Research focus and directions - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Research focus and directions

Located in one of Queensland’s fastest growing regions, USC is uniquely positioned to influence the confluence of society, economic development, and environment. These three pillars form the foundation of the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC), and are reflected in the transdisciplinary expertise that will guide our research over the next decade.

Underpinning all our research is an emphasis on understanding the relationships between people, place, and change. The Centre focuses on evolving sustainability issues, such as coastal management, water resources, community development, rural landscape management, indigenous aspirations, natural hazards, and climate change adaptation.

For example, a key stressor in our regions is the rapid influx of people into coastal communities, coupled with the northward expansion of the Brisbane metropolitan area, which place additional pressures on ecosystems, infrastructures, landscape and urban planning. Development pressures are further exacerbated by ongoing climate change, particularly sea level rise, impacts on water resources, and natural hazards. At the same time, rural areas in North Queensland are struggling to grapple with the balance among large-scale mechanized agriculture, grazing practices, and potential impacts on both freshwater and coastal resources, including the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.

A comprehensive, long-term approach to these issues requires combined environmental, economic, and social science expertise. While in our first decade the Centre’s research focus was largely in the social sciences, more recent research has emphasised collaborations with environmental and biogeophysical scientists – a trend that will continue to capture the full spectrum of sustainability, and grow our already excellent research programs.

Our research portfolio addresses long-term sustainability issues locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Our international research benefits from broad networks of collaborators and funders, and provides synergies with our regional research, where added value is realised both within our region and abroad by collaborations and place-based investigations. These studies involve supporting sustainable livelihoods and environments in the Pacific Islands, Southeast and East Asia, Central Asia, and Latin America.

Knowledge gained from regional investigations in Queensland can help inform key social and environmental issues in many of these developing nations. In contrast, Queensland can benefit from lessons learned in other countries related to natural hazards, land and water management constructs and models, and community development. The Centre’s active outreach and capacity development in emerging economies remains an important aspect of our excellence and provides unique opportunities for sustainability students at USC.

As such, our major goal is to serve the people, environment, and economies of Queensland and beyond, in the most transparent and sustainable manner.