Environmental restoration

New partnership will help students connect classroom theory with hands-on environmental restoration work

La Trobe University, Greenfleet, and Darebin Creek Management Committee are embarking on a new partnership aimed at bridging the gap between academic learning and the practical realities of environmental restoration.

Dr Jennifer Wood, Senior Lecturer and Microbial Ecologist, said the project, which focuses on soil biological health, will help students connect classroom theory with hands-on environmental restoration work.

"Students will delve into soils from community-restored sites like the Arch Gibson Reserve and a Greenfleet owned location in South Gippsland. Using a range of tools, from traditional tests to cutting-edge techniques like next-generation sequencing, they'll uncover the intricate changes in soil microbiology during the restoration process," Dr Wood explains.

"We aim to enrich student learning by fostering a direct link between their academic knowledge and real-world environmental practices."

Greenfleet CEO, Wayne Wescott, said they were thrilled to help facilitate La Trobe’s research at their revegetation project in South Gippsland.

“We are focused on restoring resilient, native ecosystems and healthy soils are a vital part of this. We look forward to working with and learning from La Trobe’s research in this space,” he says.

Danny Reddan, Coordinator of Darebin Creek Management Committee, said the partnership would provide valuable resources and help with restoration efforts.

"The partnership with La Trobe University enables us to look at what is happening below the surface at our ecological restoration sites.  We know the soil microbes are critical for the health of the plants and understanding the microbiota can help us make better management decisions.  We don’t have the resources so we are very grateful for the partnership and excited about what we will learn."

The collaboration will also contribute to long-term data collection and analysis.

"What sets our project apart is its long-term perspective. We're in it for the duration, studying the soil over several years to gain a profound understanding of its changes over time”.

“Our focus includes examining the impact of tree planting, the influence of sustainable farming practices, and the below-ground dynamics when land is managed using Indigenous knowledge."

Dr Wood said the partnership has the potential to make a real impact in environmental science research.

"This collaboration isn't just about learning; it's about making a real-world impact through research. The ultimate goal is to forge connections with communities and empower students to tackle pressing research questions. It's a symbiotic relationship between education and real-world research, paving the way for a better future."