Industry Application: Integrating biodiversity into projects

Posted on October 26th, by Kathryn Kutchel in Civil Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Our people.

With the consideration of biodiversity well-being at the forefront of numerous up and coming urban developments, it is important to both reflect on previous instances where biodiversity has been improved by development, and to educate future generations on its importance and impact.

Landscape Architecture Manager and Senior Urban Designer at Taylors, Amy Davidson, recently had the opportunity to address 120 students studying first year Planning or second year Environments and Society at RMIT University’s Melbourne campus on the topic of integrating biodiversity into projects. “The majority of the students I spoke to will go into government roles at some stage throughout their careers…I wanted the students to understand that all individuals can make a difference and that biodiversity is more resilient than we think.” Ms Davidson remarked. The lecture provided Taylors with the opportunity to present the company to a new generation of planning and environment designers and thinkers, and to focus on the ‘disconnect between university and the real world’.

“The projects you are presented with or work on at university rarely consider real world scenarios: budgets, stakeholders, economic climate at the time etc. I presented four projects I have worked on in my career where we tried to integrate biodiversity into the project from the outset. We had some failures and some successes – Council were a huge contributor to these. I focused on why innovative thinking is required and how important it is to seize opportunities when presented with them to provide a contribution.”

Ms Davidson then presented her own findings from projects previously worked on, sharing with students how even an individual initiative can lead to significant improvements in biodiversity. One of her most enjoyable scenarios dealt with the ‘bandicoots of Tooradin’.

“[There was] a site in Tooradin where they were having a lot of trouble, there’s a railway along this boundary and the railways completely covered in this nasty noxious weed, and while you can’t see it there are a lot of foxes just sitting over here. The lady who lived [on the land] [said] “oh I’ve got this little creature who keeps coming to the garden and I’m thinking ‘she’s probably feeding a feral cat or something’, but it wasn’t, it was this super rare animal called the bandicoot and foxes love them, so the foxes were basically using [this space] as their hunting ground. It got to the point where the day I went out there on site, the foxes came up to the back door during the day, they were crazy bold.’

‘So, we completely reshaped and vegetated their land, putting landscape on it and then creating some really great habitat for the bandicoots to hide in, and they can’t be attacked by the foxes because they’re too big to get in there. The people [who own the land] are now looking to expand it and they’re looking to put in a visitor centre and a café. We had cameras put in by the federal government and they’re now monitoring the land and the gorse clean-up along the railway, so it’s a really good outcome; really great! You can see this little creature, here he is, here in the afternoon, they’re not supposed to be out in the afternoon, but he was!”

The take-away message of the lecture was the resounding statement that, “we need to encourage biodiversity’s place in our world.

“We often forget that people are a part of biodiversity as well, that it’s not just plants and animals and insects and micro-organisms, it’s actually us as well, and when our environment isn’t thriving, we don’t thrive. So that results in climate change, fresh water decline, desertification and biodiversity loss.”

The lecture was enthusiastically received, with students keen to continue developing their knowledge and opening their minds to new possibilities, “Several students came up to me after the lecture, or have emailed me in the days since, to say how the lecture gave them a different perspective or encouraged them to think about an issue from another angle.” Ms Davidson shared. “On a personal level, it gave me an opportunity to work on my presentation skills, and gave me a new challenge and provided me with an opportunity to give back.”