Office for Environmental Programs - Theses

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    The Effect of Artificial Light at Night on the Ecological Soundscape: A Community Level Response
    Abdelganne, Lana ( 2022)
    Artificial light at night (ALAN) is widespread, unprecedented and continues to expand rapidly due to increasing urbanisation. The biological effects of ALAN on natural systems and individuals have been uncovered over the last two decades, yet the impacts on ecological communities (interconnected groups of populations occupying the same area) have remained largely unexplored. In this study, I assessed the effect of ALAN on the ecological soundscape (the combination of sounds which define the environment) of different communities across an urban-rural gradient. I deployed bioacoustic recorders across six sites of differing levels of light pollution and urbanisation for two weeks, from sunrise to sunset, to analyse the variation of species diversity and acoustic complexity using established bioacoustic indices (Acoustic Complexity Index (a measure of species diversity), Root Mean Squared (as proxy for anthropogenic noise) and Acoustic Entropy (the complexity of sounds in an environment). Accounting for abiotic factors such as weather and anthropogenic noise, I found that natural variation in moonlight and light cues of key daily transitions were masked by artificial light, affecting species diversity and acoustic complexity in sites with greater urbanisation. Temperature was positively correlated, and windspeed and traffic noise were negatively correlated to species diversity. Both abiotic factors and masking can result in decreased fitness of individuals, altered trophic interactions and disrupted predator-prey mechanisms. Additionally, urban communities demonstrated stable levels of acoustic entropy despite species diversity decreasing, consistent with temporal niche partitioning (the coevolution of activities at differing times amongst species in a community to decrease competition). Understanding the mechanisms behind the impact of ALAN on ecological communities can assist in limiting the impact of anthropogenic pressures on the environment.
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    (Em)Powering a Region and Shifting Coal-tures: Alternative Frameworks for a Just Energy Transition in the Latrobe Valley
    Lynch, Finola ( 2022)
    What role do identity and emotion play in energy transitions? Not commonly considered in techno-economic metanarratives on energy transitions, emotional geographers and feminist scholars illuminate the need to consider the localised, socio-emotional relations of communities facing decarbonisation. Literature in this space reveals how extractive industries represent as ‘masculine, rational, economic, emotionless’ sites. Operating to conceal non-hegemonic gender identities and particular emotions as they are relegated to feminine subjectivities. In seeking out alternative frameworks beyond the existing energy paradigm for a just transition, this research poses the questions: How are identity and emotion present in news media on mining transitions in the Latrobe Valley, and what are the implications of these discursive framings for transition futures? Guided by a conceptual framework founded in critical feminist theory, this thesis contributes to the emergent field of gender and energy transitions, distinguished by the joint application of intersectional theory and a politics of emotion. I explore these questions through a thematic analysis of eighteen newspaper articles, published about the case study region of the Latrobe Valley between 2014 and 2022. This research interrogates the central and supporting identities in news media, and the material implications of these discursive framings for transition futures. The analysis further examines the emotional recollections of these subjects, conceptualising the role of affective subjectivities in (re)constructing community identity, and (re)imagining a collective post-carbon future. The findings reveal representations of identity in news media reflect normative gender stereotypes, privileging masculine identities in transition futures, whilst identities of social differences and affective recollections are supressed or omitted entirely. Contributing to the nascent body of scholarship on extractive landscapes as gendered, emotional geographies, this study presents the need for energy transitions in the Latrobe Valley to be considered as socio-material-emotional processes. Highlighting how exclusion of these tenets in news media work to shape meaning-making of transitions.
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    What is the impact of glitter, as a type of microplastics, on springtail, Folsomia candida?
    Po-Hao, Chen ( 2022)
    With the rapid development of urbanization, plastics are continuously produced in the industry, and large amount of them are released to the environment. When plastics released to the environment, they could be degraded by physical, chemical, or biological approaches to form microplastics. Microplastics, the mixed plastics with size smaller than 5 mm, have raised more concern than before as an emerging contaminant that can affect the environment and ecosystem. Furthermore, microplastics have high variety on their size, shape, and polymer type, which increase the difficulty to measure their toxicity and quantify them in natural environments. Glitter, a primary source of microplastics, is usually used in cloth and cosmetic, which normal structure include a polymer coating, a colored aluminum coating, and core PET film. Glitter may directly release to the environments because there is no regulation on the recycle of glitter, and thus many researchers urged to promote biodegradable glitter, a plant-based glitter, as an alternatives to replace conventional PET glitter. However, there may have already large amounts of PET glitter released to the environment, but previous studies on microplastic analysis usually ignored resulting from the pretreatment of sample cannot filter out the PET glitter. In terrestrial environment, glitter may cause the detrimental effect on soil invertebrate, leading to the survival decrease and reproduction inhibition. Therefore, it is critical to estimate the toxicity of PET glitter as well as biodegradable glitter. In this study, an exposure experiment is conducted to assess the toxicity of microfine PET glitter and two biodegradable glitters on the survival and reproduction of Folsomia candida, which is a collembola species widespread in the world. The results showed that reproduction was inhibited when F. candida expose to microfine PET glitter at the concentration of 1000 mg/kg. In contrast, no significant reproduction inhibition and survival decrease is observed when F. candida expose to two types of biodegradable glitters. Therefore, it implies that biodegradable glitter has lower toxicity than PET glitter, and biodegradable glitter can be an alternative to replace PET glitter. There are two possible mechanisms: Chemical toxicity by glitter additives and alteration of feeding behavior. These assumptions require further investigation, which is pointed out as future direction.
