PhD student joins world-first project

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PhD student joins world-first project

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Published on 21 December 2015

A world-first research project into how floating wetland systems can be used to improve water quality in residential developments has attracted a postgraduate student from Germany to the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Peter Schwammberger, 31, recently moved to the Sunshine Coast from Munich after receiving a scholarship to complete his PhD through an innovative research partnership between USC’s Stormwater Research Group, engineering consultancy firm Covey Associates and the developers of local residential estate Parklakes 2.

As part of his PhD, Mr Schwammberger will monitor and evaluate the performance of a $1 million floating wetland treatment system – believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the world – recently installed in a 2.5-hectare manmade lake at Parklakes 2 in Bli Bli.

The treatment system uses selected plant species to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff from the nearby estate, by drawing excess nutrients and pollutants from the surrounding water.

Research findings from the three-year project will help to determine best practice for using floating wetland treatment systems in and around residential estates.
 
Prior to commencing at USC Mr Schwammberger completed a Master of Environmental Engineering at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), and worked as a project manager and environmental consultant for a range of industry-based clients.

“In my previous work I specialised in water research, particularly using different technologies to improve water quality in urban infrastructure projects,” he said.

“Often developers just build, and don’t take action until they realise there’s a problem.

“What’s great about this project is that the developer is very proactive about environmental considerations, and is willing to invest to make sure they have the best possible water quality.”

Mr Schwammberger said working with natural materials and plants would provide a welcome change from some of his previous projects, as would being based at USC.

Head of USC Engineering’s Stormwater Research Group Dr Terry Lucke, who is Mr Schwammberger’s principal supervisor, said his student’s unique combination of research and industry experience made him an ideal candidate for the collaborative project, which is the first of its kind on the Sunshine Coast.

Also on the project team is Covey Associates environmental manager Dr Chris Walker, who completed his PhD on urban lake design and stormwater quality modelling at USC in 2012 and is co-supervising Mr Schwammberger’s research.

— Jarna Baudinette

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