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Edition 4, 2020
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Welcome to Edition 4 of 'News from an Island in Suburbia'. We hope this edition finds you all well and enjoying the warmer weather. It is hard to believe that it is September already!

If you are enjoying our newsletter, please share it with your family, friends and networks and encourage them to sign up to receive it directly to their inbox. Alternatively, we have now added past newsletters and webinars to our website so if you have missed any newsletters or haven't been able to attend our webinars, you can catch up here.


The EcoCentre continues to be staffed part-time with the office being open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday each week. If you would like to contact us about bookings for 2021, or any other inquiry, these are the best days to do so. Alternatively, you can email us any time. The EcoCentre does remains closed to the public for the rest of 2020.

Progress has begun on the Griffith Experimental Archaeological Research Facility (GEAR) which is located right next to the EcoCentre with the first structure being built. We are very excited to be a part of the creation of this facility which will provide students with hands on experience in excavation and the opportunity to perform experiments that can't be performed in a lab.

July 28 2020_Taphonomy01
 Upcoming Events


The EcoCentre is pleased to present the Toohey Forest Biodiversity Webinar Series. This 5-part series will cover various aspects of the abundant biodiversity that makes up Toohey Forest.

The next instalment of the biodiversity series will be held on Thursday 3 September from 5.30 - 6.30pm and is on the topic of koalas. Many of you may already know our presenter for this topic, Brad Lambert, founder of the awesome Toohey Forest Wildlife facebook page. If you haven't checked out this page yet, you really should. If you haven't already registered for this event, you can register here.
Sustainability Champion

by Dina Getova

Cheryl Desha pic
The Sustainability Champion for this month is Sustainability Researcher, academic, and nature-lover, Cheryl Desha. Cheryl has been with Griffith University since 1995 when she began her undergraduate studies in Environmental Engineering. According to Cheryl, it was a “right place, right time” situation that led to her studies. “I was born in Mauritius, then my family immigrated to Australia aged 5,” she says. “In Grade 12 I entered the Lions Youth of the Year competition and the interviews were at Nathan campus. Thanks to a brochure on the table, I went on to study environmental engineering here at Griffith University.” And as they say, the rest is history!

Since then, she has become an Engagement Director in the School of Engineering and Built Environment, as well as the Theme Leader for the Digital Earth and Resilience Infrastructure team within the Cities Research Institute.

And Cheryl has a great story to share about her relationship with Griffith over the years. “This year is the 30th birthday for Civil Engineering at Griffith,” she says. “My colleagues found an old video of me in undergraduate years (last century!) at Griffith, talking about engineering – I realised I was standing on the same spot as where the new building is now!” Talk about coming a full circle! Cheryl says, “That was a surreal moment of ‘closing the loop’ on my career journey to date.”

Cheryl’s interest in the environment began when she was young. “I have grown up being interested in looking after the environment and managing the human impact on other systems,” she says. A lot of Cheryl’s research has been focused on sustainable development, which she has been working on for 20 years. As Cheryl describes it, this involves “building capacity for plant-based, nature-loving, and nature-inspired sustainable solutions.”

This has led Cheryl to work on some interesting projects, including the Community Energy Efficiency Program, which “included a national initiative to develop targeted energy efficiency education material for universities.” She has also collaborated with Industry Partner Q1 to develop technological innovations and is working on resilient and sustainable infrastructure.

At the moment, Cheryl is busy working on developing a Disaster and Resilience Management facility at Griffith University, which will be used as “our go-to place for disaster response capacity building and forward planning.” As she explains, “[South-East Queensland] is one of the world’s hotspots for development, natural disasters, and leadership in disaster response and recovery.” Another of Cheryl’s current projects is her work with car manufacturer Bentley, and you can also catch her on a podcast with the Energy Efficient Council called First Fuel, where she discusses efficient energy.

While Cheryl is very busy at the moment, she still takes time to appreciate the natural world around her – as can be seen by her favourite hobby. “I love ‘fish tank scuba diving’ – aka scuba diving in still, shallow water,” explains Cheryl. “It is very relaxing to breathe slowly and stare at the fish. It is another world underwater, and a reminder to value the air that we breathe.”

Links to Cheryl’s projects:

The Natural Edge Project

TRED Lightly


New building

Arizona State University podcast

Building sensors

First Fuel Podcast

Digital Earth chapter

New blog post

Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all 193 United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.                                

Goal 07

Affordable and Clean Energy.
(Click on the image to find out more about the targets for goal 7)


Goal 08

Decent Work and Economic Growth.
(Click on the image to find out more about the targets for goal 8)


Goal 09

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
(Click on the image to find out more about the targets for goal 9)

Griffith University Sustainability Week 2020

Griffith’s Sustainability Week runs from Monday 31 August through to Friday 4 September, with a range of webinars, events and information, focused on Griffith’s environmental sustainability strategies, as we honour our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to tackle global challenges, such as climate change and environmental issues.