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    Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) concentration of marine sediments, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia
    Pang, Huanrong ( 2022)
    Per and Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) have been artificially produced for industrial use due to their stable resistance. However, the extreme stability of this chemical group results them almost impossible to naturally degrade in the environment, especially long-chain PFASs. The bioaccumulation of this contaminant eventually enters animals and humans, increasing the risk of environmental and health problems. Long-chain PFASs, such as PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS, are mainly distributed in the dissolved phases of sediments. The distribution of PFASs is related to the grain size pattern of sediments. Finer sediments with higher soil organic content are likely to increase the sorption ability of PFASs. This research investigates the relationship between PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS concentrations and grain size of core sediments sampled from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. LCMS/MS utilised to measure the PFASs concentration of the core sediments from Werribee, Sandringham and Central. PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS have been detected from the core sediments and peaked at the sub-surface of the core. For the core sediments, the independent correlations between grain size pattern and PFASs distribution is subtle, therefore, further related research required more experimental samples and parameters like soil organic content to analyse. This study underlines from the concentration distribution of the PFASs of the sample locations, natural controlling factors such as water circulation, water depth of the bay and freshwater input of upper rivers are more directly related compared to the grain size.
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    Cat Management in Remote Indigenous Communities: Tracking Cats and Owner Perceptions
    O'Rourke, Paris ( 2022)
    Cat management is a complex and controversial topic. In remote Australian Aboriginal communities cats are increasingly becoming a popular and a much-loved companion animal. With limited access to veterinary services, including desexing, cat populations in some remote communities are growing rapidly. This study investigated owner perceptions and relationships with cats, and the movement ecology of cats in two distinct bioregions; the Northern Tanami, and the Tiwi Islands. The study engaged community members through semi-structured interviews, and GPS tracked free-roaming community cats. These cat populations have a close association with humans, increasing the potential transmission of zoonotic diseases. Unmanaged cat populations can have a devastating effect on local biodiversity through predation of native wildlife, and indirectly through disease. However, qualitative enquiry revealed that the human-cat relationship is valued in the remote communities in which research was conducted. To effectively mitigate and prevent adverse outcomes resulting from cat overpopulation, multidisciplinary cat management strategies must be tailored to the needs of the local community, and reflect community traditions, values and ownership practices. Collecting sound information on drivers for cat ownership, local cat numbers and community perspectives is a vital step to inform future cat management in remote Aboriginal communities.
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    Current state-of-the-art methods, equipment and analyses in soil ecotoxicology
    Po-Hao, Chen ( 2022)
    Soil ecotoxicology study the impact of pollutants on soil ecosystem, which has been developed for more than 50 years. After the first soil ecotoxicology study published in 1960s, the methodology of soil ecotoxicity test was rapidly developed to support the ecological risk assessment. Many standardized ecotoxicity tests were established by international organizations (OECD and ISO) to provide researchers and industries to produce a comparable ecotoxicity data that can improve the understanding of mechanisms of toxicity. However, researchers started to notice the limitations of standardized ecotoxicity test to solve more complicated pollution issues raised in recent years. These issues include the reproducibility and reliability of standard ecotoxicity test, the limited information gained from ecotoxicity test, and the challenge in ecological risk assessment from laboratory experiments to field study. Currently, several novel methodologies, technologies, and analysis in soil ecotoxicology, such as full life cycle ecotoxicity test, continuous monitoring techniques, and eDNA metabarcoding, are proposed as a potential tools used in ecological risk assessment. These novel developments have high potential to deal with the challenges raised in soil ecotoxicology, while no literature review provide a holistic view to summarize them and link with modern pollution issues. Therefore, this article introduce the the historical perspective of soil ecotoxicology, summarize the pollution issues raised in recent years, and point out the state-of-the-art methodology, technology, and analysis in soil ecotoxicology.
