At UNSW Science, we lead the world in environmental research.

We’re a global research leader in climate change, environmental policy and natural resource management. We explore how environments function and how systems, from the smallest microbes to the whole of earth, cope with change.

The Chronos 14 Carbon Cycle Facility researches innovative uses of radiocarbon to gain new insights into the global carbon cycle. UNSW is an international leader in using the past to reduce future environmental uncertainties by spearheading global research programs including past and contemporary climate, extinctions, evolution, adaptation, water resources and the carbon cycle at unprecedented detail.

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UNSW scientists are actively engaged in world-class research focused on the earth’s climate system. Our goal is to better understand, predict and adapt to climate variability and climate change.

Our research into the fundamental science of climate dynamics and climate change is concentrated in The Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC). Here, world-leading researchers strive to advance our understanding of the earth’s climate system, spanning time periods from the past to the future, and timescales from hours and days (extreme events) to years and centuries (large- and long-scale variability and change). We have expertise in atmosphere, ocean, land and carbon cycle research. Our scientists also educate UNSW students, engage in public outreach and advise the government and private sectors on climate-related science and the causes and consequences of global warming.

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The study of life on a dynamic earth, including the interlinkages between the evolution of the Earth and its landscapes and the emergence and diversification of life, is a major research focus of UNSW Sydney’s Earth and Sustainability Science Research Centre (ESSRC).

Study in earth sciences includes the study of human evolution, dispersal and colonisation and how this impacts environmental systems and processes. By providing insights into earth’s systems prior to human disruption, our research offers new insights into a range of critical areas with practical consequence, such as species and ecological community conservation, landscape and resource use and management, and human health.

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Ecology is the study of organisms in their natural habitats and of the interactions among species. Ecological research in UNSW Science investigates how organisms interact with their biological and physical environment and more. The Evolution & Ecology Research Centre’s areas of study in ecology include: 

  • community ecology
  • marine ecology
  • eco-toxicology
  • animal ecology
  • plant ecology 
  • landscape ecology
  • urban ecology
  • global ecology 
  • applied ecology
  • ecological methodology.
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Research in environmental science takes place in several schools but is the focus of research in the Centre for Ecosystem Science, Centre of Marine Bio-Innovation, and the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre in the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences.

In the School of Materials Science & Engineering, there are programs of research in recycling embedded in the ARC Research Hub for Green Manufacturing.

Research is underpinned by strong strategic partnerships with end users, such as with the NSW Government, the Australian Museum and a range of industry partners including MolyCorp, Liberty Steel and Nespresso.

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Australia is surrounded by approximately 34,000km of coastline and more than 85% of its population lives within 50km of the shore. The coastal marine environment is not only an important part of many of our societal and economic developments, but also substantially impacted by human activities. UNSW has a long history of excellence in marine research and has many leading marine researchers in the Centre of Marine Science & Innovation (CMSI).

The CMSI has expertise in ecological and biological sciences, physical and biological oceanography, and environmental impact assessment as well as coastal geomorphology. It provides innovative solutions for management, conservation and economic developments. The CMSI is a dynamic environment for education, outreach, communication, engagement and collaboration. 

UNSW is also a founding member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS).

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The ocean covers two-thirds of the planet and contains more than 90% of all life. Oceanography is the study of the mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology of the ocean and is a fundamentally interdisciplinary and data focused research area. UNSW is ranked in the top 25 universities in the world for oceanography. 

Oceanographers at UNSW carry out high impact research in areas including understanding how tropical species are moving south with a changing East Australia Current, predicting how the El Nino Southern Oscillation drives seasonal rainfall around the world and quantifying how deep ocean turbulence regulates the climate over millennia. 

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The Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at UNSW works with industry, global research partners, not-for-profits, and local, state and federal governments on the development of innovative environmental solutions for the world’s biggest waste challenges.

The core aims of the SMaRT Centre are to develop novel research for sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, build industry partnerships to activate research for real-world impact, and to disseminate green materials and manufacturing technologies that benefit industries, local communities, and enhance sustainable economic growth internationally. 

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