes Water. With renewed friendships and continuing enthusiasm, I am now looking forward to the next round of field trips at the end of this year and next year", said Erin Sellers.        

Problem-Based Learning Project

Whilst in Gladstone the Masters students undertook a problem-based learning project in collaboration with the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership  (GHHP). The primary aim of the ‘Gladstone Healthy Harbour Model Use Project’ is to help form a better understanding of how the GHHP can structure, communicate, share and discuss scientific information and knowledge in the form of a Harbour Model. This will inform and assist with the strategic management of the health of the harbour in the longer term and assist in working towards the vision of a healthy, accessible, working harbour.

Masters students split up into nine teams of 4-5 members each and interviewed a range of 18 stakeholders from industry, government, Traditional Owners groups, environmental organisations and NGOs to learn how stakeholder values and perceptions can be elicited and used to improve decision-making in complex, multi-stakeholder water management contexts. As this project forms part of their assessment for the Masters program, each student writes up a report with a sample of the best reports being presented to the GHHP and the stakeholders involved.

The Harbour Model is a good example of integrated water management in practice - bringing together environmental, economic, social and cultural knowledge; combining multiple stakeholder and community perspectives into a single vision; and integrating scientific knowledge and community aspirations into local government, state government, industry and NGO planning and management decision-making.

More information

IWC Master of Integrated Water Management

The IWC Masters program creates water leaders by drawing on international teaching and research from many fields to provide a trans-disciplinary, whole-of-water-cycle approach to water management.

Scholarships for the next intake of the IWC Master of Integrated Water Management remain open until 1 October 2015 for domestic candidates (applications are now closed for international candidates).


IWC Masters Scholarships



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