For two decades, the IRU has been a leader in sustainability research and education. Research activities have remained focused on sustainable and socially-responsible solutions for communities in Australia and internationally. This is reflected in the growth in very highly cited publications in Life and Earth Sciences in the past decade, with IRU members accounting for 15% of Australia’s total of very highly cited publications in this field in 2020.

Research collaboration among IRU members over the last 20 years has also focused on environmental sciences and multi-disciplinary approaches to sustainability issues. For example, the IRU created the Australian Water Partnership in 2004 as the first step in building stronger collaboration within the group.

In 2010-2011 IRU members co-funded a research initiative on Ecosystem Tipping Points, leading to three collaborative projects and a forum. In 2011 IRU members also launched a publication on disaster preparedness and resilience.




A fresh take on groundwater modelling

Flinders University

Groundwater is a finite but valuable resource in Australia that makes up around 17 percent of Australia’s accessible water resources. Understanding the age, flow rate, and recharge rates for aquifers and groundwater is critical to enabling industry to sustainably manage these fresh groundwater resources. Researchers from Flinders University at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) investigated the mechanics of river water seepage, variations, and management to support the conservation of floodplain and improvements in vegetation growth.

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Spilling the secrets on bat virus spillovers

Griffith University

As a type of fruit bat, flying foxes play a vital role in Australia’s ecosystems by connecting pockets of eucalypt forest across the continent. As the habitats of these long-distance pollinators come under increasing stress, the potential for their contact with humans also increases. Long before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, global bodies such as the World Health Organisation had foreseen the major threat posed by environments where infectious diseases could spill over from animals, such as flying foxes, to humans.

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Answering burning questions in Australian conservation

La Trobe University

In Australia, fire is an important agent of natural disturbance, particularly in the semi-arid Murray Mallee region of South East Australia. Since 1972, more than 1000 fires have burned in the region, with 16 fires larger than 10,000 hectares of land. The Mallee is a patchwork of environments that, understood together, map a mosaic of fire histories scorched across the landscape.

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