Griffith Centre for Coastal Management
Griffith University is conserving the Gold Coast dunes and fragile ecosystem with the help of student volunteers eager for work experience.
With climate change pressures and a population growth in low-lying areas, the Gold Coast coastline is vulnerable. However, the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management are building coastal resilience and educating the public with the help of Griffith University Community Interns.
Since 2015, the Griffith Community Internship program, a nationally award-winning multidisciplinary work placement subject, has partnered with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management to support the organisation and provide tertiary students with additional practical experience.
Griffith University volunteers have donated 2 000 hours to the organisation by planting native dune species, delivering coastal education programs, event management and marketing, and field work and data collection.
The Griffith Centre for Coastal Management in partnership with the City of Gold Coast have a wide range of research programs and community initiatives, including Beach Care, DuneWatch and Coast Ed. These programs seek to enhance community understanding of natural coastal processes and management strategies of local beaches, foreshores and dunes.
Medical Laboratory Science student Luke Constantin said his internship with Dune Watch gave him the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge and protect the Gold Coast coastline.
“My role is to collect data on various sand dunes at a number of sites,” he said.
“I then compare and contrast the statistics in spreadsheets to determine the health and progress of the sand dunes.
“This information is vital as it visually demonstrates the effectiveness of this organisation.
“It has been statistically proven that Dune Watch is having a tremendous impact on local sand dune restoration. It is important that more people know about it and get involved.”
Griffith Centre for Coastal Management education program coordinator Maggie Muurmans said the community interns were integral to the organisation, particularly Dune Watch.
“Dune Watch gives students interested in the environment an opportunity for hands on experience,” she said.
“We could not run the program without the Community interns.”
Ms Muurmans said students had also positively contributed to the BeachCare program.
“The partnership with the Community Internship program has been mutually beneficial.”
“Students from all degree areas have found use from the project too,” she said.
“We had psychology and criminology students who have used BeachCare to aid their research in particular interest areas, such as the benefits and effectiveness of the program for war veterans with PTSD and those on parole completing litter collection.”
The Community Internship program provides Griffith University students with 891 local and international volunteering opportunities each year. The credited learning subject supports students to gain work experience, which complements their studies or provides them with an opportunity to gain new skills in a different field.
Bachelor of Commerce student Joel Klein said he volunteered with BeachCare for 50 hours during the trimester and loved every moment.
“I have lived on the Gold Coast all my life, and I sit in my office most days crunching numbers,” Mr Klein said.
“Planting native dune species, weed removal, litter collecting, and auditing has opened my eyes to how coastal conservation is handled.
“It was a great opportunity to meet other people, volunteer, and help the environment.
“I would encourage those who are interested in jumping outside their comfort zone to enrol in the Community Internship program with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management. You will not regret it.”
Several students are also involved in developing resources and education programs with CoastEd, a community outreach program that provides Gold Coast residents with an opportunity to learn about the coastal zone.
Maggie Muurmans said student volunteers bring their own creative flair to the educational programs and they witness increased community engagement almost instantaneously.
“There is a knowledge gap in coastal management on the Gold Coast and students are helping to fill this gap and promote environmental stewardship,” she said.
“A number of community interns have gained casual paid work with CoastEd after completing the internship.”
Griffith University research fellow Dan Ware said volunteering was beneficial for students as it allows them to access skills and build networks to support their transition from study to employment.
“The three programs with the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management help students understand how they can make a positive impact on the quality of our beaches and dune systems on the Gold Coast.
“It helps to create some ownership over some large problems, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.
“I would encourage students to get involved.”
DuneWatch, Coast Ed, and BeachCare work across ten sites on the Gold Coast and are always looking for more volunteers.
For more information contact the Community Internship team @ (07) 338 21049 or firstname.lastname@example.org