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    Multiweek-to-seasonal prediction of fire weather in south-eastern Australia
    Sibbing, Joshua ( 2021)
    Weather and climate prediction play a vital role in preparing the public and emergency management authorities for extreme events. In this study, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal forecasting system, ACCESS-S1, is tested on its ability to predict severe fire weather in south-eastern Australia. For the severe event occurring on 07 February 2009 (“Black Saturday”), a hindcast dataset is used to compare model predictions of fire-weather-relevant variables to reanalysis values at lead times of 6, 14, 23, and 69 days. At the longest lead time (69 days), predictions were also compared with those from other years and correlated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index NINO3.4. At sub-seasonal lead times (6, 14, and 23 days), ACCESS-S1 is found to skilfully predict Tmax values but overpredict rainfall. At the longest lead time (69 days), ACCESS-S1 predicts ordinary counts for hot and dry days during the 2008-2009 summer period, despite this period showing anomalously high counts in the reanalysis. For all hindcast years(1990-2011), model predictions of hot and dry day counts correlate strongly with NINO3.4 values, suggesting an overdependence by the model on the state of ENSO when predicting these variables. Other model biases, such as a warm bias in central Victoria and a wet bias in New South Wales, are suggested to exist due to the routine overprediction of hot day counts (central Victoria) and underprediction of dry day counts (New South Wales) found at these locations. Further investigation is needed to determine the reasons contributing to the model biases identified here and to gain a comprehensive understanding of the model’s abilities.
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    Power Shifts: A study of Agency in the Australian Environmental Movement
    Bock, Chante ( 2022)
    Successful environmental campaigns have become critical as the consequences of delayed action on climate change have become extreme in Australia with the frequency of floods, heat waves and bushfires severe. This research constitutes a qualitative study into how campaigners’ agency informs their strategies in the Australian environmental movement. Detailed data was gathered from 4 semi-structured interviews with campaigners in Australian in an effort to understand the relationships between campaigns and campaigner’s understandings of their agency. The data was thematically analyzed through the lens of Bourdieu’s sociological Practice theory of habitus and the field to find themes. Identified themes focused on the structure of the participant organisations such as: fundraising and financial independence; internal barriers like team relationships and burn-out; large external themes were power structures, like capitalism and campaigns strategies that related to those. The research suggests that organisations’ fundraising structures, as well as activist cultures held elements that acted as barriers towards campaigns at times. Campaigners were concerned that through the social cultures that they built around and within their organisations, they could be reproducing structures of capitalism and other systems of oppression. The thesis ends by offering theoretical and practical implications that the results hold, as well as recommendations and words of encouragement for the Australian environmental movement.
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    The Aesthetics and Politics of William Morris: Precursors to Eco-Socialism
    Sather Jenkins, Rebecca Jeanne ( 2021)
    William Morris (1834-1896) continues to enjoy a lasting and significant legacy as an artist, poet, and prominent British socialist leader. Scholarship has aligned him with the eco-socialist movement to varying degrees, concentrating on his explicit socialist career from the 1870s onwards. Exploring several of Morris’s key publications, this essay contextualises Morris’s role as a precursor to the eco-socialist movement, and contends that although he would not describe his socialist beliefs as such until his later life, his earlier work as a designer and aesthete is defined by similar principles. Using close analysis, this essay demonstrates that Red House — completed with Philip Webb in 1860 — provided an opportunity for Morris to embed his social and ecological philosophies in his decorative arts, and that the house would become a significant launching point for many of his later socialist endeavours.
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    A changing electricity landscape: The trade-offs of household Solar PV, Battery Energy Storage Systems and Electric Vehicles to customers and the power sector in Greater Melbourne
    Brown, Felix ( 2021)
    The decarbonisation of the energy system is causing a dramatic shift in how the electricity market is structured, which in Australia has been traditionally dominated by large, centralised generators. This shift to decentralisation has been heightened by a significant increase in households installing solar panels and generating their own electricity over the past 10 years, making electricity customers active participants in the energy market. Along with the electrification of other services, such as transport, and the decreasing costs of household battery energy storage systems (BESS), further opportunities are being afforded to households to become increasingly self-reliant while reducing their energy bills and carbon emissions. This will create challenges for the power sector going forward, and one of the goals of this research is to understand the potential changes to the electricity landscape so that there are minimal roadblocks on the path to decarbonisation, while ensuring that the transition is equitable. This research uses an open sourced techno-economic model with real household energy data and driving profiles. The model has the objective of minimising a household’s annual energy bill in the Greater Melbourne region and is used to assess the impacts that distributed energy resources (DER) and electric vehicles (EVs) have on a household’s energy consumption patterns, their energy bills and emissions profiles over a one-year period. Time-of-use (TOU) and flat tariff structures are used with different combinations of solar PV, BESS and EVs with the aim to provide context to grid planners and policymakers on the potential trade-offs of a decentralised electricity landscape.