River health solutions in China a focus for UQ students

25 July 2017

Visiting the world’s largest hydropower dam will be a highlight for three University of Queensland Bachelor of Environmental Management (Honours) students who are undertaking three months industry placement in Wuhan, China this semester.

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences academic supervisor, Associate Professor Yongping Wei will accompany students Harrison James, Dylan Johnston, and Natalie Mason on a field excursion to the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang.

Dr Wei leads the catchment governance system science laboratory at UQ, covering three innovative disciplines of catchment governance system science, catchment system connectivity, and catchment social-hydrology.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to improve their capacity for tackling global environmental issues,” Dr Wei said.

“They’ll get to work on river health solutions with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), river basin authorities, scientists and local communities in the Yangtze River of China - the third longest river in the world with the most and largest dams.

“Through these projects, in collaboration with local organisations, we hope our group will make a positive contribution to this globally significant environmental issue for China.”

Student placement officer Amanda Cooke said the students were funded by a New Colombo Plan Mobility Program grant which enables meaningful overseas experiences.

“These three students have all been very engaged with the School as PASS leaders and student mentors and will do well in promoting UQ and their program, as well as the New Colombo Plan” she said.

The industry placement they are undertaking in China is for the course, ENVM3102 Industry Placement (Environmental Management).

“This course allows students to gain practical field-related experience in environmental management, enhancing their employability through complete integration in the host workplace,” Mrs Cooke said.

“Students gain professional and project management skills, learn how to bridge theory and practice, and develop workplace literacy.

“This project will extend beyond these benefits and see students develop a sense of their own global citizenship, while gaining insight into the social and environmental issues being faced in Hubei province and China, through direct engagement with their host organisation.”

The three students will work with WWF China, Wuhan office in Hubei province on the Yangtze River on projects investigating river health solutions for the Yangtze River from social, economic and environmental perspectives.

The research will take a comparative approach using Australian case studies, including the Living Murray Initiative and River Health Report Card in South-Eastern Queensland, and will involve consultation with the Three Gorges Dam Corporation, Wuhan University, Chiangjiang Water Resources Commission, local stakeholders, and WWF Shanghai office.

Natalie Mason said she was excited about being in a new country.

 “Working in an environment where people have different values and getting exposure to different ways of working will be totally different to any kind of placement experience I could have here in Australia,” she said.

“And working with WWF feels like it will be a gateway into a global community.”

Dylan Johnston said students had already done a lot of work on catchments during their UQ studies in relation to dams and how they impacted river flows, particularly with the Great Barrier Reef.

“Expanding on that knowledge on a bigger scale with the Yangtze will be really rewarding,” he said.

“There’s no way my income from my part-time job would have covered the cost of going to China for three months. I simply would not have been able to afford it without the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant.”

Harrison James is also looking forward to the new experiences, following his time as a student intern for the Wet Tropics Management Authority in Cairns under the Aurora Internship program

Dylan Johnston, Natalie Mason, A/Prof Yongping Wei, Harrison James.
At airport: Dylan Johnston, Harrison James and Natalie Mason.

Media: Amanda Cooke, sees.placements@uq.edu.au, +61 7 334 67822, Yongping Wei Yongping.wei@uq.edu.au, +61  (0)402 761402.