SDG14 Life Below Water

Aligned with the themes of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 Life Below Water, CQUniversity's commitment to ensuring the preservation of sustainable water systems is demonstrated through involvement in local, national and global collaborations, projects and initiatives that drive change, better outcomes and lead to a more sustainable future.


CQUniversity actively participates in the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. CQUniversity Australia’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) has been established to work with coastal industries and communities to develop practical and sustainable solutions for our unique coastal and marine environments.

Headquartered on the shoreline of Queensland’s largest multicommodity Port of Gladstone (fifth-largest coal port in the world), and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, CMERC is the only coastal and marine research facility based in Central Queensland and features world-class research equipment and laboratories with access to cutting-edge analytical capabilities. CMERC staff have strong links with local industry and community groups and are working closely with Traditional Owners to empower them as custodians of Land and Sea Country and incorporate Traditional Ecological knowledge in our research. CMERC conducts research to facilitate the protection and enhancement of coastal aquatic ecosystems, estuaries, and the open ocean.


Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership was established in 2012/13 to report on the health of the Gladstone Harbour. There are 25 collaborating organisations, including CQUniversity,  government at all levels, traditional owners, community groups, port, industry (including international companies such as Shell, Rio Tinto, NRG) and science groups. A key component of the partnerships is to report back to the public on the health of the harbour and provide information on current activities. John Rolfe of CQUniversity is the Chair of The Independent Science Panel.

  • Healthy Harbour Report Card
    • The 2019 Gladstone Harbour Report Card contains the results calculated using 33 indicators derived from 108 different measures within the four components of harbour health: Environment, Economic, Social, and Cultural. Separate annual monitoring projects are run by CQUniversity, including Social, Cultural and Economic Indicators (Jeremy De Valck), Mud Crab Indicator (Nicole Flint), Fish Health Indicator (Nicole Flint).
    • Mud Crabs - In 2017 a  fish health indicator was added to the annual Gladstone Harbour Report Card due to research completed by Nicole Flint.

The Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Program is the first collaborative monitoring program to be undertaken for the whole of Port Curtis. The Gladstone-based PCIMP program conducts ambient mid to far-field monitoring of water bodies for the whole of Port Curtis which extends from the northern end of the Narrows to Rodds Bay and includes the harbour and its tributaries. CQUniversity works with PCIMP as a collective of industries and stakeholder to analyse, interpret, and present quarterly water quality monitoring data achieved throughout Gladstone Harbour. Professor Owen Nevin (Associate Vice-Chancellor CQUniversity Gladstone Region, 2012-2020)  is PCIMP's current Independent Chair and spokesperson. Professor Nevin has extensive experience and knowledge in collaborative research associations in addition to his high level of scientific knowledge. CMERC staff Dr Emma Jackson (Director), Dr Andrew Irving and Dr Amie Anastasi are advisors on PCIMP technical sub-committee (TSC).

The PCIMP program has also benefited the community is a number of ways.

  • The on-going monitoring and reporting program provides invaluable information to researchers and the community. In 2006 when the  'Global Peace' oil spill occurred, PCIMP was able to provide data and tracking.
  • PCIMP data is used by the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership to produce their annual Report Card.
  • PCIMP data and TSC advice was utilised and considered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in the creation of the new Capricorn Curtis Coast Water Quality Objectives.

The continuation of the PCIMP program ensures the trends in water and sediment quality in Port Curtis are assessed and monitored,  to inform the management of the Harbour to maintain healthy waters for recreational use, marine sustainability and minimal impact into the adjoining  World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Seagrass bioindicator - In 2019 seagrass was incorporated into annual PCIMP monitoring as an ecologically relevant bioindicator of ecosystem health to complement water and sediment sampling due to research completed by CMERC staff and research students.

Since joining CQUniversity in 2013, marine scientist Dr Emma Jackson (a member of the Seagrass Restoration Network) has led multiple projects around Seagrass restoration. Dr Jackson’s research focuses on the science behind how seagrass habitats maintain their populations and what actions the public can take to help. Through the use of a state-of-the-art tidal mesocosm system (aquaria that mimic natural conditions) located at the CQUniversity Gladstone Marina campus, Dr Jackson and a team of environmental researchers are identifying best-practice approaches for enhancing and restoring depleted seagrass meadows in the Port of Gladstone. Research on the potential for habitat enhancement to create resilient seagrass meadows through the beneficial reuse of dredge material by Dr Jackson’s research team has been incorporated into the Gladstone Ports Corporation Sediment Management Plan.