Our commitment to environmental sustainability is such an important aspect of Griffith’s culture and as socially responsible citizens we all have a part to play in securing the future of our planet. Since 2019, we have made significant progress towards our environmental sustainability goals, with the following key achievements:

•    Implemented new postgraduate teaching programs with a focus on sustainability.
•    Griffith’s Climate Change Response Program leads Griffith University’s research in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
•    Opened an international research hub for researchers fighting climate change and infectious disease outbreaks.
•    Implemented a number of transport, energy saving and conservation management strategies across our campuses aimed at reducing our carbon emissions.
•    Introduced the Sustainable Paper Procurement Initiative to eliminate the use of non-recycled paper, increasing the University’s paper consumption from 100% recycled sources from 19% to 41%.  

Griffith University is in the top 100 universities worldwide in volume of research outputs related to sustainability.

For more information on Griffith sustainability events, click here.

 SustainabilityWeek 2020
 Focus on Toohey Forest

Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) Brushtail possum

The Brushtail Possum is a nocturnal, tree-dwelling mammal that can be found in Toohey Forest and most back yards. These mammals can weigh up to 4 kilograms and are usually a light grey in colour with a thick, bushy black tail. Their big eyes and excellent night-vision allows them to easily find food at night. Brushtail Possums mainly eat leaves, flowers, seeds and fruit but will also eat insects and bird eggs. The biggest predators of the Brushtail Possum are carpet pythons, powerful owls, foxes, cats and dogs.

Fascinating Fact

Brushtail possums have a bare patch on the underside of their tail which helps them to grip onto branches.

Raising Chickens
chicken coop

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we can all afford to be more sustainable and self-sufficient. A great way to do this is by raising your own chickens.

There are many benefits to keeping poultry in urban spaces, which include:

•    A regular supply of cruelty-free, natural fresh eggs
•    A never-ending supply of fertiliser (composted chicken manure is a fantastic resource for the garden)
•    Natural pest and weed control
•    Reduce food waste by giving kitchen scraps to your hens
•    Educational value for your children
•    Reduce food miles and your carbon footprint when you’re walking to your backyard to collect eggs
•    Mental health benefits by getting outside and spending time in the garden.

Before you decide to buy chooks, there are a few things that you need to consider and organise beforehand:

1.    Council regulations - no matter which council region you’re located in, there will be regulations. Check your local council’s web site for information.
2.    Housing – when setting up a chicken coop, there are some very important considerations to take into account such as making it predator-proof, ventilation, space for the chickens to run and protection from the weather.
3.    Feeding your chickens – chickens need a good, balanced diet including minerals, vitamins, protein and carbohydrates. Protein should be at least 17% of their diet to ensure good egg production. The easiest way to provide this is to purchase ready-to-go feed from a local produce store. Chickens also need a range of greens in their diet to give them all the essential vitamins, particularly Vitamin A because this is what gives the yolks that vibrant yellow colour. Great greens to feed are comfrey, chicory, dandelion, chickweed, sorrel and silver beet. Shell grit is important for adding calcium to their diet to help form strong egg shells but it also aids in digestion. Most commercial poultry feed will have shell grit added.
4.    Choosing the right breed –  just like choosing any pet for your family, choosing the right breed of chicken is important. Depending on whether you are wanting chickens for pets, garden workers, manure producers or egg-laying, will determine the breed you should choose. Hybrid chickens produce the largest amount of eggs but only lay for  2 to 3 years before quantities decline. Pure-bred chickens lay a good amount of eggs, not as much as the hybrids, but will lay for 4 to 5 years before declining. Some of the most popular breeds are Lowman Brown, White Leghorn, Rhode Island Red and Isabrown. The best egg producers are Isa Brown. Hi-Sex Brown and Hyline Brown and can produce 300 eggs per year.

Sustainable living tip

Go paper free!
 Use less paper
 Do you find you are drowning in paper? It may be in the form of newspaper, wrapping paper, bills, receipts or junk mail.

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of paper you collect and ultimately need to dispose of.

•    Instead of purchasing printed newspapers or magazines, subscribe to digital news services.
•    We all have bills and one of the easiest ways to reduce paper use is to ask your service providers to supply  bills electronically instead of in paper form.
•    Opt for electronic bank statements.
•    Don’t accept shopping receipts unless you need them or, where available, ask for receipts to be emailed to you.
•    Especially at Christmas time, we use a lot of wrapping paper, much of which can’t be recycled due to plastic coatings or the use of glitter. You could avoid buying wrapping paper by reusing wrapping paper you have received or by using recyclable brown paper. Alternatively, to wrap a gift with no waste, try the Japanese method of Furoshiki fabric wrapping. You could use scarves, bandanas, handkerchiefs, tea towels, fabric found at an op shop or any other upcycled fabric you can find around the house.

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