Introducing a new practice guide: Contemplative nature engagement practices to support individuals and communities facing ecological distress

University of Melbourne researchers – including ESS researchers, Rose Macaulay and Kathryn Williams – have partnered with experts of diverse contemplative practices to provide a practice guide to support individuals facing ecological distress. Aimed at group leaders and teachers working with people experiencing eco-distress, this resource bridges scientific understanding and contemplative wisdom to foster adaptive responses in the face of ecological change.

Understanding eco-distress: Acknowledging the wide-reaching impacts of climate and ecological crises on mental health, personal relationships, and society, the guide considers how individuals can adaptively respond to these impacts while experiencing “eco-distress”. Eco-distress encompasses a range of feelings triggered by present or anticipated ecological changes, from fear and frustration to hope and motivation.

Adaptive responses to ecological change: Building on academic research and wisdom from contemplative traditions, the guide identifies three key dimensions of adaptive responses to ecological change: fostering a healthier relationship with oneself, cultivating connections with others for collective action, and acting with, for, and as nature. These dimensions intertwine to create a holistic approach to navigating ecological challenges.

Contemplative nature engagement practices: The practice guide focuses on contemplative nature engagement practices as a strategy to help individuals experiencing eco-distress. By integrating practices such as meditation, reflection, and sensory interaction with nature, contemplative nature engagement has the potential to encourage healthy outcomes for individuals, communities, and the natural world.

In the guide, five types of contemplative nature engagement activities are identified: formal meditation, attention to nature through the senses, movement through landscape, visualisation and imagination, and sharing with others. The guide provides practical steps and principles so that these activities can be integrated into new or existing contemplative nature practices.

Who can benefit: Primarily targeted at group leaders and teachers, the guide extends its reach to community leaders of eco-activist groups, practitioners of contemplative and nature-based practices, therapists, faith leaders, and individuals seeking resources for personal growth.


Download the guide here.


This work is supported by the Contemplative Studies Centre via their seed funding program.

PhD scholarship – Understanding the social life of smart water technology for protecting urban streams

We, at the University of Melbourne, are very excited to be advertising a fantastic PhD opportunity (with scholarship) for an environmental social scientist.

Project title: “Understanding the social life of smart water technology for protecting urban streams”
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Scholarship: $43,000 p.a.
Submit EoI by: 17 February 2023

Monbulk Creek Smart Water Network

This environmental social science PhD project is part of an interdisciplinary research program which is trialling an innovative, public-private partnership approach to managing urban water in a changing climate. The objective of this program is to test the technical and social feasibility of operating networked ‘smart’ rainwater tanks and storages across public and private land in the Monbulk Creek catchment (Melbourne, Australia). This network enables the coordinated release of water to improve the ecological health of the creek (particularly for platypus), as well as reducing flood risk and providing non-potable water supply for private use. The Monbulk Creek Smart Water Network research program is funded by the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Program, in partnership with Melbourne Water, South-East Water, and Yarra Ranges Council.

Understanding the social life of smart water technology

Installing networked, real time control technology on household rainwater tanks creates new possibilities for the ways in which residents: experience and make decisions about water around their home; engage with water management agencies; and relate to their local environment. For example, rather than simply being users of water, residents can become partners in managing urban water for public benefit. The smart tank reconfigures relations within the sociotechnical network of urban water management.

In this PhD, you will use an exploratory, qualitative social research design to investigate the ways in which the networked smart tank: 1) transforms, and is transformed by, household practices; 2) enables new relations between the home, local environments, and the sociotechnical network of urban water management. The PhD may involve interviews, surveys and creative methods to generate insight into the ways in which residents engage with this new technology in the domestic setting and within an urban catchment. Applicants should have a social science background (sociology, STS, human geography, environmental governance, or a related discipline) and previous experience of qualitative social research.

This PhD will be undertaken in the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University of Melbourne, within the Environmental Social Science Group and in collaboration with the Waterway Ecosystem Research Group. This PhD will involve collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team and local industry partners, with fantastic opportunities to connect the research with practice in the water sector.

