Sustainability: not just a buzzword at the Tom Farrell Institute

The Tom Farrell Institute is the university’s gateway to environmental research and teaching. The Institute’s overall vision is to help develop regional solutions for a sustainable future and to integrate teaching, research and community engagement at the University into those solutions.

Established in 2006, the Institute is named after “an extraordinary powerhouse of a man”. Tom Farrell helped to deliver the public nature reserves at Blackbutt, the Barrington Tops and Mount Sugarloaf to the Hunter region. He was also instrumental in not only establishing the University College in 1951 but also, later, in acquiring land at Shortland to allow the University to move from Tighes Hill to its current location.

The Institute is currently undertaking research into Indian Mynah birds, developing a vaccine to protect koalas from chlamydia, adapting to climate change as well as the placement of wildlife nesting boxes near a hydro aluminium smelter.

This research – which incorporates ground-breaking science and technologies, best practice processes and education – helps to ensure that the diversity, health and experience of nature that we currently enjoy will be able to be done by future generations.

The Institute produces a monthly newsletter that contains information about new research being undertaken, projects being worked on, upcoming exhibitions and tips on leading a more environmentally friendly life.

There are also regular seminars and events that are organised by the Tom Farrell Institute, the biggest of which is the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival. The festival promotes thinking about sustainable forms of transportation by presenting them in a fun and innovative way. It has two main parts: the EV Show and the EV Prize electric vehicle race.

The EV Show showcases the latest in electric vehicles, from cars to bikes to industrial machinery, and also provides a wealth of information and entertainment on the latest developments being made in the area.

The EV Prize is an endurance test for electric vehicles held at the Cameron Park Kart Raceway. The race sees both schools and privateers compete to design and build a cost-capped electric vehicle, then race them against each other in a test of both speed and endurance until the last vehicle stands. During 2011’s race, the competitors blew all expectations out of the water when the predicted 40-minute race lasted well over two hours.

For more information on the work that the Tom Farrell Institute is doing, or to make a donation to help support their research into new environmentally friendly technologies and programs, you can visit their web page here.

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