Research Partnership for Sustainable Development

July 22, 2021

CQUniversity and the Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) has awarded a PhD Elevate Scholarship (Ecological Engineering) that will aim to improve sustainable development in Gladstone.

Scholarship recipient Rory Mulloy will undertake the PhD that aims to examine the design and implementation of ecological engineering approaches to living seawalls in the industrial Port of Gladstone.

“The coastal zone works required for shipping, transportation, urban and industrial developments, often involve the creation of hard artificial defences or holding structures, such as seawalls, breakwaters, and bund walls,” Mr Mulloy explained.

“As these artificial structures directly replace natural habitats, they may result in a disruption of ecological connectivity, compromising the delivery of ecosystem services – the desirable secondary benefits to both society and nature, such as providing fish habitat, carbon sequestration and space for outdoor recreational activities.”

Mr Mulloy has a background in marine science and is also a part-time research worker at CQUniversity’s Gladstone campus.

“I’ve worked in the marine science field for about seven years – since coming to Australia – mainly in the areas of ecotourism, coral reef and white shark research,” Mr Mulloy said.

“I also have a Master of Science (Protected Area Management) and had always thought about doing a PhD as I have an interest in applied research outputs, so it was really exciting when this PhD opportunity came up,” he said.

Mr Mulloy’s PhD is under the supervision of a team of CQUniversity research staff including Associate Professor Emma Jackson and Dr Chris Aiken and will focus on designing restoration and habitat creation trials to meet specific ecosystem targets and evaluating success of trial ecological engineering options on a real-life industrial scale.

“The PhD topic is Working with Nature Investigations for Seawall Designs in the Port of Gladstone and essentially the aim is to come up with a solution that allows coastal development in a port that can have a beneficial and sustainable outcome,” Mr Mulloy said.

“The GPC are looking at how innovative working with nature approaches can be incorporated into the engineering designs for port infrastructure to support biodiversity, ecosystem health and habitats.

“This project helps them carry out construction that ultimately has a beneficial solution to local habitats.”

Mr Mulloy said it was very early on in the three-year PhD project.

“The first stage is a lot of desk-based stuff including the compiling of all the scientific literature that there is currently relevant to the PhD topic,” he explained.

“I’m looking at any similar ‘working with nature’ designs that have been attempted and been successful and am looking at habitats and ecosystem restoration projects that have been undertaken to inspire innovative designs relevant here,” he said.

“The project offers the opportunity to trial designs and if successful could be applied to larger scales within Port environments.”

Chief Operating Officer, Craig Walker said GPC was proud to be supporting important research to benefit the region, State and nation.

“The research which is being undertaken will improve sustainable development for the local community and for future generations in Gladstone and across Australia,” Mr Walker said.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for the successful PhD candidate, Rory Mulloy to be working with GPC’s expertise to identify best-practice for developing our coastal economy in an environmentally sustainable way.

“We wish Mr Mulloy success on his PhD journey,” he said.

“At GPC we are thought leaders focused on the future and this scholarship program is an important step in developing research that will help shape our future developments.”