Application process

The PhD is open to domestic and international applicants. A generous scholarship of $43,000 per annum is offered for three years, as well as funds to support fieldwork and researcher development. Before applying, please make sure you meet the entry requirements for the Faculty of Science at The University of Melbourne:

Applicants should submit their expression of interest by 17 February 2023 to Dr Stephanie Lavau (stephanie.lavau [at] including:

  • a cover letter outlining your research profile and interest in this research (max. 2 pages)
  • a CV, including relevant professional experience and education, any research publications or other research outputs, and details of two academic referees
  • academic transcripts
  • a relevant sample of academic writing (e.g. a thesis chapter, report, or publication).

Once endorsed by the supervisor, the successful applicant will then proceed with an application for admission to the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne.

The Future of Our Cities is Indigenous

Australia’s unceded cities are still part of Country, and if we care for them they will care for us as we face the climate challenge.

Article by Maddi Miller**, University of Melbourne

Our cities are located on unceded Aboriginal lands. Yet cities can feel openly hostile to Indigenous peoples. They don’t reflect our cultural values or sense of place.

They ignore Country, bulldozing or building up the terrain in order to serve a colonial concept of what a city should be, rather than working in partnership with what Country provides.

Indigenous peoples across the globe have a deeply reciprocal relationship with their lands and waters. In Australia, we as sovereign Indigenous peoples, often conceptualise our homelands as Country. Country encapsulates more than land and waters, it holds our social values, resources, stories, cultural obligations and knowledges.

We speak to Country as we would a family member, we worry about Country and long for it when we leave. Country is an active participant in conversation and in decision making.

We believe that as we love Country, Country loves us. And as we care for Country, Country cares for us.

Melbourne is located alongside the Birrarung, a river that has nourished countless generations before us. Today, the scales are off balance, the river is choked with pollutants and as we don’t care for the Birrarung, it is unable to care for us.

Wurundjeri Elders see it as their cultural duty to return the river to health and invite all people to walk with them so that one day the river will be healed to provide nourishment for the many generations that come after.

We protect the earth and feel more keenly the impacts of climate change.

Our young people are fighting for their future and the health of Country. Globally, Indigenous peoples continue to resist further destruction of our homelands, and through this resistance have delayed or stopped enormous amounts of emissions.

The recent report from Indigenous Environmental Network shows that Indigenous campaigns are resisting projects that equal at least a quarter of US and Canadian greenhouse gas pollution.

Indigenous knowledge has always been adaptable.

In the south-east of Australia, we’ve held on to stories that are over 30,000 years old and tell of changing environments. We hold memories of sea level rises and changes in the availability of fresh water. Our knowledges help us adapt and innovate, while holding on to principals of reciprocity and planning for future generations.

As our cities face increasing pressure from climate change we must learn to be adaptive. In her closing remarks of the Innovate4Cities final plenary Under Secretary General and Executive Director, UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, recognised the power of learning from the past to inform the future of our cities.

Cities are made up of millions of humans and non-human connections and relationships that are connected to the millennia of Indigenous place making that comes before.

Indigenous knowledge can influence and shape healthy city Country.

But this needs to be underpinned by a relationally guided framework that understands the connectedness of humans and Country, and is strengthened through respect, accountability, and principals of informed consent.

I have often heard from respected Elders and knowledge holders that when we get things right for our peoples – then we get it right for everyone. The link between healthy people and healthy Country in ingrained in our cultural practices.

The reinvigoration of cultural practice across Australia shows that we can bring nourishment back to Country. That we are able to reconnect with practices that have been suppressed by colonial violence and that Country responds to these practices – because as we long for Country, Country has been longing for us.

It has been waiting for us.

Cities are located on Country, and so become part of Country.

If we acknowledge cities as Country, then our cities must have a voice in the conversation on climate resilient futures. Cities must be cared for and loved, and they need to be given the opportunity to love and care for us in return.

As we head toward 1.5 °C, we must listen when we are welcomed to Country – to not harm the land and the waterways, and respect Country and each other. The obligation to care for Country falls to all who use its resources.

**This article is adapted from a presentation made by Maddi Miller during the Innovate4Cities conference and was first published by Pursuit.

