Today is the United Nations’ World Environment Day. Celebrated in more than 100 countries, it promotes worldwide action to protect our environment. At UNSW Canberra, our environmental scientists work every day towards this goal.

Here is a selection of stories highlighting their work.

Researchers map sea levels in the Indian Ocean

An international group of researchers, including a UNSW Canberra PhD graduate, and Emeritus Professor Roger McLean, have mapped the rise and fall of sea levels in the central Indian Ocean over the last 2000 years, providing a glimpse of what can be expected in the future.

Published by Nature Geoscience, the research demonstrates that sea levels in the Indian Ocean have risen by close to a metre in the last two centuries.


Satellites and Emergency Response

Fire, smoke, dust storms and hail. It’s been a horror start to 2020 for Australian weather, and while we had people on the ground working hard to keep us safe and cleaning up the mess, one of their key tools is thousands of kilometres away in low-earth orbit.

As UNSW Canberra Space researcher Dr Chris Capon explains, satellites allow emergency services to predict the spread of fires, assess the risk areas and forecast air quality.


‘FrogPhone’ provides new platform for environmental studies

Introducing the FrogPhone: a new device which allows scientists to call up a frog survey site and monitor its inhabitants.

It is the world’s first solar-powered remote survey device that relays environmental data via text message, while conducting real-time remote acoustic surveys over the phone.

In a paper published by the British Ecological Society, a team of researchers led by UNSW Canberra’s Dr Adrian Garrido Sanchis describe how they designed this new device to monitor frogs in the ACT region.



Shining a light on Australian mammals

Whilst Australia is world renowned for its abundance of distinctive native flora and fauna, there is considerable anguish surrounding the decline of the country’s medium-sized mammal populations.

UNSW Canberra Senior Lecturer Dr David Paull said medium-sized mammals in Australia (those weighing between 35 g and 5.5 kg, known to science as Critical Weight Range mammals) are most at risk in Australia.

This is based on a number of factors, including their inability to evade introduced predators, and also being hindered in their ability to relocate to alternative environments in the event of habitat destruction.


UNSW Canberra researchers use smartphones to track microplastics

While it was recently reported that we could be ingesting a teaspoon of microplastics every week, UNSW Canberra researchers were creating new ways of tracking these harmful contaminants using smartphones.  

Dr Isabel Jalón Rojas and her oceanography students are particularly interested in the microplastics found off the NSW South Coast in Jervis Bay.

Despite Jervis Bay’s zoning as a marine protected area, researchers from the University of Tasmania found that it contains a higher level of microplastic pollution than Sydney Harbour.