  • CQUniversity is currently undertaking a Research Higher Degree project aiming to quantify the drivers of variability in seagrass flowering for the species of Zostera muelleri and build a predictive model of the spatial-temporal initiation of flowering along the Australian east coast.  The results of this research will enable restoration managers to find locations and periods where seed collection trials could be implemented.
  • CQUniversity recently led a public seagrass flower collection project in conjunction with the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership. The initial events involved local Girl Guides and international English language student volunteers, while later events involved members of the Gidarjil Development Corporation Indigenous Sea Rangers.
  • CMERC was recently awarded $29,573 for their project Sea Flowers: growing community engagement for seagrass restoration.
  • Seagrass Seascapes Exhibition -  A collaboration between Gladstone Health Harbour Partnership, local artists, and CQUniversity, featuring seagrass sculptures, paintings and science displays. Included an official opening event on the 20 June 2019 with a number of invitees attending. Regular information sessions were held on seagrass restoration, including on the opening night.


CQUniversity offers both Bachelor of Environmental Science and Bachelor of Science undergraduate degrees which teachings closely aligned with the values of SDG 14 - Life Below Water.

Integrated within both degrees are multiple avenues for students to learn and practice theory and skills in freshwater systems.  This content includes term-long units of study (e.g. "Freshwater and Marine Systems, Botany of Aquatic Environments) and can cover focused elements within broader units of study.  The Bachelor of Environmental Science degree includes a major in "Integrated land and water management", reflecting a strong focus on the interrelationship between land use and aquatic systems, and how best to manage them.

Students complete a capstone unit ("Coastal Marine Resources") as part of both degrees that focuses on sustainable fishing, sustainable management of aquatic environments and fisheries science/management.  This includes teaching about the definitions of overfishing, the science behind it, and solutions to destructive fishing practices.

Dr. Nicole Flint is the unit coordinator for the third year unit, Freshwater and Marine Systems. Students learned about how freshwater systems function, the nexus between physical, chemical and biological components of freshwater systems, and pressures on these valuable environments (including irrigation, water management, water storage, industrial and agricultural land uses).


  • 22nd International River Symposium (2019)  -
    • Dr Nicole Flint delivered a presentation on fish health as an indicator of river and estuary conditions.
    • Dr Evan Chua presented on fish communities as indicators of river health in coal mining regions
    • PhD candidate Julie-Ann Malan presented on the influence of cattle grazing on rivers.
  • 57th Estuarine, Coastal, Shelf Science Association Conference
    • Associate Professor Emma Jackson attended and presented the topic 'An innovative approach to identify, map and assess coastal and marine perceived values' at the 57th Estuarine, Coastal, Shelf Science Association Conference: Changing estuaries, coasts and shelf systems - Diverse threats and opportunities in Perth
  • 2018 NESP GBR Restoration Symposium
    • Associate Professor Emma Jackson presented the topic 'The potential for seagrass restoration in the Great Barrier Reef Region' at the 2018 NESP GBR restoration Symposium in Cairns


Ditch The Disposables

CQUniversity launched the sustainability campaign Ditch the Disposables during 2019. The campaign aims to educate staff and students throughout CQUni's national footprint about the harmful effects of single-use plastic and encourages them to ultimately ‘ditch the disposables’ because small changes will have a big impact. The University has embarked on a long-term sustainability journey focussing on key areas with the greatest impact demonstrating its commitment to the environment.



  • Professional Learning for Educators (Page 17) - CMERC engaged with three local groups - primary and secondary school teachers and teaching students on Quoin Island. CMERC assisted with the discussion and practice of scientific surveying methods and interpreting the relevance to students of all ages.
  • Girls STEM Camp (Page 45 of APLNG Environment and Social Report January to June 2019) - Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Research Centre staff led two sessions on seagrass ecosystems and restoration for the Department of Education's Boyne Island Environmental Education Centre. Students were taken out to seagrass meadows on Curtis Island and participated in seagrass flower surveys and symbiotic bivalve sampling.
  • CQUni arranges for science experience students to witness the release of Loggerhead Turtle - Around 50 high school students involved in a ConocoPhillips Science Experience at CQUniversity Gladstone had a special opportunity to witness the release of a loggerhead sea turtle from the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.
  • CQUniversity's Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) went virtual for Ecofest. With the annual community event transitioned to online, CMERC has embraced the new digital delivery. The research centre showcased its state-of-the-art facilities at Gladstone Marina with a 360-degree interactive tour and a suite of activities designed to engage the community. CMERC also took part in Ecofest 2019.
  • Gladstone Indaba - CQUniversity hosted a community conference aimed at addressing issues of relevance to the community and CQUniversity, with guest speakers from The World Harbour Project, The Nature Conservancy and the Port of Gladstone.