‘Dismantling unhelpful binaries in citizen science’ at the #CitSciOzOnline conference

The Early-Mid Career Researcher (EMCR) 1/2 day symposium united citizen science-aligned researchers in Australia to interrogate and explore research and practice in citizen science across the country. Featuring keynotes, lighting talks, Q&A, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities, the #CitSciOzOnline Conference is the starting point for a community of practice in citizen science research; uniting interdisciplinary researchers, citizens, and others from outside of institutional settings.

Debbie Gonzalez Canada, who is researching participation in digital environmental monitoring, discussed unhelpful binaries in citizen science at the conference. The binaries are: 1) volunteers vs organizers; 2) dabblers vs super contributors; 3) individual vs group activities; 4) nature connection vs disconnection, and 5) digital vs traditional (aka “new vs old”). Thought some of these problematic binaries are not new for people in the field of public participation in research, it is surprising how they keep on being used, how they keep on shaping citizen science practice and obscuring (our) understanding. The presentation was informed by initial insights coming from qualitative fieldwork about how the experiences and practices of environmental monitoring volunteers are shaped by digital tools such as smartphone apps.

You can watch the 5 minutes presentation here:

The slides can be download here: Dismantling unhelpful binaries in citizen science:
5 research insights in 5 minutes

The #CitSciOzOnline Conference will continue every Wednesday during October 2020 and you can register for the event by following this link.

October 14th 7PM – 9PM – Disaster Response Stream followed by the Resilience Session

This theme will celebrate and explore the unique platform that citizen science provides for the collection of diverse and comparative data and how the unification of global citizens through science can improve our ability to recover from extreme events. Following on from this session, join us for an informal chat about resilience which has been trending in 2020- but what does it mean in practice?

October 21st 7PM – 9PM – Connections and Partnerships Stream followed by Coffee & Networking session

Connections are at the core of citizen science, which brings together a diverse array of people to share science and creativity through collaboration. This theme will focus on powerful examples of citizen science as a way to connect and foster impact. Stick around afterwards for a virtual coffee and some citizen science networking!

October 28th 7PM – 9PM – Innovation Stream followed by CitSci Soiree

New approaches and technology are pushing the boundaries of the ways that citizen science can contribute to a range of social and ecological outcomes. This theme will unite cutting edge enabling technologies with citizen science approaches and highlight opportunities for new research. After the stream join the ACSA MC team for a networking session to wind down the event.

Watch the winning entry for Visualise Your Thesis 2020 about mindful engagement in nature

PhD candidate, Rose Macaulay, recently won the University of Melbourne’s Visualise Your Thesis competition. The competition challenges graduate researchers to present their research in a 60 second digital display. You can watch her entry below.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing in Urban Nature by Rose Macaulay from unilibrary on Vimeo.

Next, Rose will represent the University of Melbourne in the International Visualise Your Thesis Competition in October.

Seminar program from September to November 2020

Intervention – holding space for alternative futures in academia and beyond

Joint seminar with the School of Geography, held by Sophie Pascoe, Paula Satizabal Posada, Andrea Rawluk, Anna Sanders, and Tess Tomborou.

Tuesday 8 September, 1-2pm

Bridging historical landscape ecology and land management: the geo-historical background of fire risk in Spain

Seminar by Cristina Montiel

23 September, 4-5 pm

Sustainability governance paradigms: a case study of blue carbon

PhD completion seminar by Carolina Contreras

21 October, 4-5 pm

Academic leadership: What I’ve learnt so far

Seminar by Kirsten Parris

11 November, 4-5 pm

SEMINAR: Rebecca Ford and Kathryn Williams explore social aspects of planning for bushfire risk.

In a changing climate, people are increasingly going about their daily lives in landscapes that are shaped by fire. How do residents relate to the annual risk of wildfires? Recreation in forests is known to have positive outcomes for health and wellbeing, but what are recreational experiences in recently burnt forests? How do agency staff in planning and management view and act on these issues?
Over two seminars, we explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire. Part 2 is two presentations that investigate some social aspects of planning for bushfire risk.

Living with Ecosystems and Fire – Part 2

‘So much black, it was quite confronting’, experiences of people living, working and recreating in forests recently burnt by bushfires
By Dr Rebecca Ford

How does new knowledge of relationships between people, ecosystems and fire shape professional practice?
By Professor Kathryn Williams

ZOOM Webinar: Wednesday 22 July 2020, 4pm-5pm

SEMINAR: Ruth Beilin and Andrea Rawluk explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire

In a changing climate, people are increasingly going about their daily lives in landscapes that are shaped by fire. How do residents relate to the annual risk of wildfires? Recreation in forests is known to have positive outcomes for health and wellbeing, but what are recreational experiences in recently burnt forests? How do agency staff in planning and management view and act on these issues?

Over two seminars, we explore interactions between people, ecosystems and fire. Part 1 is two presentations that investigate how different kinds of people relate to bushfire.

Living with Ecosystems and Fire – Part 1

No Rose-Coloured Glasses Here: Australian agency staff views about community responsibility, risk and resilience in bushfire safety
By Professor Ruth Beilin

Narratives of everyday practice and bushfire in residents who don’t engage with fire agencies
By Dr Andrea Rawluk

ZOOM Webinar: Wednesday 24 June 2020, 4pm-5pm
To receive the ZOOM link, please email Dr Rebecca Ford: fordr [at]

Twitter Conference #SCBMelb20: “Conserving Melbourne’s Biodiversity: past, present and future”

The inaugural Twitter Conference #SCBMelb20, to be held next July 30th–31st, 2020, has the theme “Conserving Melbourne’s Biodiversity: past, present and future”. It aims to bring together stories of biodiversity research and conservation action from across Melbourne and share them with a wider audience.

It is organized by the Society for Conservation Biology. Below is a summary of the information and you can read more about it here. You can submit your abstract via this form.

“We’re inviting presentations from anyone who has had a hand in conservation research or action within Greater Melbourne, including those from academia, state and local government, industry, land managers, NGOs and community groups. We’re interested in all aspects of nature conservation – ecology, social science, culture and community, policy and practice. You can share the story behind past events, current research or turn our thoughts to the future. Help us introduce Melbournites and the rest of the world to the amazing biodiversity on their doorstep.

Dates to keep in mind:

  • Abstracts submission DEADLINE EXTENDED to June 19th
  • Program released July 14th
  • Conference runs July 30th – 31st
  • How do presentations work?
    Each presenter is allocated a 5-minute timeslot to present their work across 5 tweets. It may not sound like a lot, but there’s a huge capacity to be creative! You can include images of your slides, photos from the field, links to research papers, blogs and videos, gifs, memes – you name it. Anything that might help communicate your work with a broad audience. We’ll release some tips and guidelines along the way, so keep an eye out.

    Who is the audience?
    Everyone! Unlike a traditional academic conference, a Twitter conference isn’t limited to other researchers who happened to be in the room during your talk. Anybody with a Twitter account who is interested in biodiversity conservation can follow along with the hashtag #SCBMelb20. This is a great opportunity to engage people beyond your traditional networks and bring stories of conservation science and practice to the broader public.”

    Society for Conservation Biology Social Sciences: Working group Twitter Conference

    The Social Science Working Group (SSWG) of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is a global community of conservation scientists and practitioners. The SSWG is deeply committed to strengthening conservation social science and its application to conservation practice around the globe. SSWG catalyses forums and mechanisms for information exchange, promotes dialogue and debate, shares career opportunities and builds social science capacity among conservation practitioners.

    Given the current global situation, and with the support of board members, SSWG has been decided to run a Twitter conference. While everyone is encouraged to participate by engaging with the presentations on Twitter, the conference is designed for undergrads, graduates and those early career researchers who have just graduated or defended their thesis (within 1 year of conference date). The conference aims to provide opportunities for conservation social science students unable to attend Society for Conservation Biology conferences or other conferences due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The conference will have 53 presentations from students from all over the world. The conference will take place on 16 and 17 June, 2020.

    This event is free, and it is easy for academics to participate from anywhere with a Twitter account. Follow the hashtag #SSWGTC20 on Twitter.

    Further information is available:

    Number of posts found: 14

    We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work and pay respects to elders – past, present and emerging. We aim to work together with Traditional Custodians to develop solutions to environmental problems in genuine partnership, respecting and appreciating their knowledge, culture, history and world views.